Over 180 anglers from more than 10 countries flocked to the eastern coast of Thailand for a 2 day festival that celebrated kayak fishing from around the world. We jumped on a plane and headed to the other side of the world to experience first hand all the amazing people that make up our Feelfree family!
When Jim, of Feelfree Kayaks, started to talk about making a video for the festival, I knew right away that this would be an exciting trip. We arrived at the Charlotte airport at 6:30 am. There was a mix of emotions as we prepared to embark on a 39 hour journey to the other side of the world, no small task for a 6’2 fidgety human with ADD. However, the opportunity to finally take part in the 3rd annual Feelfree Fishing Fest Asia 2020 3 hours south of Bangkok Thailand was exciting to say the least.
Our adventure began a few days before the festivities were set to begin. A trip to the factory in Bangkok to meet with the team and Peter, the lead designer, to go over some exciting new plans for the coming years. Then the fun began…
We took a handful of new boats out to a local lake for testing. Getting the opportunity to get into some of the new boats and tweak and refine design elements was a very interesting process for me. As the video guy, these behind the scenes aspects of the company were new and very intriguing. A reminder that a lot of work goes into making some of the best fishing kayaks on the market.
Towards the end of the day we were introduced to a group of guys from our Europe and Malaysian teams that had come to take part in the festival as well. Team members from Malaysia, Portugal, France, Sweden, and Poland arrived to check out some of the new boats as well. After a great time on the water, and zero fish caught, we all headed out to a very interesting dinner.
Possibly the best part of visiting Thailand is the food. You have to be a little adventurous at times, but the overall experience is mind blowing. We arrived at a giant open air restaurant filled with raw seafood of all varieties. Squid, fish, prawns, scallops, even horseshoe crabs were all available to be loaded up on a plate and returned to your table where we had a variety of small fires and grills to cook on. We all then proceeded to cook our selections and get to know each other.
We arrived at the festival a day early to get our bearings and take in all the sites. Tons of fishermen were arriving with kayaks in tow. The festival itself was only open to owners of Feelfree and 3 Waters Kayaks, and the variety of boats did not disappoint. Classic and simple boats to fully loaded and customized rigs were everywhere, and the energy in the area was amazing. Jim checked in and we quickly aimed our sites getting on the water to test some of the boats in the waves, a luxury we don’t get here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Like kids at the beach, Peter and Jim frantically looked around for a tandem they could head out in, but with no luck. So, Jim loaded up in a BigFish 108 and headed out into the waves for a little practice before the event the next day.
The event had about 180 anglers on the beach at 6am ready to launch. After a brief safety course on launching into the waves, the first wave of kayaks headed out into the water. A few folks had troubles navigating the breakers, but slowly everyone made their way out into the ocean for some fishing. Jim headed out to claim a spot for fishing, and I found my way onto the media boat to head out and get some photos.
As the morning turned to early afternoon the anglers started returning. A variety of fish were brought in to be weighed and have photos taken. Nothing too big, but some interesting species I had never seen before. As everyone settled into the shade and shared stories from the water, the event staff started prepping the resort for the evening festivities.
The event culminated one of the most delicious Thai dinners I have ever had. Traditional seafood, Pad Thai, soups and whole fish kept making their way to the table. The music started playing and the crowd started dancing and celebrating an amazing evening. The event ended with the award ceremony, celebrating the biggest fish among other categories as anglers made their way to the stage.
Overall the event was amazing. A great reminder that no matter where you are in the world, we all love fishing, good food, and great people! I am already excited for next year’s event, and if I am lucky, I might even get to fish next time. Stay tuned for the recap video of our trip and the event coming soon!