I remember the legitimate fear mixed with an uncontrollable urge to laugh. It was a strange juxtaposition – on one hand, things were definitely serious; a storm had kicked up out of nowhere in the summer of 1989 out in the middle of Lake Leelanau in northern Michigan’s famed Leelanau Peninsula and we were stuck out in it, desperately trying to navigate our way back to shore and safety. On the other hand, the intensity of the blowing wind mixed with the 3-4 foot waves that the very same wind was kicking up with great ferocity, the rain starting to pelt our faces and the classic conundrum of “we know we shouldn’t be laughing, but we can’t help it” just added to the overall fun and feeling of pure adventure that overcame my sister and me. Couple that with my dad freaking out, primarily from a sense of panic that accompanies a small, 15ft boat being tossed around like a toy in the middle of a large lake, and you had all the ingredients of the formation of a core memory that I still remember to this day, 30 years later.
My family and I grew up with boats – as far back as I can remember, we’d always been out on the water. My father’s family, starting with my great-grandfather, had a small cottage on Sand Lake in Tawas, MI, where they spent their summers with a near constant presence on the water. Tubing, swimming, water skiing, even barefoot skiing, all were activities that my father’s family loved – and that love was passed on to me. When I met Ginny, we were the typical newlyweds trying to be responsible with our finances, so we didn’t go out and splurge on jet skis or a boat. We ended up having 5 children, the first four of them in under five years, so there was for sure no boating happening then! All our money was tied up in diapers and food. We were a camping family in those early years, and we still are.
As the kids got older, and as 1000 Hours Outside, our blog-turned-global movement grew, the pull of the boating life began to get stronger and stronger. So, in 2019, we went for it and purchased our first boat. Boating is one of those hobbies that can be intimidating to get into – there’s a lot of rules on the water, safety precautions, gear to purchase – and if you’re towing your boat, the dreaded boat launching process which can turn even the calmest person into a nervous wreck as you wait to back your trailer down that foreboding ramp. Despite all this, boating was always something that ‘added’ to life’s fun, and I knew that our family would benefit from the same experiences. And boy have we! Boating teaches us a lot about resilience, bravery, thoroughness (don’t forget that drain plug!) and intentionality. And intentionality is really at the core of what we do at 1000 Hours Outside.
Our whole movement is centered around bringing back balance between screens and time outside – the real versus the virtual. And boating is a fantastic way to help combat the pull toward screens. When you’re out on the water, you’re ensconced in nature – the fresh air, the sun, the water and waves, there’s just nothing better. You can swim, tube, ski, wakeboard, surf, or just lay out and get some sun, feeling its warmth reflecting all around you as the sun shimmers on the water. Another big benefit you will get with boating, something that is our most valuable resource is this: time. Time with your family, time with friends, time to just bob around on the waves doing and saying nothing, time to watch a sunset from out on the water, time in the car with your kids as they get older and help you at the boat ramp, and so much more. NYT Best-Selling author Jon Acuff says, “Time is your most valuable resource, but it’s also your most vulnerable.” Read that again. At 1000 Hours Outside, each year we aim to literally spend 1,000 hours outside (go figure!) and we track our time, because you can’t measure what you don’t track. So, we have an app where you can unlock badges and tracker charts for you to color in and see your progress because time outside isn’t frivolous. It’s beneficial for kids and adults alike for a whole host of reasons.
I’d encourage you to check out our podcast, aptly named “The 1000 Hours Outside Podcast” to get encouraged and inspired about the ‘why’ time outside is good for you. You’ll learn so much, I promise. As I said earlier, boating adds to your life and creates memories – as a matter of fact, boating is basically a memory factory; they just churn out one after the other. Not too long ago, I ran into a childhood friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. After catching up for a bit he, completely unprompted, said “hey, this is random, but I was just thinking about you and your family recently when I was at a lake. I remember all the times we spent on your parent’s boat when we were kids, and they were literally my most favorite memories from childhood.” To say I was slightly blown away is an understatement; but as I look back on my own childhood, I can’t say that I would disagree with him at all. And I hope our own kids look back in 30 years and think the same thing.