Contrary to the Millennial stereotype, kids crave adventure. But all too often they satiate their desire to be challenged, experience danger, and build confidence through video games or other media. They’re just kids after all. But there’s just no substitute for the real thing.
Recently, I had the opportunity to join internationally recognized lifestyle and wedding photographer, Ryan Haack, and his oldest son, Jonah, on a local spearfishing trip. As a father of four, and co-owner of Foxes & Wolves, Ryan is a busy guy. But heprioritizes trips like this with his kids hoping his sense of adventure will rub off.
“What is the son but an extension of the father?” – Frank Herbert
5:30am – Wake Up Call
I show up to the Haack house groggy-eyed and sluggish. I perk up at the smell of brewing coffee. Ryan hands me a cup and walks out to wake up his son. “Pack your things, we are headed out to sea,” I hear from the other room. The words were enough to provoke his 10-year-old boy to jump out of bed and remind me that we weren’t just going to sip coffee all day.
What goes through your mind first thing in the morning day of a dive? Adventure! The anticipation of what we might see or experience is what keeps me up at night. The second thing is my gear checklist.
6:30am – Arrive at the Newport Dunes Marina
We walk down the dock, caffeine in hand, ready to load the 24ft Sport Cruiser with all the gear – no small task for our small crew. Landing a yellowtail or the infamous White Sea Bass takes all the right gear, and that gear is not light. Without a word, everyone falls into motion to secure the gear and launch the boat.
What’s your hope in bringing your son with you on your dive/adventures? The hope is to introduce my son to the beauty and awe of the ocean. My hope is that I can give him experiences that help shape who he becomes.
7:45am – Leaving the Harbor
There is nothing like making your way out of the harbor into the vast open sea. I’m a grown man and I’m feeling excited and terrified at the same time. Can’t imagine how Jonah is feeling. Ryan shares some local intel which leads us south in search of a lively kelp bed. The buzz of the unknown can be tangibly experienced at this point amongst the crew.
8:45am – Safety Review
Ryan reminds his son of all the ins and outs of diving, the significant of pulling the trigger, and the appropriate times to use his knife.
What would you say to the parent that would tell you it is unsafe to take your kid on a dive in open ocean? We are safe. I am teaching him the proper way to dive as well as helping him understand how to respect the ocean. These experiences are vital for his development into manhood.
Do you teach him it is ok to pee in his wetsuit? What he does in his wetsuit is up to him.
9:30am – Lone Sea Turtle
The boat slows as we approach the first kelp bed. We’re looking for signs of life when a sea turtle pops its head above the surface, then quickly dives back down. Suddenly, Jonah grabs his mask and fins and jumps off the boat. Ryan’s shock at his son’s spontaneity turns to pride and he quickly follows him with his camera.
Are you ever concerned when Jonah just goes for it like that? I think it is powerful to let him know I trust him by giving him freedom to make choices. He will let me know when he needs help and I will always be around to help when needed.
11:00am – A Pod of Dolphins
The first location doesn’t provide the type of fish we’re looking for so we make our way farther out to sea. We’re about nine miles out when a pod of dolphins surface alongside us and trim within an arm’s length of the boat. Jonah stays in the boat this time and we all sit in awe as the dolphins lead us out to sea.
What goes through your head during moments like that? It doesn’t get any better.
12pm – Lunch Time
Having struck out on kelp patties, we settled for sandwiches instead of fresh sashimi. Everyone is still in good spirits despite not seeing the fish they expected to see. This is how it goes, I hear. It becomes clear that landing a prize fish is not the main purpose of a trip like this.
I see that trying to stay positive and flexible is important to you. How do you teach your kid these qualities? Modeling it. That’s all I know how to do at this point.
1:30pm – One Last Secret Spot
We make our way closer to shore and anchor that boat at one of Ryan’s favorite reefs. Hundreds of baby barracuda surround the reef and boat. As usual, Jonah is the first to jump in to explore the new territory. After only 20 minutes, Ryan shoots amassive sheepshead and brings it up to the surface. Jonah helps his dad bring it into the boat and wears a permanent grin that speaks for itself.
What would you say to your 10 year old when he asks why we hunt and kill fish? I want to teach my son where food comes from. This has been really important to me and I want to share this with him. I want him to respect the process and understand the food that his parents prepare for him comes from somewhere.
3:30pm – Docked, Unloading, and Cleaning
Jonah can barely keep his eyes open as the rest of us start planning the next trip.
What would you like Jonah to know about himself and the world from going out spear fishing with his dad? I want him to be confident and know that he is capable in whatever life throws at him. I want him to respect and care for the big world he lives in. I want to show him that adventure is his to have, but that it’s his responsibility to preserve the beauty he has the privilege to enjoy.
Whether it’s spearfishing, surfing, or just hanging at Blackies with his family, Ryan’s adventurous spirit is evident. As he navigates life, his kids are there, watching how dad overcomes his fears, deals with disappointment and finds joy. If the Frank Herbert quote is true, it’s clear, Jonah is going to be a fine young man when he grows up.
Words by Darren Bagwell
Photos by Aaron Shintaku