As a former US Navy survival instructor, Ed Halm is familiar with the phrase, “adapt and overcome.” A man seemingly in possession of a greater than average problem solving ability, Ed is the owner of Backwater Paddle Company, a business that creates unique and highly specialized paddlesport equipment. Hailing from Rockledge, Florida by way of Morocco and New York state, Ed has come to his present craft along a trail paved with adventure and challenges met. After training in the elite naval nuclear propulsion program, and subsequently serving abroad a destroyer, Ed sought to return to his outdoorsman roots, and became an instructor of survival. Upon leaving the navy, and not wanting a traditional job, he studied business, and applied his knowledge by opening a deli and bagel shop. Again seeking new opportunity, Ed sold his business, immersed himself into the study of plumbing and bathroom remodel, and rose to the role of Chief Engineer. Soon, another challenge called, this time by way of a river-bound strainer. The entrepreneurial spirit was reawoken, and Backwater Paddle Company was born.
What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?
Living in central Florida with the Indian River Lagoon in my backyard, power boating the shallow lagoons was neither ecologically beneficial nor stealthy enough for skinny water angling. Sometime in the mid 2000’s, I became aware of the kayak fishing craze. As a retired survival instructor, stealth and mobility became my mantra for locating prey unattainable by other conventional means. The kayak became my vehicle of choice.
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?
Yeah, it was a big whiff! Snagged onto a three foot tarpon, and he took me for a little sleigh ride. He bounced back and forth through the mangroves, had me all tangled up, then jumped once and spit out the hook. I was stunned at how unprepared I was for the thrill. After composing myself, the second fish, a small under slot red, was landed and released shortly after.
By adding simple alterations such as a hook and serrations, you have transformed the kayak paddle into a multi-tool of sorts. In a sport where the paddle is often the subject of fierce debate and loyalty, was there an initial difficulty in making a case for your innovative design?
First of all, the paddle matters!! Every kayak floats. A basic paddle will convert your body mechanics into propulsion. However, having functionality after getting access to where you want to fish or hunt is beyond every other paddle on the market. Backwater Paddle’s innovative design transforms your basic paddle into a “multi-tool,” to use your words. They are fully functional as a propulsion device, safety hook, push pole, snatch hook, and some say as a weapon of sorts. The patented “hook and teeth” paddle design makes a case for itself! Everyone who has seen or used our paddles wants them!
What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?
I like to listen to loud and upbeat music, like Eminem… gets my blood flowing. As far as food, whatever McDonald’s has at the drive through…plus a large volume of Diet Pepsi!
Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?
As far as in the Southeast, I would have to say my friend, Drew Gregory. He took kayak angling and paddle sports to the next level by promoting himself and the sport to prime time audiences. His dedication put the money in the sport. With his commitment to Jackson Kayaks, his professional drive is unmatched in promoting kayak angling to the masses.
With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?
The number one issue…safety. Unfortunately, I have seen a number of kayak angler lives lost right here in central Florida, in the shallow lagoons, due to careless mishaps. Primarily, the victims were not wearing their PFDs. Some of the initial causes, such as intoxication, medical problems, and inclement weather played a role. However, all deaths could have been prevented by simply wearing their PFDs. Florida law mandates that the PFD be in the boat with you at all times. Don’t try to get your PFD on in the water, while struggling and panicking…put the damn thing ON before it is too late, my friends.
Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?
Alaska. Absolutely have to go there! I don’t care if I catch anything or not…I just want to acknowledge the vastness and remoteness of the wild open country. I want to paddle, fish, see the glaciers and wildlife all at once…experience the maximum sensory overload!
In 2010, Kayak Angler Magazine gave to the Predator the title of “best paddle.” Describe to us how it felt to see your design placed amongst the best in the industry.
I would say shocked. But in retrospect, I knew our patented paddle design was not only revolutionary, but fully functional for the paddlesports community. Honored would be more the feeling I had for the acknowledgement of a simple idea parlayed into a viable paddle product.
What’s in your milk crate?
Well, of course the Piranha Kayak Fishing Hand Paddle, plus a couple of extra for the uninitiated. I love to see the expressions of fellow paddle sportsmen when I break out the hand paddles for maneuvering and positioning my kayak. I always give away a couple hand paddles when on the water.
Tell us about your best day on the water.
Being an eternal optimist, every day is my best day on the water! A bad day on the water is better than a good day at the office! In my business and lifestyle, spending 200+ days on the water is the norm. Being an early riser, getting on the water before dawn is paramount! I love when the sun comes up! Watching the sun rise, feeling the warmth, sitting on the water, brings peace and comfort. I know that whether or not the fish bite, as long as I am on the water fishing or guiding, this day will be one of my best.
What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?
Stealth and mobility to fish in locations previously inaccessible with power vessels anytime I want. This opportunity provides a unique sense or power and freedom. There is no trailering around a boat, filling it up with fuel, racing to the same spot everyone else goes. Arriving back at the launch, I know I got some exercise, maybe caught some fish and met fellow anglers. I had a great day, and all I have to do is put my boat and gear in the back of my truck and I am ready to go again tomorrow. The simple lifestyle is what kayak angling is all about.
It has often been said that you are one of the true game changers in the sport of kayak angling. What does this title mean to you?
Being quantified as a “game changer” in a sport I live for is very humbling, to say the least. I never set out for personal or professional accolades in any endeavor I pursued. As a retired naval survival instructor, entrepreneur, and paddle sportsman, identifying problems and providing solutions has been my life long career. As long as my innovations continue to benefit the sportsman and provide positive impact, I will look for and solve the next problem without consideration of my own personal attributes.
What does the future hold for you?
Well, being a paddle sports manufacturer, providing Backwater Paddles to every angler, sportsman and paddle enthusiast is my ultimate goal. Our unique patented blades provide so much more functionality than any other paddles on the market. For the paddle sportsman, I feel the need to make the whole paddle sport community aware of what they are missing!