Diversify the Water: Breaking Down Barriers in Fishing & Boating

I grew up in a tiny, rural fishing village on the island of Trinidad. My father’s family were fishermen, as was he when he was a boy. So, from an early age, I developed a strong connection to the water and a deep love for fishing. Sometimes, my father would take me along on the boat. I would spend the day, giddy with excitement, examining the fishes and sea creatures the fishermen brought in. This upbringing facilitated my first connections to nature and taught me some of my first lessons in sustainability.

I'm Noami, a Black-identifying, queer immigrant vanlifer, and outdoor enthusiast, living on the road full-time in my 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon since 2016. The outdoors is my home, and I spend most of my days exploring, adventuring, and basking in all the beauty, lessons, and joy nature have to offer. But my life wasn’t always this way.

When I finished high school at 17, I left my village, my country, and my family and came to the US in search of the American Dream. I worked hard to build a life for myself and, as many people do, I became consumed with the fast pace and busyness of society. Somewhere along the way, I lost touch with my outdoor roots.

It wasn’t until entering vanlife that I began to rebuild my relationship with nature. And the gateway to my reentry into the outdoors was, you guessed it, fishing.

During my first summer on the road, I watched a man wading the Yellowstone River in Montana, fly fishing for trout. Up until then, I had only ever seen it on TV. I was enthralled and wanted so badly to learn, but I had no idea how or where to get started. Even if I did, the high cost of gear and the fact that I had never even seen a Black person fly fishing, made it seem like an activity that wasn’t accessible for someone like me.

These were just a few barriers to entry that impeded my ability to reestablish my relationship with nature, the greatest one being the lack of representation. You see, I believe that before you can be your best self on the water, you need to see your best self on the water. Fishing is an experience that connects us to nature, and everyone should feel safe enough to show up and have access to the water.

Here are some tips for BIPOC getting on the water for the first time, or for the first time in a long time:

1. Go together

Plan a fishing trip with family or friends, or see if there’s a local BIPOC outdoors group on social media, connect and plan a trip with them.

2. Hire a professional guide

First time fishing or boating? Hire a professional guide who can teach you the basics and take you to places where you’re almost guaranteed to catch fish. TakeMeFishing.org has FREE helpful resources for finding tours and guides to help you get outside and on the water easily! Be sure to follow @take_me_fishing on Instagram too for some inspiration and to see more BIPOC representation on the water.

3. Borrow/rent gear, or thrift or buy pre-owned

I’ve found quality cheap and free fishing gear at yard sales and thrift stores. REI also has good deals on used gear and also offers gear rentals in many areas.

4. Be prepared

Get to know the water you'll be fishing or boating on beforehand so you can be prepared – learn about the wildlife in the area, what kind of fish you may catch, the best times of year to be on the water and any rules and regulations such as catch-and-release policies.

5. Laugh through it!

You might feel silly and/or nervous at first, but remember, it’s all about connecting with nature, our home sweet home.

Let's seize the summer and get out on that water and rebuild your connection with nature!

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Noami Grevemberg

Noami Grevemberg

Noami Grevemberg is a vanlife OG, avid outdoorist, dog mom & passionate community builder. Born and raised in a fishing village on the island of Trinidad, Noami developed a strong connection to the water and a deep love for fishing at an early age. As a writer & photographer, she invokes the power of storytelling as a tool to break down barriers and cultivate intentionally inclusive spaces in road travel and the outdoors. She’s also the founder of the Diversify Vanlife community organization, host of Nomads at the Intersections podcast, and a (soon-to-be) published author.