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One local company is working on making new kayaking possibilities for people with limited strength or endurance. 

Meg McCall's dad, Jim Van Gompel, has always been an outdoorsman. He does however have diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and an amputated leg. But at 87 years old, that hasn't stopped him from enjoying his love of nature. Several years ago, Gompel took up kayaking, but McCall said her father was finding it difficult to paddle. He would become easily winded due to his asthma and heart condition.

click to enlarge NEW IDEAS With the Gamut Paddle Holder, people with limited strength, back issues, or shoulder injuries can enjoy kayaking. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ANGLE OAR
  • Photo Courtesy Of Angle Oar
  • NEW IDEAS With the Gamut Paddle Holder, people with limited strength, back issues, or shoulder injuries can enjoy kayaking.

"My father had a career in mechanical engineering and he never saw a product he couldn't improve on," she said.

McCall was visiting Gompel around that time and he showed her a new kind of supportive paddle that he made for himself—he called it angle oar. It was his way of figuring out a more efficient way of paddling for himself.

With her father's background and McCall's experience in marketing, the two teamed up in 2012 to bring that special paddle to the public. Together the team fine-tuned the design, patented it, tested it, and began to manufacture. McCall now heads the company, Angle Oar, that specializes in making oars not only for those who experience back or shoulder issues but also for the aging community that may not have the strength to kayak.

"You don't really think about it until you're in the ocean, but paddling puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders, joints, and torso," McCall said.

About 28 percent of the U.S. population is between the ages of 50 and 74.

"This is a group that increasingly wants to stay active and independent as long as possible, but sometimes an injury and arthritis prompts them to give up a sport they've loved all their lives," she said.

Angle Oar fills the gap for those who want to continue kayaking. It offers the versatile kayak paddle, or Versa for short. It's a paddle that sits on mounts supporting the weight of the paddle, reducing joint stress and creating a smaller range of motions.

The company now offers its newest product: the Gamut, a mounted paddle holder that has all the same benefits as the Versa but you can use your own paddle. What makes this paddle holder unique is that if you wanted to let go of your paddle to fish or take a break and enjoy the view, your paddle won't fall into the water. It eliminates the purchase of a paddle leash or pedal kayaks.

The Gamut is also an affordable alternative for people who don't want to shell out the big bucks for an expensive specialty kayak. The Gamut is $170 online or at participating kayak retailers and rental shops.

McCall said that she's excited to see a growing interest in adaptive paddling because it's really for everyone. She noted that the company's customer base isn't limited to the Central Coast or the state.

"Our customer market is the entire U.S. We're an online retailer so we have distributors across the country," she said.

Most of their sales come from Texas, Florida, and the East Coast. McCall said she recently spoke to a man from Florida who runs a statewide outdoors program. She said he is a quadriplegic who suffered from brain trauma 29 years ago. He used to be an avid paddler but for years couldn't find a way to go back to his favorite outdoor activity, until he found the Versa.

"You just had to hear how happy he was, and it's stories like that that have me grinning from ear to ear," she said.

As for her father, she said Gompel still gets really excited to learn about the people who are like him who want to get out there and continue to exercise independently.

To learn more about Angle Oar and all the products offered, visit angleoar.com.

Fast fact

Last month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County received a $1,500 grant from The Albertsons Companies Foundation, bringing their total donations to almost $36,000. The grant funds will go toward the agency's programs, providing quality one-to-one mentoring relationships in San Luis Obispo County. To learn more about the agency, its service, and how to give back, visit slobigs.org.

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.


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