Heroes on the Water Provides free Recreation to Local Veterans

Heroes on the Water Provides R&R for local Heroes

Heroes on the Water offers free kayak fishing to local veterans and first responders.

Heroes on the Water Event, Free Kayak Fishing

Free Kayak Fishing with HOW | Photo by Robin Blackshear

Perhaps you’ve seen dozens of kayaks on the water while driving over the JFK Causeway or passing through Port Aransas on a Saturday morning. If so, you’ve most likely witnessed a special event organized for local heroes of our country.

Heroes on the Water (HOW) is a non-profit providing free kayak fishing events to veterans, active military and first responders to foster community and wellness. Led primarily by volunteers, HOW chapters extend across the United States—the Coastal Bend chapter was established in 2012. 

Research has found HOW provides opportunities to build relationships, reduce anxiety and stress and improve mood. Those who have experienced trauma, or never enjoyed outdoor recreation, can receive free recreational therapy. “Once participants leave the shoreline, they leave all the demons behind,” said Joseph Briones, Coastal Bend chapter coordinator.

Coastal Bend chapter flags of Heroes on Water
If you are a veteran, first responder, active military or Gold Star Member interested in participating, or want to volunteer at the next HOW event in the Coastal Bend, please submit an interest form online. | Photo by Robin Blackshear

Three key volunteer groups make these events successful: kayak fishing team leaders, the shore crew (which takes care of tents, food and water) and a safety boat team that ensures no kayakers are lost or injured. Participants kayak fish from morning until early afternoon and are provided a delicious meal afterward where they often open up and share their experiences. 

The local chapter hosts events from March through November; each month, it takes an average of 40-60 participants across different bodies of water in the Coastal Bend. In 2023, the Coastal Bend chapter was awarded HOW Chapter of the Year for its dedication. 

HOW also encourages family participation, allowing heroes and their families to enjoy events together. Families of fallen soldiers (Gold Star Members) and wounded heroes are also welcomed with open arms. “We’ve only had a few amputees participate but, being brothers and sisters, we will pick them up and put them in the kayak,” Briones said proudly. 

For those interested in contributing, Briones said, “Volunteers are our backbone. It doesn’t matter whether you are a civilian or a veteran, we always need help with events. Monetary donations are used for maintenance, replacing equipment and storage, and fundraising helps immensely as well.”

HOW allows participants to build camaraderie while experiencing recreational peace. Emphasizing the serene nature of HOW, Briones remembered a veteran who truly treasured his experience. “I leaned over in the kayak and asked one participant, ‘How do you feel?’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Like I’m in heaven.’” 


Don’t miss out on our list of family-friendly events happening around the Coastal Bend in July.