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Bill Quick memorialized as late life "Kayak Guy"

Jan 14, 2011 6:52 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption=""Kayak Guy" Bill Quick of Gilboa, seen in a family photo from his last trip in Biscayne Bay, Florida over thje holidays, died while snorkeling on January 5. "][/caption]Bill Quick, one of a growing number of avid kayakers within the Catskill region who not only paddled the Hudson and its tributaries but ventured much farther afield for watery adventures, and eventually saw most local creeks and culverts as navigable, died January 5 while snorkeling off Key Largo, Fla. He was 58, based in the Schoharie County community of Gilboa, and author of a blog called "KayakGuy," which was his self-styled moniker, for which Quick meticulously documented dozens of kayak trips he took up and down the East Coast since making his first serious paddle in 2002 at age 50 as a means of quitting a two-pack-a-day smoking habit and finding solace after losing his job. A memorial service for the man was held in Cairo on January 13 and his website has this week become a repository of fellow kayakers thoughts about their departed friend, as well as a memorial to the sort of late life renaissance Quick's example came to represent. Three years ago another legendary local kayaker, the "whitewater outlaw" Dennis Squires, 48 of Margaretville, also drowned while kayaking in New Zealand. His passing, too, draw a heartfelt response from the close-knit local kayaking world.

The Times Union ran a touching piece about Quick this week...

Bill Quick, who took up paddling as a way to kick a 35-year, 2-pack-a-day smoking habit and found a Zen-like quality in the rhythm of long-distance kayak trips, died Jan. 5 while snorkeling off Key Largo, Fla. He was 58.

Author of a blog called "KayakGuy," which was his self-styled moniker, Quick meticulously documented dozens of kayak trips he took up and down the East Coast since making his first serious paddle in 2002 at age 50.

Four years later, after Panasonic shut down its plasma display panel TV manufacturing plant in Schoharie County, the downsized 54-year-old manager turned a midlife crisis into an opportunity for self-discovery.

"Kayaking became his religion," said his wife, Pamela Quick. "He felt like he was one with the universe when he was in his kayak."

The couple first met in first grade while attending a one-room schoolhouse in Sawkill, outside Kingston. They wed while they were still teenagers and were married for 40 years. They have 7 children, 13 grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. Their home is outside Gilboa in Schoharie County. A former nurse, she operates a faux-finishing and mural-painting business.

Quick was a landlocked Upstater, but he made his way to the coast and open water whenever he could.

He owned seven kayaks and made long trips in a 17-foot solo touring kayak. He preferred flat water. A self-contained explorer, he stowed in waterproof compartments a sleeping bag, tent, air mattress, pillow, freeze-dried food, water, small stove, radio, binocular, coffee and tea. He never paddled without a camera.

He posted to his "KayakGuy" website hundreds of images of waterfowl, wildlife, bald eagles, stunning vistas and scenes of the natural beauty he encountered. He documented each trip with a map, mileage and musings on his blog. An example of KayakGuy philosophy: "It is what it is, and I shall find joy in it."

He enjoyed exploring out-of-the-way places, such as Florida's mangrove swamps or uncharted coastal coves and inlets.

"Every time I set out in one of my kayaks, I have an adventure!" he wrote. "That's why I paddle, and paddle, and paddle."

He described the mesmerizing rhythm of kayaking as a kind of addiction. "I get lost in the rhythm of the paddle," he said.

He was rarely in a hurry. He paddled the length of the Hudson River and along the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany, averaging about 20 miles a day. He sometimes joined up with other kayak enthusiasts, but loved the solitude of solo paddling.

"When he was in his kayak or talking about kayaking, you'd see his face light up," his wife said. She tried paddling with him at first but didn't share his passion. She occasionally paddled out to greet him as he neared the end long journeys.

Quick looked forward to an annual December kayak trip in Florida with his younger brother, Jim "YakMan" Quick. They had completed 10 days of paddling and KayakGuy logged his Everglades and Largo Sound mileage on his blog. The end came on a snorkeling trip he and his brother took aboard an excursion boat.

While snorkeling five miles offshore, Quick had trouble breathing, was brought back aboard the boat, but lost consciousness and could not be revived by CPR, his wife said. A cause of death has not been determined. Autopsy results will not be available for a few more weeks, she said.

Quick's long-term goal had been to reach 10,000 miles of paddling. It seemed like an insurmountable distance at first, but year after year he persevered.

He posted his last blog update on Dec. 29, 2010. He had logged 9,216.43 miles. He had not yet added the mileage from his last few paddles in Florida.

"He got very close to 10,000 miles," his wife said.

A memorial service for Quick was from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, January 13 at Richards Funeral Home in Cairo.

For more information, visit his website at http://kayakguy.org.