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A stroke of serenity

By Staff | Jan 6, 2016

Sissel Robertson helps Ally Johnson out of her kayak after a trip through Estero Bay.

It was about this time five years ago that Sissel Robertson dragged her kayak from Montana to Fort Myers Beach to start a business.

Was she crazy?

“Well, I’ll admit I didn’t have a plan B,” Robertson said. “It had to work.”

And it has.

Still thriving on the grounds of the Fish-Tale Marina is Crazy Woman Kayaks, which is housed in a trailer and features kayak rentals and accessories on Estero Bay. Rowers can go to it alone or be accompanied by the 63-year-old Robertson herself, who began kayaking with her father at age 3 in her native Norway.

The Crazy Woman Kayaks headquarters.

“There’s nothing more peaceful, more relaxing,” Robertson said. “You can get a workout or just let the wind take you. And do not worry – it’s nearly impossible to get lost on Estero Bay.”

The clientele that has emerged, however, has surprised Robertson. In many ways it’s been a reflection.

“My market research wasn’t that great. I thought I’d get lots of twenty- and thirty-somethings and young families,” she said, “but what I’m getting is a lot of older women on their own. Many are older than me.”

The therapeutic nature of coasting through nature likely explains it.

“Women feel a lot of stress – especially the married ones and the mothers – and sometimes they need alone time,” Robertson said. “Sixty minutes on the water and you’ll feel so much better.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m offering therapy services. Maybe I should be the ‘Don’t Go Crazy’ Kayak Woman.”

She points to the recent outing she shared with local resident Bonnie Roberts as affirmation of what splendor she offers. Roberts, 69, runs the neighboring Santini Plaza Farmers Market and has been undergoing chemotherapy.

“She was apprehensive, but once she did it she felt victorious,” Robertson said.

Said Roberts, “She’d been talking to me about going out for more than a year. I didn’t think I’d be up to it, but I’m so thankful I finally did it.

“I saw osprey and blue herons up close and we went through this mangrove – we had to pull on the branches to get through – and into the most beautiful lagoon I’ve ever seen. A more peaceful day I’ve never had. It was just good for the soul. I’d call it magical. Life changing.”

Recent customer Ally Johnson agreed. She was visiting from Riverside, Calif., with her only prior kayak trip being one in Maine.

“I saw nothing on that one,” she said. “Today, I saw dolphins. Wow. And then there were the jumping fish, which were just hilarious.”

And with that, the tough-as-nails Robertson tossed Johnson’s kayak over her shoulder and meandered back to her trailer with a whistle-while-you-work nonchalance, ready to play water therapist for another willing participant.

“Isn’t this just great?” she asked.