Hurricane Ian Inspires Outdoor Communities in Unprecedented Effort to Aid Storm Recovery

Hurricane Ian Relief Efforts
Dozens of outdoor industry professionals have stepped in to help with Hurricane Ian relief efforts.
Courtesy Costa Rica

When Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida on Sept. 28 with 155 mph winds and a 15-foot storm surge, it devastated much of South Florida’s prime fishing area, along with its infrastructure and fishing boat operations . But when it was learned that thousands of homes, businesses and livelihoods had been destroyed, an action plan immediately kicked in for close-range fishing communities across the country.

Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Port Charlotte experienced record flooding and a 500-year storm surge that devastated and displaced entire communities. But the outdoor industry and fishermen from all over have come together to offer aid and hope to the hardest-hit areas.

Costa Sunglasses and Captains For Clean Water (CFCW) were the first groups to deliver relief supplies to desperately needed supplies. Costa’s Captains Nick Jones and Cody Rubner were at the forefront of an effort to begin collecting donations from across Florida. They helped establish delivery centers across the state, including the DOA Lure headquarters in Stuart and the West Palm Beach Fishing Club.

Drop-off points were quickly established in Florida and elsewhere, with truckloads of essential supplies pouring into storm-affected areas every day.

Capt. Benny Blanco of Miami was one of the first to set up a donation center in his home and spearheaded a statewide delivery of supplies to hurricane-stricken areas.

“When I finally got to Fort Myers on my first trip, the roads were flooded and littered with debris, wrecking cars and boats,” he said. “The power grid was shattered, the building was torn to shreds, it looked lifeless – it was surreal. I realized there were a lot of people in a desperate situation, so I set out to help as best I could.”

Other fishing guides also help. Capt. Court Douthit of Clearwater, Capt. Bear Holeman of Sugarloaf Key and CFCW Co-Founder Capt. Chris Wittman are helping people out of the unimaginable. This is the beginning of an outpouring of support from the fishing community and outdoor industry across the country.

Donations from outdoor brands like Yeti, Simms, G. Loomis, Nautilus, Costa, AFTCO, 4Ocean, Patagonia, Columbia, Pelagic, Olukai, and dozens more sent boxes of clothing to guides who lost most of their gear and nautical equipment.

Famous fishermen such as Carter Andrews, Brandon and Jared Cyr, Flip Pallot, CA Richardson and Kevin VanDam offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences and tackle kits for auction to raise funds for rescue efforts.

Anglers from as far away as Montana came to help. Guides from North and South Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere donated fishing trips to raise money to help with storm recovery. People from all over the country have found unique ways to send support. Artists, fishing ambassadors, tackle stores and brands launched a social media auction to raise money for Hurricane Ian Relief Fund.

Ian was devastating, but it couldn’t destroy America’s fishing community — a national family united by fishing. Storms like Ian’s can destroy buildings, bridges and power grids. But behind them, there will always be the hope of a community that inspires strength and recovery.

Not even a 155-mph wind or a 15-foot storm surge can dampen this sentiment among anglers.

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