Saturday, November 19th we gathered to remember and honor the memory of a great friend and fellow paddler. John’s wife Dorothy, and many of his long-time friends were there. Both Doug Drake and Louis Greco spoke after the paddle, and part of those speeches are in this article. We paddled just around Mariner’s Point so those on shore could observe the scattering of flower petals and some ashes. Dorothy spoke how much this event meant to her and told us a few memories she has of John. It was a perfect morning on the water.
John was far too young when he died of a heart attack while on a day hike. But he was in good hands that day, having made the most important decision of his life years before: He chose life and the Author of life by accepting that promise found in scripture – John 3:16, and John O’Hagan was changed forever. God’s love and grace touched John, and he passed it on to whoever he met on many occasions. While he was a great outdoorsman, he was also a stellar person, taking the time to help others and bless those around him (more on this is in the article written in July of 2021, just scroll down to find that).
Albert Einstein said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” John discovered, that by turning his life over to the Creator, the miracle of grace transformed him.
Doug Drake spoke to us after the paddle, that “when someone we love passes, it’s as if we have lost a part of ourselves. Living without your child, spouse, parents, or John, is very much like losing an irreplaceable part of yourself. It’s not something we get over or get back to normal. It’s a loss that endures a lifetime. As C. S. Lewis, the person whose life the amazing movie ‘The Most Reluctant Convert’ is based on said ‘The death of a loved one is an amputation, and the pain I feel now is the happiness I had before’.”
Louis Greco then said “I have had the blessing to know John for over 30 years. I consider him one of my best friends, as I am sure many of you do as well. John seemed to know someone wherever we went. He lived up to his nickname ‘coach’, and was a great coach to me, always available to listen, advise and encourage. As a great leader he would often do a reconnaissance mission to a future campsite, checking important factors such as the availability of water and trail conditions to assure a successful trip. John has now gone ahead of us… to scout out the perfect heavenly campsite.”
Well said Doug and Louis, very well said.
So, this Thanksgiving I am thankful to have known John, to have received the blessing of his playful smile, his great compassion, and for God’s grace channeled through this wonderful man.
-by Jay Murdock, SDKC Safety Editor and Trip Leader
October 7-10, 2022 was our 8th trip to the June Lakes Loop, north of Mammoth, and we had ideal weather. No wind, daytime temps in the mid-70’s, and night temps in the low 40s, with just a few sprinkles on our hike and the last night after we were in our tents. Now that is how it’s supposed to work for an easy car-camping trip.
After the snow and cold of last year’s trip, some people had second thoughts about going this year, but the nine who went this time all had a wonderful experience. We hope you can join us next year!
Jake recently lost his battle with cancer, and people near and far who knew him have lost not only a wonderful friend, but a great person who just happened to be one of the best paddlers we’ve known. Yes, Jake was all that and more. Everyone who knew him liked him. He had this wonderful soft nature and calmness about him, but also a confidence and warmth that made you instantly like the man.
Jake’s paddling skills went far beyond most of us, as you will read in the following comments by some who paddled with him, but you would never suspect that in talking with him. He was both kind and gentle in helping us gain a greater skill level in our sport, and it seemed his patience never ran out. He had this ever-present smile that drew us in, a smile that was unassuming and humble, yet conveyed a strength that gave us courage to go beyond our comfort level.
Comments from Others:
“Jake and I were paddling buddies and like many kayakers in San Diego we paddled together often. Thanks to Aqua Adventures and in particular Jen Kleck, we paddled the San Diego coast, from North County to the Coronado islands. Further south in Baja we paddled the coast south and north of La Bufadora and out to Todos Santos. Up the CA coast we paddled Point Lobos, Golden Gate, and the San Juans, and who doesn’t have fond memories of paddling the Colorado river and Black Canyon. In Scotland we paddled the Pentland Firth, where in a tide race I had to self-rescue from a wet exit because Jake was busy rescuing our ‘group leader’ who was being tested for BCU level 5 accreditation – he failed! From there we paddled the western coast of Scotland and the Isle of Skye (the wildest tide race I ever paddled) and several isles in the Outer Hebrides. Jake was always there with a smile and confidence that inspired.
Most of all we were surf buddies, out on the water 2 sometimes 3 times a week. Jake somehow pried me out of a warm bed way too early for any sane person to consider and convinced me to throw myself into the cold Pacific. Jake coerced me out in conditions I would never consider myself and once saved me (and my surf boat) from the rock jetty at South Mission beach (I was trying out a new paddle that was beyond my skillset).
But my most memorable outing with Jake was one surf morning at LJ Shores when I never even got on the water! We had arranged to meet at the usual ungodly hour but had failed to consider the predicted fog, a weather condition that rarely happens in San Diego. When I arrived, the fog was so thick (visibility easily less than 10’) that I could barely see a parking spot let alone find Jake’s truck or see Jake on the beach. After half an hour of searching for Jake and his truck, I assumed he had had the good sense to either not show up that morning or had returned home after seeing the fog conditions. But before leaving, directed by the sound of the surf, I felt my way across the beach. To my total surprise, just as I approached the water’s edge and still unable see the surf, out of the fog and the surf walked Jake, surf boat on his shoulder and that big Jake grin on his face.
Jake had a way that made each of us feel we had his undivided attention and always an abundance of good will. I missed Jake when he moved back north but Jake had a way of staying with you even when he wasn’t present. I miss him even more now he is gone even though he will always be with me”. -Thom Underwood
“Jake was my first “real” kayak teacher helping me to overcome my fear of tipping over my kayak and paddling in on the ocean. One fine day Jake took me on a paddle from Aqua Adventures way out past the jetty, over to Ocean Beach Pier, the next thing I know Jake has me riding the back of a wave all the way to shore. Wow! What an exhilarating experience and Jake made it happen. That was Jake, “exhilarating”, full of life and ready for the next adventure. He took us all along on his “Portage to Portage’ paddle, what great memories he shared along the way. Remembering- Jake performing headstands on his kayak and fun times out on the water. Thank You Jake, for sharing your Joy of living radiating from your bright shiny eyes and your beautiful smile. Cherishing fond memories close to my heart”. -Jan Jensen
“Jake was great to paddle with. He was always happy & smiling. I can’t recall ever seeing him upset. I recall paddling from Harbor Island to the Coronado’s with him and 3 other guys. He also taught me how to fix Valley skeg mechanisms (thank you!). One thing that bugged me was seeing him do a headstand in a Nordkapp. Oh, come on! Darned showoff. I felt so inadequate! Fair winds and following seas Jake. You are missed”. -Gary Billick
“I’m saddened by this news. I learned much from Jake’s kayaking teaching”. -Vicki Ardoin
So sorry to hear about Jake! I have such great memories of paddling with him guiding the meetup group paddlers on the AA social hours Thursday evenings and seeing him around the shop. Best memories are of the jokes he would pull on the gang at the shop as well! I still laugh when I think of them 🙂 -Miki Golden
Jake was a paddling buddy a great friend and one of the best people I have ever known. We shared a lot of campfires, paddled together in Baja, along the San Diego coastline and the Colorado River and he always made a great experience that much better just by his presence. Jake accomplished an amazing kayaking feat with his Portage-to-Portage trip where he paddled 5,740 miles down rivers through the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic Coast to loop around the Eastern United States but that pales in comparison to his legacy of friendship and kindness, he left to all of us.
He was strong but gentle, he was confident but never arrogant. He was kind but never weak. He was wise but always open. He cared about other people and always looked for the good in them. He was loyal to his friends. He was resolute and when he said he was going to do something he did it. He has been a great example of what a good human should be. He had a Zen like calm but was always up for some fun. His wide smile was contagious. I can’t think of a time I ever heard him say a harsh thing about anyone. Even his huge expedition to do the Portage-to-Portage trip was understated. Adventure Kayak magazine called it the Anti – Expedition. Jake described it as a bunch of backyard paddles put together but it was much more. Anyone who was lucky enough to meet Jake could bask in his calm strength and feel the peace inside him. He was always the first to jump in and help when things went sideways and was extremely capable. I value the time I got to spend with him especially on the water. I would paddle with him as he was training for his trip and enjoyed that quiet time with a good friend so much.
I hadn’t seen him in a little over 10 years as he moved back to Wisconsin, and I moved overseas, but his friendship was incredibly valuable to me. He will not be forgotten because he was a rare and special person. Now that he is gone, I will try to focus on the good he left in his wake and not on the sadness, but it will be difficult at times. I know I have tried to be a better person because of his example. If you want to do something good for the world, try to follow his example and be more like Jake. -Mike Franklin
“Jake, Steve Wilson, and I went out to Catalina Island to paddle and camp. The next morning Steve and I got up at sunrise, thinking how manly we were getting up so early. As we stepped outside our tents, we saw Jake coming out of the cold water bare-chested, holding a large fish he just caught. We thought to ourselves that this guy is just not human to be able to pull that off”. -Duane Strosaker (at the memorial paddle)
His Skill Level:
The following photos show his incredible skill level. During a paddle, Jake could get out of his cockpit and move about the kayak with ease, do a headstand, and even perform a roll using only his hands. Yes, we witnessed that with eyes and mouths wide open with awe.
Thirty-two paddlers turned out for Jake’s memorial paddle in San Diego on February 26, and went out beyond the jetty, where his wife, Marit, scattered some ashes. Afterwards we gathered for a time to visit, hug each other, and listen to the great music of Steve Wilson.
The High School Principal where Jake taught the last four years spoke eloquently of him at his memorial service in Wisconsin: “Jake was an exceptional human being, and those who knew him were lucky to have met him. He had an infectious, joyous smile, and truly found joy in experiencing life to the fullest. Jake cared about people, connected with others, and brought joy to those around him. He embodied the qualities of love, family, and selflessness”.
Who Jake Was:
Those of us who spent time with Jake knew his face conveyed the essence of who he was. The fact of how one’s inner character can be seen through their face was recently summed up by President Zelenskyy of Ukraine after accepting the likelihood that soon he may be killed: “Everyone’s face shows his or her life, their whole life path, as well as the end of one’s life”. We were able to see who Jake was, and how he was able to face his death with courage. Thank you, Jake, for being there for us, for giving so much of yourself to us, and for being a great friend. We will not forget you.
Those of us who have been kayaking San Diego for some time will remember Jake Stachovak. He worked at Aqua Adventures for a number of years before returning back to Wausau, Wi. You also might remember him from his epic 5,000-mile kayaking trip, that he chronicled back in 2010. Unfortunately, Jake has been fighting cancer for the past few years. Jake’s cancer has become very aggressive and he is dying. His liver is overrun and it is spreading all over. Some folks have asked how they can help Jake. There is a GoFundMe that was set up for him by his students and staff at the high school he teaches at.
Let’s start the New Year off on the water as we’ve done for about 15 years.
You’re welcome to join us if you’ve attended some of the skills practices and can keep up with the group’s 3-4 knot pace.
As a reminder, you’re responsible for your own safety so all attendees need to be capable of self-rescuing.
DATE: Saturday, January 1
RALLY TIME: 8:30 am
LAUNCH TIME: 9:00 am
DURATION: 1 – 2 hours
LAUNCH SITE: La Jolla Shores Boat Ramp
VENUE: Paddle north towards Black’s Beach, or perhaps paddle west to check out the caves
RECOMMENDED: Depending on the weather, Mid-weight paddling clothes with a splash jacket
PLEASE NOTE:These paddles are not sanctioned San Diego Kayak Club or Aqua Adventures events. The announcer of this event is not the leader of such, merely a “coordinator.”
Disclaimer: We will have experienced paddlers on this trip, but they will not be responsible for telling you what is or is not safe for you to do. We watch out for one another and assist one another, but all individuals are responsible for, and manage their own safety. This responsibility includes assessing your gear, skill level, and physical conditioning relative to conditions and location, as well as making decisions about what you will or will not do. Participants acknowledge that kayaking on the open sea or bay is inherently dangerous and can lead to physical injury including death as well as property damage. Participants, on their behalf and on behalf of their heirs and assignees, agree to hold the announcers and other participants blameless in the event of such injury, damage or death. Please join us if you want to mildly stretch your capabilities, but please stay home if you would be wildly stretching them. Participants should have bracing skills, be able to self-rescue and assist in the rescue of others. They should be able to launch and/or land in small surf.
This was the 8th time we have gone up to the June Lake Loop to paddle, hike, and see the wonderful fall colors of the Aspens. Because of health, work, and weather issues, we lost more than half the sign-ups, but those who went kept warm and enjoyed the crisp air. There were new people on this trip, and a couple from Arizona drove over to join us. We even experienced a taste of winter, with snow and 14-degree temperatures on two nights.
Because of the snow, most of us went to see the Tufa’s at Mono Lake, then drove over to Mammoth for the day on Friday.
Saturday had great weather (sun and mild breezes), and we took advantage of that with a fun paddle on Silver Lake.
Some of us then hiked around Gull Lake, where we took some amazing photos of the trees and lake. We ended the day with a wonderful dinner together, then a warm campfire. The mountains are beautiful in the fall for those who are willing to experience the wonder.
We have lost a wonderful member of our kayaking and hiking community, and a dear friend to many of us. John suddenly passed away a few weeks back while hiking with his dog, doing what he loved to do. This unexpected event has left those who were privileged to know him in shock and sadness. Those of us who knew he was a man of faith, know he is now in a better place…but we still miss him.
As Lori Nickerson said, “We just saw him on his paddle board on a Wednesday morning paddle a few weeks ago. We used to see him fairly often way out in the ocean… a speck in the distance, so tall with a distinctive stroke. ‘Oh, that must be John!’ We’d paddle towards each other and chat for a while before going our separate ways. Such a fine and gentle soul”.
John was only 62 when he set out to hike that day, not knowing what the future held, but he knew the One who held his future. He loved the woods in all seasons, and used to solo camp in the back country in this “secret spot” amongst the pines. But John also loved to be with others in all the sports he aggressively participated in. A great companion to have on any paddle, hike, pack trip, or Nordic ski, he was always strong and confident in what he was doing. On one Yosemite pack trip, John took the pack of a gal who could not hike the rest of the way to base camp, quickly hiked up the trail, and then returned to get his pack. We were all amazed at the strength of this man, and the humble and cheerful way which he conducted himself. But that was John, always giving to others.
John was a good and loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend. His faith and the relationship with his Maker were the guiding forces in his life, and he understood that life is a precious gift with purpose and meaning. Of all the great attributes that could be said about him, the one that stands out as the pinnacle, is that John was simply, yet profoundly “One of His”. James Dobson once said “At the end of our lives, what really matters is who we love, and who loves us”. As John moved through life, he left a large “wake” of people who knew his love, and loved him back. And what a tribute that is. Well done, John.
It is long overdue to give tribute to a great kayaker, an early SDKC leader, serving many years as the club president, and valued member of our kayaking community. Jane has been a leader and helper to many on trips and numerous skills sessions she has led… and a great friend to many of us. In putting this article together, it was decided to ask several people to contribute photos and comments. You may learn, as I have, some new things about Jane. She is an accomplished world traveler and adventurer, going to many wonderful destinations for hiking and kayaking. People from as far away at the UK sent some amazing photos (and a video, which will be posted at a later date). Looking through all the photos, it is a trip down memory lane, covering a time-span of several years with old friends. And what a pleasure it is to know her, because the best part of life is who we have the privilege of knowing.
It is natural for Jane to be a Sea Kayaker, as she has salt in her veins. She grew up in New England, often helping her dad on his lobster boat. You have to work fast and efficiently on those boats, often in rain, cold and wind, all while watching your feet so the line does not wrap around them and drag you overboard to the bottom. She is very comfortable in sea conditions that would turn back many of us, and is always willing to try new experiences to test her skills and ability. And that is how she has become a very accomplished kayaker. She is in a relatively small group of kayakers who have paddled the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Jane also loves the mountains, and is a great person to have on any trip. She has hiked and kayaked in at least 12 countries, and several states, including Alaska. I’m sure that if we could see all the photos of her on these trips, they would fill several albums. The following photos and comments are randomly presented. So, we raise our glass to you Jane…
“I would suggest changing the award to Kayaker of the Decade. No one’s resume comes close to the things Jane has experienced over the last few years. Northern California/SF Bay, Fort Bragg, Channel Islands, Kern River, Grand Canyon, UK, countless hours of BCU instruction, and Croatia, are just a few of Jane’s adventures that come to mind. I suspect there are many more I am not even aware of. Not to mention all she has done for San Diego and So Cal. paddling.” -John Brindle
“My awesome trips with Jane as illustrated by these photos (above) from Grand Canyon, circa 2009. She was always geared up, organized, and rarin’ to hit the water. Photo of rapid descent (you can imagine how big the Grand Canyon rapids are): she would attack challenges like whitewater kayaking the Grand Canyon with a positive attitude and always set her sights on improving her skills. Photo of waterfall: Jane is always so much fun out of a kayak, too. A kayak trip with Jane is always fun, full of learning, excitement, and fun.” -Teresa Boli
“I first met Jane in 2005 and have shared a number of great times on the water with her. She was then, and continues to be, someone who is always improving her skills in order to tackle anything the ocean can throw at her. More importantly, she has the competence to enjoy the ocean in all its moods. Jane was a much better surf kayaker than I ever could hope for. On a Mendocino trip, I remember trying to figure out the surf in my small boat, just to see Jane gracefully surfing to perfection. I didn’t spend a lot of time with her in the surf, but that moment has stuck with me as she was, once again, pure calm and having fun on the water.” . -Dennis Hyndman
“You will often find me hanging out with Jane, because she’s usually right in the middle of where the fun is happening!!” -Lori Nickerson (Cuba, 2017)
“Jane Hardy is as bad-ass as they come! She’s kayaked the Grand and all through Europe: and she’s hiked all over the world. She’s led skills sessions encouraging all to try their best. San Diego is lucky to have her! There is no mountain too high and no body of water too full of motion for Jane. I’m happy and proud to call her a friend and mentor. Big Hugs.” -Sheri Belling
“Croatia, May of 2010, one of the many ‘excellent adventures’ I’ve had the privilege of going on with Jane. You couldn’t ask for a better travelling companion. When Jane has the helm, you know you’re in good hands.” -John Nickerson
“I met Jane many years ago when I was taking my first ever kayak lessons. They were in San Diego with Jen Kleck. One day Jen sent us out to do rescue practice with Jane and your group. She welcomed us and included us in her skills practice. Since then, we became good friends, have taken many kayak courses and joyfully paddled together in many parts of the world. Jane is the most positive person I know. She always makes the best of every situation. I’ve never heard her say anything bad about anyone or any place. Fortunately for all of us, her positivity is contagious. I have a ton of photos of Jane from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Iceland, Croatia, Baja (Pacific and Sea of Cortez), San Francisco, Redding, Mendocino and who knows where else. I have many stories, but just say Donna said “It’s your turn, Jane”. She will laugh.” -Donna Sylvester
“Having done 4 Star training with her, I recall Jen one day calling me at home and saying there was a small craft advisory for the following day with gale force winds. Did I want to go out and work on our rough water skills? I jumped at the opportunity and was glad to see a group of very accomplished paddlers when we launched from Mission Bay. The day was a bit crazy as we didn’t get out of the channel before someone capsized and then one paddler got seasick north of the PB Pier. We had to call the life guard to remove him from the water. After towing an empty boat and practicing various tows scenarios we landed on a crashing beach at the Marine Room. I remember that Jane said it was good to have her friends on the water with her that day. I seconded the thought.” -Dennis Hyndman
“I first met Jane paddling in Baja when I was over in San Diego and filled in for an absent staff member on a trip. Jane then put me and my partner Ursula and then baby son Ralf up for 3 months in 2011 whilst I was conducting research in California. She has since been over to stay with us on about 10 occasions and has joined about the same number of sea kayak trips which I run. Like all the other folk who repeatedly come on my trips, Jane has fallen in love with the NW of Scotland, including Skye and the Hebrides in particular. Shetland however, takes the prize for most outstanding paddling destination on the planet (I’m biased but not much!). Shetland has many of the world’s biggest and longest sea caves and has hundreds of miles of coastline which are a ‘Swiss cheese’ of stacks, cliffs and caves packed with amazing wildlife. All Jane’s British paddling friends send their regards and missed her on the recent trips.” -Dr. Steve Banks, UK
“I can only echo what others have said: wonderful companion on all paddles and adventures, always curious and determined to improve her paddling skills and knowledge, and to generously share it with others. It is safe to say that the Club owes its continued existence to her consistent efforts and leadership.” -Steve Huemmer
Jane Hardy has been leading weekly skills sessions, with consistently good turn-out. Fourteen paddlers showed up for this one, and the weather and water temp were nice. Thank you Jane for your contribution and leadership in this effort.
Our website contains considerable information on kayaking skills, presented in step-by-step procedures. Click on the Skills tab at the top of this page to view that.
Debbie, Dave and I took a few minutes to discuss some up-coming paddles for the club, and we’ll let you know about those in the future. In the meantime, Dave is still leading the Wednesday evening paddles out of AA, and you are welcome to join in. They launch at 6pm, and you can rent a boat from AA in advance if needed.