Customer Profile: Meet Mike

From Recreational to Rolling

We all enjoy the sport of kayaking for different reasons. In general, everyone agrees that being on the water is relaxing. And while it may be a water sport, a good portion of kayakers prefer to stay (mostly) dry while paddling. Yet, some others are called to spend their time mostly wet and upside down, practicing their rolls. For Mike what started as a recreational and relaxing above water activity soon evolved to something else. Within a few years he went from paddling a recreational Pinguino 145 to rolling a Murrelet 4PD. Mike was 59 years old when he learned to roll. This follows along Mike’s kayaking (& Pygmy) journey…

Mike’s first Pygmy kayak was a Pinguino 145 that he built in his
garage in a couple of months time.

Mike explains how he got into kayaking and eventually learned about building his own, “In 2012 I rented some boats at Big Lagoon at the request of my son, Cody, and his wife, Sasha. We had a great time kayaking. The next weekend my wife and I returned to the lagoon and rented two kayaks and were hooked. Shortly thereafter we purchased a couple of sit on tops and had a blast learning to kayak on the Mad River Slough. Not long afterwards, I saw two Pygmy kayaks on top of a truck parked outside a music store in Ashland, Oregon! They were beautiful! I asked the owner about them and learned about stitch and glue, and Pygmy boats!”

“Big Lagoon is 19 miles away; I consider it my gym.”

Mike came to the sport of kayaking in his 50s. His size, 6’ tall and 260 pounds with a size 12+ shoe, initially landed him in a Pinguino 145 (a recreational design with our largest cockpit). At the time he was working around the world as a helicopter mechanic. With a three week on, three week off schedule he was able to use his off time to first build a kayak and then later learn to roll.

He writes, “I started building a Pinguino 145 in my garage in October 2013. The saturation coat was on in November 2013, and the kayak was on the water in May of 2014. I enjoyed the build. Everything was straightforward and easy to understand. “

Mike’s Pinguino 145 near completion in his shop.
Launch day for Mike’s Pinguino 145.

At first the major appeal of paddling for Mike was exploring, seeing beautiful things, and snapping the occasional photo of Blue Herons or sunrises. The workout aspect was also appealing. He also found he enjoyed introducing others to the sport and he especially loved sharing the calm beauty with his wife Kay (they are celebrating 42 years of marriage this year) .

Then one day Mike decided to learn to roll. He writes, “I am not really sure what gave me the idea to roll. I contacted an instructor, and we practiced in a hotel’s swimming pool! One day I finally got it … leave your head in the water and watch the end of the paddle. And I was up and hooked! I had a Greenland paddle made, and that is now my main rolling paddle. Skinny sticks rule!”

Mike Rolling his Pinguino 145.

Mike learned that his Pinguino 145 was not the perfect choice for rolling, so he purchased another kayak that was designed for rolling and that helped him to learn initially. Then he was able to apply those skills to the Pinguino, and soon he could roll it every time. He now had a plastic kayak for rolling and his Pinguino 145. He liked the lightweight and beauty of the Pygmy kayak so he decided to look for a Pygmy design that was better at rolling than the Pinguino 145. He was able to borrow an Arctic Tern 17 and a Murrelet and immediately loved the Murrelet. He then found one (a “piece of art”) for sale on the shelf in Astoria, Oregon in Chuck Bollong’s workshop (Chuck is one of our kayak building class instructors).

The beautiful Murrelet 4PD that Mike purchased from Chuck Bollong.

After he picked up the Murrelet 4PD he couldn’t stop paddling it. He writes, “I love everything about it – it’s beautiful, light weight, fast, and it rolls easily. I was 59 when I learned to roll. I am 62 now! I am a big boy, 6’ tall and now 235 pounds! My size 12+ feet are snug in the Murrelet, but I love it! My wife now has my Pinguino 145 as her boat to use. And she is fast and beautiful in it!”

Now that Mike has retired he paddles almost every morning at his local spot, Big Lagoon. He considers it his gym and enjoys seeing the familiar faces that frequent the Lagoon with him. “On Wednesdays there is a group of about 10 rollers! And most every morning early there are several of my old friends on SUPs. One young man sitting on a bench overlooking the lagoon asked me when I was done, ‘What’s wrong with your boat, it keeps tipping over?’ Hahahaha! I laughed, ‘Yep, it does.'”

Mike rolling his Murrelet 4PD.
“I look forward to many years in this sport.”
Mike in his Murrelet 4PD is 62 years young now.

Kay, Mike’s wife, in the Pinguino 145.
An Arctic Tern 17, Pinguino 145 and Murrelet 4PD ready to roll.

Many thanks to Mike Libolt of McKinleyville, CA for sharing his Pygmy story!

If you’d like to share your story please email us at We love to hear people’s paddling and Pygmy stories! If you have questions about which kayak is right for your paddling goals please feel free to call us: 360-385-6143.

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