Gear storage, extreme makeover edition

By TERRY TOMALIN, Outdoors Editor
Published December 7, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - A piece of outdoors equipment is only useful if you can find it. Unfortunately, my garage is like a black hole - gear goes in, but it never comes out.

Recently, after buying my third scuba diving weight belt in as many years, I decided to do something about my pitiful outdoors equipment storage system - I built a second garage.

Some might call it a man cave; others, a toy box. But I refer to it as my tool shed.

Just as a carpenter needs a place to store wood chisels and saw blades, I need a room for the tools of my trade, i.e., kayaks, backpacks, surfboards and fishing rods.

The 15-by-25-foot structure a one-car garage was designed for an outdoorsman by my buddy Billy Majewski.

"We built a bomb shelter," he said of the 4-inch-thick, solid concrete walls. "If a hurricane hits, we can live in your garage."

Majewski, whose company, Stabil Concrete, specializes in these pre-fabricated structures, wanted to add a built-in, granite-top bar, complete with ice maker and fridge, but I explained that such luxuries would only arouse suspicion. My wife already wonders why all the men congregate in the garage on family holidays.

But while I may have skipped comfort, I did not forgo function. Another friend built a series of shelves specifically designed to hold 14-gallon plastic containers. The plywood shelves are big enough to hold a dozen of these boxes, which fit perfectly in the trunk of a car.

My plan, however, had one major flaw. I had more gear than boxes, which meant I might have to make some difficult decisions. I hate to say it, but I just might have to "cull" some equipment.

After all, as my wife often asks: "How many surfboards does one man need? One? Two? Three?"

The correct answer, I tell her, is six. I need a 12-footer to tandem surf with my kids, a 10-foot nose rider for those days when it is waist-high and glassy, a 9-footer for those slightly bigger days, an 8-foot 2-inch fun shape for hurricanes, a slightly shorter board to use when that one snaps and a 14-foot paddle board to help me stay in shape in between swells.

Please note that this same logic can be applied to wetsuits, fishing rods, bicycles, tents, stoves, clothing etc. Some may look at the vast collection of he-man paraphernalia that I have accumulated over the past 18 years as outdoors editor and think that I am a shameless materialist. I, however, beg to differ.

Nobody would ask Tiger Woods to head out on the golf course with just one club. No, he has a big bag of them, one for every possible scenario. The same can be said of outdoors equipment.

You can't ask any self-respecting angler to head offshore with just one rod. Au contraire! You need several outfits for trolling, several more for bottom fishing and a couple of spinning rods just in case a cobia swims by ... you get the picture.

So I guess I should stop trying to get rid of things. Who knows, I may be out on a island in the Indian River Lagoon, catch a redfish on my four-piece backpacking rod and need that folding frying pan and collapsible grill after all.

Come to think of it, I will probably need to add more equipment to the arsenal. Several years in a row I have asked Santa to bring me a tomahawk (not the missile; the kind that Daniel Boone used to carry). I'd also like a pair of buckskin boots, a coonskin cap, a windsurfer, jungle hammock, underwater video camera, new fly reel, high-tech wetsuit (make that several, one for each season: winter/spring/fall and summer) and an ocean-going catamaran.

And last, but not least, another garage.

Times Outdoors Editor Terry Tomalin can be reached at (727) 893-8808.