Thomas Flemons is a lifelong outdoorsman with a passion for kayaking Texas rivers. Once a mortgage loan officer constrained to a world of ties and cubicles, Thomas began selling kayaks as an independent rep in 2006. Eventually, he and college friend Jay Korbell started working on a way to improve the 4,000-year-old Inuit technology still found in today’s kayaks, and Diablo Paddlesports was born.

Diablo Paddlesports is a Texas born and bred company that operates out of a warehouse in Maxwell, Texas, near San Marcos. Their signature product was the brainchild of Thomas Flemons. Now he and his wife Megan run the small but thriving company. Find out what it’s like behind the scenes at Diablo Paddlesports in our latest podcast.

What got you involved in the outdoors?

My dad and grandad were hunters and fishermen, so I was exposed to the outdoors from a very young age. I was lucky to grow up in Dripping Springs, and we would roam the woods with pellet guns and pocket knives, riding bikes and fishing every chance we could. Enjoying the outdoors is something that has never left me.

How did your passion for the outdoors evolve into a profession?

I graduated from Texas Tech with a business degree and wanted to get into the outdoor industry. I started guiding hunts in Honduras for a couple of years, but the back and forth got to me, so I came back to Texas and ended up in the mortgage industry. I was still looking for a link to the outdoors and became a rep for a kayaking company. I kept getting feedback from dealers and others about improvements they’d like to see in a kayak. I kicked around ideas, but that’s as far as I got, until I woke up one night at 3:00 a.m. with a new design idea. Soon after that, Jay Korbell and I started talking about designs we had discussed for years, and we decided to give it a go. Since then, my wife, Megan, has come on board with me to run the company, and we’ve been pretty busy running Diablo Paddlesports ever since.

Has your connection to the outdoors changed as Diablo Paddlesports has prospered?

Well, honestly, I used to get out on the water a lot more! The downside of success is that I spend a lot of time inside running a company. This venture has really opened my eyes to the outdoor industry and has really broadened my horizons. It has also made me more mindful of conservation and that we all need to be involved in taking care of our natural resources.

Why have you partnered with TPWF in the We Will Not Be Tamed campaign?

I didn’t know much about TPWF before now. I had heard of Stewards of the Wild and learned about TPWF’s purchase of Powderhorn Ranch and was just blown away that more than 17,000 acres of pristine coastal land would eventually end up with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, thanks to private philanthropy. When you have a group of motivated people coming up with the money to make these kinds of acquisitions, these are the kind of folks I want to align with.

Why should Texans care about conserving Texas’ lands, waters and wildlife?

We all have to take care of it. It’s our legacy. We can’t make new land or rivers. Especially with the amount of development and people coming to Texas, we have to be vigilant. We need to conserve it for future generations and leave something that we are proud to hand off. And we need to say to the next generation, “We left if for you. Pass it on and take care of it.”

Can you share a recent outdoor experience that was meaningful to you and explain why?

I’ve got a German wire-hair pointer named Greta that I have had for a little over a year. She goes everywhere with me, and you can see her on the boat in the photo that was taken for this campaign. I’ve been training her for months, and recently, we went on a duck hunt. She did great. Catching a fish on a fly that you’ve tied is like shooting a bird over a dog you’ve trained. There’s nothing like it!