By Chad Waligura ~
Larry Cooper was 31 when his jack-knifed trailer pulled his truck over the side of a steep hill in Baja California. He’d already purchased a lot in Los Barriles and built a villa as a base for his fishing operation. Breaking his neck only slightly altered those plans.
“I love to fish. Always have,” Larry admitted to me when telling me about his guide service. “After I got paralyzed in ‘92, I had to go out again and find out if I could still do it, if I still loved it.” As a C-6/7 quad, the first thing he had to do was make his house accessible, the next was to figure out how to fish. Larry designed some equipment that he thought he’d need to be able to work the large rods & reels that offshore fishing requires, then he ‘procured’ a little 16 foot boat to get out on the water in. There was no need to waste money on a big boat if he wouldn’t be able to do it anymore.
It was just him and his deck hand, Ernesto, that first time out post-injury, and Larry hooked, fought and landed a lot of dorado and a few big tuna. He was back! “That was one of the few times that an invention of mine worked right the first time,” he boasted. “I could still fish and the main thing was I still had a great time doing it. And that equipment is the same stuff I use today. I haven’t changed a thing. The biggest fish I’ve ever caught since then was a 555lb marlin and that was no easy task.”
Larry wanted to guide again, and now he wanted to be able to take other disabled fishermen. In 2006, he sold his property and bought the lot next door. On it, he built two villas, one for him and the other for his clients, both fully accessible with roll-in showers of course. When he added a 35’ boat to his fishing fleet and put in a wheelchair loading hoist and lock-down devices, he was ready to roll again. The year was 2007.
Today, at 53, Larry gets out on the water about twice a week during the fishing season which runs from mid-October to mid-July. He says they take about 15 chairbound fishermen a year, and that he gets most of his bookings from the villa he rents out to travelers. Once they get down there and meet Larry, they want to go fishing. Larry says it’s better that way because you can predict the weather better when the charter date is inside of a week. “And some people just come for a nice accessible vacation in Baja,” he continued.
Baja Enterprises, the name of Larry’s business, closes down during the hurricane season because Baja California is not the place you want to be, he says, when the power goes out. During the offseason, he’s up in Portola, CA, a little town in the mountains north of Lake Tahoe. The two extremes, mountains & beaches, suit his lifestyle just fine.
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