Retired Sailor paddles to business success

Eye on Veterans
December 14, 2018 - 8:51 am

Photo courtesy Kyle Nyseth

When Kyle Nyseth was serving as an officer in the Navy's Riverine Squadron 3 he wanted to find something special to give his Sailors, as well as coalition forces they worked with, to commemorate their time working with the unit. He wasn't looking for the typical store-bought plaque, but for something Navy specific that would hold a special meaning for his Sailors, and be something they'd proudly display.

 He found what he was looking for by drawing inspiration from a paddle he'd been given when leaving Special Boat Unit 12, a gift inspired by Navy SEAL BUD/S training.

"When they go through that training, they do the surf passages and they're issued a paddle," Nyseth explains."Those paddles are part of their history, blood, sweat and tears in that training. And then at the end the team uses those and decorates them as a memento." 

Photo courtesy Kyle Nyseth

The paddles were a big hit with his unit and as it often happens, word got out as Sailors arrived at new commands with their ornately decorated paddles designed by Nyseth and hand-made by his father Gary, a Vietnam vet. For the rest of his Navy career, Nyseth made as many paddles as he could for those who requested them, free of charge. After he retired, as Nyseth struggled to find the right post-service career path, the requests continued which he says eventually led to an epiphany: If he enjoyed making the paddles, and there was a demand for them, maybe he'd already found the job he'd always wanted.

And so Nyseth and his wife Melinda launched Navy Paddles, a business that's now grown beyond paddles, and beyond a purely military theme, to include a full catalog of custom-designed plaques, coins, and display cases created by a team of craftsmen. Nyseth says it's a dream job in more ways than one.

Photo courtesy Kyle Nyseth

"For me, it's a way of staying connected to the community I spent so much time with," Nyseth says. "And I feel so grateful that I'm able to work in this rather than work a 9-to-5 job on something that I don't have so much attachment with. Twenty-two years in the military, you develop a relationship with all of these guys and it's great to stay connected."

You can hear the full interview with Kyle Nyseth below. 

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