Transom stories: Former chiropractor chooses boats instead of backs

Jun 29, 2017

Al Anderson owns Betsie Bay Kayak. Since 1984, he’s been crafting boats made from wood and fiberglass.

“There’s just something about a kayak,” Al says. “It’s like a magic carpet in a way.”

Betsie Bay Kayaks are the opposite of the brightly-colored plastic kayaks you commonly see. These boats are based off the earliest kayaks ever built. 

Kayaks were only supposed to be a hobby for Al Anderson. His first career was as a chiropractor. But after about 10 years fixing backs, he realized he enjoyed working with his boats far more than patients. So he sold his shop and started building kayaks full time.

“Few, if any small boat-building shops or shop owners get rich doing it,” he says. “It’s a labor of love, and the lucky ones can make enough money to keep doing it. And that’s kind of where I am.”

Al Anderson will turn 64 years old later this summer. He says if someone comes along who wants to learn how to build kayaks, he’s willing to share his design and knowledge.

Andrew Bauld is news officer for the arts and humanities in the University of Chicago News Office. He came to Interlochen in June for the Transom Traveling Workshop taught by Rob Rosenthal.