Matt Price and Cynthia Stevens are the Royal Slammers. Their love of fishing is contagious and is what drove them to establish Fishin’ for Freedom, a not-for-profit organisation providing fishing activities for the disadvantaged.
Born in New South Wales but raised in Queensland, Matt Price first discovered a fondness for fishing as a youngster visiting friends in Jindalee. He was just six years old when he pulled his first catch, a catfish, from the brackish waters of the Brisbane River. “I had no idea what I’d landed, so I dragged it all the way home to ask my parents.” The excitement of that day sparked his interest and when he moved to the seaside area of Wynnum, his passion for fishing grew. Matt spent his spare time fishing the foreshore, break walls and jetties in the area and when the conditions were not good, he watched his favourite fishing shows on TV.
In time, Matt moved on to boat fishing and joined the Moreton Bay Game Fishing Club. He became a very competitive angler earning himself many trophies and championships over the years, with a growing number of billfish catches to his credit.
One day, a magazine article on achieving a Royal Slam caught Matt’s attention. He shares, “A Royal Slam involves targeting certain varieties in a particular species group, for example, billfish, bass or trout. The article detailed the fish caught by a woman earning her a Billfish Royal Slam and it was then I realised I was well on my way to completing the list.” He put a plan into action to chase and catch the fish required and became the first Australian to achieve a Royal Slam. He has since gone on to earn four Royal Slams for billfish, bass, salmon and trout, and is the only person in the world to have four of the six Royal Slams.
Cynthia Stevens was born and raised in Brisbane and started fishing at age five when her father bought a small boat. She suffered from a deteriorating eye condition as a child that eventually left her blind. But despite the hardship and discrimination, Cynthia never lost her sense of adventure. “For 18 years, my family spent our Christmas and Easter holidays camping on the river in Tallebudgera on the Gold Coast. Dad always encouraged me to keep doing what I love, regardless of my vision loss. I had a little Wilson rod with an Alvey reel and I would stand there at the water’s edge for hours casting and recasting, waiting for a bite.” With the help of her father, Cynthia continued to enjoy a love of fishing.
As time passed, her interest in angling was pushed aside when she married into a non-fishing family and became busy with her children. After raising their boys, Cynthia and her husband decided to go their separate ways. She found she had more time to herself once again.
The love story
In 2013, Matt and Cynthia met. A shared enthusiasm for fishing gave them an instant rapport. He helped her gain confidence and she soon mastered various new styles including spin, trolling and fly fishing. After many successful trips, Cynthia became aware that a Royal Slam was within reach and they set about making her dream a reality. In 2013, the International Game Fishing Association credited Cynthia with being the first blind person in the world to achieve a Royal Slam. She is also the only female in the world with three freshwater Royal Slams for bass, salmon and trout achieving the last in the world record time of 15 days.
Fishin’ For Freedom is born
Matt and Cynthia’s passion for fishing has taken them across the world and seen them through some tough times. It helped Matt overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and got Cynthia out enjoying life again. Matt wanted to replicate the joy he felt helping Cynthia achieve her goals and also give something back to the sport that had given them such amazing experiences.
So, together they created Fishin’ For Freedom. Their aim is to provide low-cost or free fishing activities to people with disabilities. Their focus is to help injured past and present Defence Force and emergency service personnel and their families, often facing hardship, to get out and wet a line. Many of their participants have experienced a physical or psychological injury on the job, but they also support families of ADF members on active duty.
“Trips are designed around the individual or groups ability to fish without endangering themselves or others. Activities can include fishing from banks, jetties, the beach, fish farms and from boats, both inshore and offshore.” With their many years of experience, Matt and Cynthia simply want to share the delights of fishing in a non-judgemental, friendly and relaxing environment. They are currently in contact with government departments, commercial operators and tackle outlets to research modifying equipment to suit varying levels of ability. They are also in the process of forging an alliance with some fishing personalities who have agreed to come along and support whenever possible.
Cynthia understands all too well the isolation and loneliness that a disability can bring especially for someone who had an active lifestyle in the past. “Fishin’ for Freedom was established to support people who have stories like mine. To use fishing as an escape or for time out from the daily struggles of life, to overcome thoughts of depression or find a pastime to give them back their purpose. There are a lot of reasons to fish and for every person it is different, but be sure that fishing is not all about catching fish!”
Cynthia’s philosophy is simple, “Don’t think too much about it, just go and do it. Chase your dreams.”