Janée Matteson is a little wary of technology. The more ubiquitous it becomes, she finds, it has more potential to keep kids indoors (a trend she has dubbed “acute nature deficit disorder”). Janée, whose family’s roots have been growing in Morris for nearly 200 years, basically spent her entire childhood outside, learning fur trapping and duck hunting with her father on the banks of the Illinois River. So in addition to her deep passion for the outdoors, founding Kayak Morris was largely inspired by doing whatever she could to help kids, their families, and domesticated teddy bears spend more time in nature.
Kayak Morris offers kayak and canoe lessons, and in addition, patrons can borrow their largely new fleet for leisurely trips along the Illinois River, Mazon River, or Illinois and Michigan Canal, which are home to wildlife such as great-blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. The staff also lead guided ecotours, which teach kids and adults about natural resources and what they can do to preserve and protect them for future generations. Family-focused private campgrounds is adjacent to the State Park along the rivers’ sandy shores invite groups to stay for monthly Glampouts (glamorous campouts) and spend their days taking advantage of potluck dinners, hiking, fishing, bike rentals, or guided kayak tours and to spend their nights watching a movie on Morris’ outdoor projection screen as campfires crackle nearby.
Joe Montalto was riding high after his first-place finish in the Illinois state wakeboarding championship. It was one step away from national recognition and sponsorship, and he hit the water hard to prepare. Joe was mastering a front flip 180 when he missed the wake and landed in the flat water, tearing his ACL and ending any chance he had at competing professionally. After such a career-altering accident, no one would have blamed him for leaving the sport, but he defied expectation. After years of rehabilitation with his wakeboard, Joe still rides the water regularly and spends each summer inducting new riders into the sport he loves with his company, Ride Lab Wakeboard School. He and his cousin, Cody Jarosch, lead groups onto the water to catch their first jump inside the wake. He also coaches competitive boarders for more serious competition, hosts summer camps, coaches collegiate clubs in between private lessons, and demos Ronix gear for anyone. In addition to his wakeboard lessons, Joe designs clothing bearing Ride Lab's insignia and shoots and edits film for his riders.