Jan was a dear friend to many, but more so to my friend Gunnar Ahlström, fellow team member and owner of Pike strike. A while ago, we asked Gunnar to pen his thoughts on Jan and this is what he had to say.
“Jan Liska is a friend I will never forget. He was a person who touched me and so many other like-minded around the world and the person more than anyone else developed kayaking in Europe. He did it in his special friendly way, almost always with a big smile. He was also physically big and reminded me of a viking warrior or a big bear with strong arms that pressed the air of me when he greeted me with a big hug when we met after a couple of months without seeing eachother.
We met the first time 2013 at my fishing camp on the island of Senoren in the Karlskrona archipelago. At that time I used Freedom Hawk and Ocean Kayaks. I was already then rather an experienced kayak angler and when he introduced me for the Jackson Cuda 14, I was first sceptical as I was rather happy with my Ocean Grand Slam that I used personally. He just smiled and asked me to try the Cuda and from that moment I was in love with the brand and had also a new friend for life. We drank Czech bear, laughed and exchanged stories and kayak fishing experiences by the fire ourside the camp cabins. He introduced me to his Czech friends and from that moment we were in the same kayak fishing community that lead to filming episodes for the Jim Sammons Kayak Fishing Show and the start of Jackson Kayak fishing Open, a kayak fishing event that is annual from that time and on, now named Liska Kayak Open after Jans tragical death in the French Alpes.
During the filming with Jim Sammons we had an almost real viking party in a In an authentic viking village that is built just by the PikeStrike fishing camp on the island of Senoren. We ate and drank and was hosted by some guys who live almost like real vikings in their spare time. These vikings held a show in sword fighting for us and after that they asked if someone dared to challenge them with a sword. One man raised from his seat – Jan Liska – and even if it was a show it was like seeing a real viking stepping into the ring. My wife, working as emergency nurses, had to take care of the viking’s bruises after the show as Jan had chased this poor man all over the viking village, chuckling with laughter. Of course he hugged the poor viking in his huge armes after the battle and drank beer with him for some hours. They also became good firends.
After that I became team leader for Jackson Kayak Team Sweden. Jan was always there for me with all kind of support. He helped me during fairs in Prague and the Paddle Expo in Nuremberg. He came over to Karlskrona for pike fishing in our archipelago, a kind of fishing he loved. He expanded the European teams by introducing more and more good kayak fishing anglers. He was always on top of things, always supporting with a good mood. I never saw him even grumpy. He always smiled and chuckled when we met. Another thing that impressed him was his unbelievable linguistic talent and sharp intellect. He spoke many languages fluently, including French, which enabled him to handle all possible situations. He was always calm and sensible, which meant that he spread calmness around him. Everyone was at peace in his company. It’s simply impossible to pinpoint Jan’s importance to me as team leader, other team members, Jackson Kayak and kayak anglers as a whole here in Europe. I miss Jan so much. Every time I think of him, I feel sad, but also a happiness of getting the chance to know him and becoming his friend. When we gather for Liska Kayak Open annually, it feels like he is present. His good mood and warmth are there with us when we are fishing. The last time we saw in Sweden I got a kayak of him. It was a Kilroy DT that he spoke warmly for. The kayak was a prototype that he had used diligently and every time I fish from it, I think of Jan. Every pike I catch from it I assign him. Thank you Jan for all you have done for us yakers and for your soul to being with us forever.
Rest in peace, my friend.