For NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace his comfort zone normally consists of the driver’s seat inside his Toyota Camry NASCAR Cup series racecar on just about any Sunday during the season.
However, he was recently given the opportunity to step outside that comfort zone into the great outdoors where he did something he rarely does, go fishing. Spending time outdoors isn’t something he’s known for like fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. a self-professed outdoorsman who is an avid hunter, and angler.
“I would say I’m an outdoors guy,” Wallace said recently when we met up on Zoom. Adding with a chuckle,” I mean, I just came in from four hours of being outdoor playing golf.”
He admitted though that fishing was something out of his comfort zone.
“For me, I’ve been able to fish I’d say once or twice. And I’ve never really caught anything,” he added laughing. “And so, to me I was like, man, you know, this isn’t really worth my time.”
Wallace’s trip outside his comfort zone was thanks to his longtime sponsor Columbia Sportswear
“I will be honest,” Wallace said. “Going into this deal, going out for the first day with the Dude Perfect guys. I was like, ‘man, I hope we catch something because I feel like it’s going to be the same old thing’.
“Or we come out here, nothing bites. If it does, it’s going to break off,” he added laughing. “And we went out and it was the absolute best conditions slash worst conditions.”
Those conditions, calm seas, and light winds did make for a comfortable time in the small boat about a mile offshore. But not so great for actually catching fish.
“So, I’m sitting on a boat,” Wallace said. “And I’m like, ‘yep’, hour one goes by, hour two goes by maybe hour three. And we’ve had some nibbles here and there, baits getting bit off, but no big bites yet. And then all of a sudden, it took us a handful of hours for we started reeling in some fish. And I was like, ‘all right, you know, this was fun’. You know, at the end of the day I was like, this was fun.”
The goal however were the big ones, the sport fish so highly prized by all anglers. It was decided a second day was in order. That second day on the water, however, was markedly different than the first.
“I mean, it felt like 15-foot waves. Meanwhile it was only like probably two-foot waves,” Wallace said laughing. “But it was rocky.”
The fishing conditions were also decidedly different.
“We threw a line out within 10 minutes we caught a sailfish,” he said. “It was like, ‘yes, okay. The game is on’.
“I had so much fun; I had a blast,” Wallace said. Adding with a chuckle. “Like, it totally changed my mind about fishing so much that I actually texted my boss MJ (team owner, NBA legend, Michael Jordan) who’s a big fisher, and I was like, ‘Hey, you know, next time you do a fishing tournament or something or just go fishing when you’re in town for a race, let me know.’”
The fishing trip wasn’t the first time Columbia has taken Wallace outside his comfort zone. The clothing company had Wallace design his own clothing line which launched in 2022.
“It’s fun,” he said. “They make you think about every avenue possible that you wouldn’t think about before.
“They made me get in touch with my artistic side,” he added laughing. “And design some apparel and come up with our own clothing line, which actually did really good, I thought.”
And the brand isn’t finished yet.
“Now we’re trying to figure out what’s next,” Wallace said. “We’ve talked about going skiing, trying to find a location for that, but nothing’s locked in stone yet, but it’s not really out of my comfort zone. I think it’s just new places that I haven’t been before that might be, you know, something totally extreme.
“I’m all for it. It’s up for a challenge and it makes you just enjoy life that much more.”
Part of his clothing line announcement came with a photo shoot to introduce it. Wallace modeled some of the clothes along with his then fiancée, now wife, Amanda. It’s further evidence that the sponsor is doing much more than putting stickers on his car and holding autograph signings as part of an activation. It all keeps Wallace busy when he’s not racing. Though he doesn’t mind a bit.
“It’s easier when you have a partner like Columbia,” he said. “Where from day one they welcome you with open arms and it’s like family.
“You don’t feel like you have to be on the straight and narrow path. You can be yourself,” Wallace added. “And they adapt; they pick up on how you react and how you act to certain things and that’s how they come up with their ideas.
“It’s not just throwing a t-shirt on with a logo or slapping a logo on the car and saying, ‘Hey, Columbia is great.’ Each and every time it’s talking about the things that we do together.”
Columbia has been a part of the sport, and a sponsor of Wallace, since 2020. They expanded their relationship with the driver and the team last season. And so far, they seem quite pleased with the partnership.
“It really is just about opening doors for folks to spend time outdoors,” Andy Nordhoff communications director for Columbia Sportswear said. “That’s really what Columbia’s all about.
“Bubba has clearly embraced all of it and we’re excited for what’s ahead.”
Entering the sport in 2020, prior to the pandemic ridden 2021 season and the aftermath, has really allowed the company to ride the wave of popularity that has risen for both their driver, the 23XII team, and the sport.
“NASCAR has really provided us with a new platform to reach out to folks to showcase the excitement behind the races on the track and to raise some profiles,” Nordhoff said. “And Bubba is certainly at the top of that list with our Columbia PFG (Performance Fishing Gear) brand. There are a lot of anglers out there who love to fish and who love NASCAR. And it’s been a really nice way for us to connect the two together.”
The Columbia Sportswear sponsorship helps fill the inventory for Wallace and the team. He said for the few openings they do have they are getting phone calls “each and every day.”
“I think that’s a good problem to have,” Wallace said. “I mean, we just announced the Xfinity deal there in Daytona. I think we have just a couple of races open for us on the 23 side of things. We’re in really good shape.
“It’s exciting to be on that side of things because I’ve been on the exact opposite and worse side of that. To see how much work our team’s putting in and how well our team is doing at attracting sponsors and landing sponsors and, and making a long-term deal is actually really cool and, and proud to be a part of that. We just got to keep doing the right thing.”
This season marks the first time Wallace will be racing not only with most of his sponsorship sold, but as a married man, and a two-time NASCAR Cup series winner. All in all, Bubba Wallace is in a very good place.
“Yes, I am,” he said. “I’ve actually been really excited about this season. It’s, it’s a tossup on who’s excited more myself. It’s a three-way tie. I’d say myself, Amanda, or Booty (Barker) my crew chief.
“It’s definitely a good spot for us to be in, with the utmost confidence that I’ve had to date to start a season. Excited to get the season started.
“I think we just have to keep showing up with that confidence. It’s a long season; the confidence can definitely get lost in translation.
“It’s just understanding that when that flame dies out how to get it reignited and fire back off with that same amount of momentum. So that’s the thing that’s been fun to navigate and grow up and learn about. It’s just how you navigate life throughout the treacherous moments.”
Part of that navigation comes from the same philosophy championed by Wallace and Columbia that carries over to his race team.
“That’s some of the core values that I look at,” he said. “I try to instill in the race team is, if we act like we’re family, then we’re going to get so much more accomplished than actual business partners.
“At the end of the day, that’s what it is. But I want it to be much more than that. I want it to be, you know, like, we’ve known each other for 20 years instead of two months. You know what I’m saying? So it just makes it easy to have conversations, do adventures and everything in between that. And it makes it a no-brainer why we’re continuing this partnership for many years to come.”
#NASCAR #Driver #Bubba #Wallace #Steps #Comfort #Zone