Let’s Make This One ALL About You

Since I joined the ACK Team in September of 2010, I was immediately handed over the responsibility of maintaining this blog. I have since written and published over 60 articles and co-edited just as many by fellow ACK employees and guest authors. That’s a lot of content! Fact is, I’ve never considered myself much of a writer and quite frankly a paddlesports expert but I tried my best to remain focused on topics that I felt customers wanted to read about. I recently spent some time going through our archives and began to think to myself, is this really the case?

Naturally, I became curious so I’ve decided to open the floor to our audience with this; as we roll into 2012, what do you want to see more of and what can we do to generally improve this blog? Don’t worry, we won’t be offended because ultimately this is about you, not us, so don’t be shy, comment below — we want to know!

Roland @ACK

Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas!

We hope that this day finds you with family and friends enjoying this very special time of the year. On behalf of the entire staff at ACK, we would like to wish all of you a happy holiday weekend and very merry Christmas. With that, want to thank you, our customers, friends, fans and partners for being a part of the ACK family. We had another spectacular year and we couldn’t have done it without you.

P.S. Need a last minute gift? Give an ACK eGift Card. Once the transaction is complete, they’ll immediately receive the eGift Card via email!

Time to Dock at the 2012 Boat Shows

They’re almost here…the 2012 Winter Boat Shows! It’s like the Holidays for boat lovers. For those unfamiliar with the boat shows, these events bring together a variety of boat dealers under one roof for a chance to shop for every make, model and style available. While the shows mostly focuses on powerboats, ACK has made a tradition to mix it up with an amazing display of kayaks for you to see, touch and discuss with our knowledgeable staff and manufactures’ representatives.

Here is our 2012 boat show schedule. We hope to see you there and of course, do expect some great offers and opportunities to win prizes! – Roland @ACK

Houston Boat Show: January 6 – 15 at the Reliant Center
Info: www.houstonboatshows.com

Belton Boat Show: January 6 – 8 at the Bell County Exposition Center
Info: www.centraltexasboatshow.com

Austin Boat Show: January 19 – 22 at the Austin Convention Center
Info: www.austinboatshow.com

San Antonio Boat Show: January 26 – 29 at the Alamadome
Info: www.sanantonioboatshow.com

Dallas Boat Show: February 3-5 & 9-12 at the Dallas Market Hall
Info: www.dallasboatshow.net

Picture Perfect

Product imagery is an important part of any retail business, especially within the realm of an online store where a person may not be able see a product in person. Most manufactures provide quality images but sometimes we need to shoot our own images if what we get doesn’t meet our standards or if they simply don’t exist yet.

I’ve been with ACK for almost a year now and to date I have shot over 9,000 product photographs with at least half of those making the cut. The reason I take so many is to ensure that I get the perfect shot for each angle.

A simple image can have great influence on a person’s buying decision but more importantly sets their expectations of what they will receive when package arrives on their front step. For example, if you are looking for a hard to find hardware item that only shows a single blurry shot from one angle, you may be unsure if that is the correct part you need despite a detailed written description. That’s where I come in. I will usually shoot five different angles of the same product capturing its unique features as well as providing clean and coherent images such as this one. Who would have thought that a pair of tires and accompanying hardware could look so good?

Taking so many pictures can be a bit monotonous so sometimes I will refresh my interest in taking the photographs by getting a bit “Artsy” with some of my shots. If you hunt around our website you might find a few products with some extra “style” in the pictures ultimately rendering a real-world presentation.

Of course, you may also find that not all products have the same quality imagery we strive for, but let it be known it is and will always be a work in progress. Ultimately I hope that the effort and time we put into these product photos helps you when shopping at AustinKayak.com. I take great satisfaction in knowing that we have some of the best paddling and outdoor adventure product imagery on the web.

If you ever find yourself shopping for an item that can use a refresh or have a specific request, let us know, we’ll be happy to click, shoot, edit and load it for you. Just let us know by commenting below.

Sean @ACK

Winter Buffs to the Rescue!

Last month my wife and I took a long weekend trip to Wolf Creek Ski Resort near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to put the Polar Buff to test. Considering it would be early winter skiing I wasn’t sure if the Buff would come in handy but boy was I wrong. The winds blew all weekend and early morning temps were in the single digits — I was glad that I decided to bring them along.

If you’ve never seen a Buff then I should make you aware that there are 8-12 different ways that you can wear these things. I chose to use my as a combination neck gaiter and head cover. The Polar Buff consists of an 8” Polar Fleece section connected to 12” of wind blocking fabric with a seamless ‘sleeve’ to keep the cold out and the warmth in.

I’ve been wearing a helmet for the last 3-4 years while skiing and I never really liked how the helmet felt on my head when the cold wind blew through the vents in it, so I always wore a really thin cap under it. Now with the Buff, I was able to pull the elastic over my head and ears. The Fleece section of the Buff covered my neck area and served it purpose as a gaiter. The elastic part could even be pulled up over my mouth and nose if the conditions warranted – which was the case early in the mornings. I also liked the fact that the Buff is seamless so no bumps between the Buff and the inside of my helmet making it a comfortable combination. It was so comfortable that I wore the Buff all weekend, even when temps reached the 40’s. Another nice thing about the Buff is that is dries fast and has been treated to resist odors. Oh, and my wife used hers in the same fashion all weekend as well, enjoying the flexibility and warmth of the Buff.

How do you use your Buff? Comment below!

Steve @ACK

Kayak Geocaching

Ever been geocaching in a kayak or canoe? I honestly never really thought about it but I recently stumbled upon an article through Paddling.net that intrigued me. I mean it only makes sense doesn’t it? Geocachers are always trying to find ways to make it more challenging to hide caches, and with a kayak or canoe you’ll be able to expand your opportunities and reach. This article by Rachel Finney from The World. highlights the topic. While you are at it, check out this video. Both offer some insight into geocaching from a kayak. For those unfamiliar with geocaching, it’s basically an outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences with others. For more information about geocaching in general, click here for a 101. For those already involved, tell us about your experiences by commenting below. – Roland @ACK

The Brands Man…The Brands!

Something just occurred to me. While we often talk about the new products we get on Facebook, Twitter and our monthly newsletter, we rarely make mention of the actual brands. I told myself, c’mon man get with it, tell them about the brands man, the brands! As we roll into 2012, figured I’d share a few with you that we are proud to be associated with — welcome aboard new brands! – Roland @ACK

Saris Cycle Group – Beautifully designed bicycle racks and accessories.

Ultimate Survival – Rock solid survival and emergency tools.

Xcel – Performance outdoorwear and wetsuits.

Primus – Durable stoves and other camping equipment.

Kuat – Sophisticated bike racks that turn heads.

Redfeather – Innovative snowshoes and accessories.

Zing – Toys for the rest of us (and kids too)!

Omega Pacific – Serious climbing and rescue equipment.

Cleanwaste – Go anywhere personal human waste management…yes, that.

Reliance – The best in collapsible containers for hydration and waste management.

AGS Labs – Simple yet effective outdoor cookware and other camping equipment.

Bluewater Ropes Quality recreational and occupational climbing and rescue gear.

Is there a brand you think we should carry? Tell us why by commenting below!


Be Prepared…Always

I was recently reminded of how important it is to have the proper gear for a safe and enjoyable paddling adventure. A customer came into our San Marcos location with an amazing story of survival. While enjoying her usual kayaking route off the Texas coast, she found herself stranded in deep water. Her boat hit an object under the surface causing her to flip. Her PFD was hooked to the stern of the boat so she had to swim underwater to grab it and put it on. While she was struggling to put her PFD on, she lost both her paddle and rod. She endured six hours in the open water before she was finally rescued at 2 a.m.

I learned of all this when she came by our store to buy a new Hobie Mirage Sport. This experience also led her to purchase a few other items to ensure her safety on future voyages. To replace her current PFD, which she never wore because it was too uncomfortable, she purchased the MTI Helios Inflatable PFD. The Helios PFD offers a low profile that sits loosely around the neck and chest. It instantly inflates when you pull on the tab. Now she has no excuse not to wear a PFD and based on her experience, I’m now sure she will always wear it.

In addition she purchased a paddle leash and a rod leash. For less than thirty bucks she can be sure that she will never see $400 worth of gear sink or float away ever again.

She did have glow sticks but as a replacement she purchased the Pelican Mini Flasher LED Light which can be clipped to your hat or PFD. The light simply turns on with a twist and burns up to 120 hours and is completely submersible.

Let this short story be a reminder to all about how important it is to use your PFD and carry a few extra items that will ensure your safety. With simple precautions paddling is an extremely safe activity, but it is always best to be prepared for the worst. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot. When you visit any one of our stores or contact one of our customer service representatives, we’ll be happy to guide you on the gear you need for a safe and enjoyable paddling adventure.

Luke @ACK San Marcos

The Story of YETI Coolers

Every once in a while a brand emerges from a sea of products, one which develops what you might consider a cult following — YETI is one of them. Sure, they’re just coolers but the moment you set your eyes on them you can tell something is different and even more so once you begin using one. They look strong and feel strong, and most importantly they are strong and yes, they do one hell of a job keeping your food and drinks cold — for a long time.

Certified bear-proof by the Interagency Grizzly Gear Committee

Wildly stronger!
So what’s the big deal and just what makes a YETI cooler so strong? It all starts with the manufacturing process of the shell itself. Just like your kayak, YETI coolers are roto-molded rendering a product that has no seams, is impact resistance, offers long-term durability and is ready to take a beating. However, it doesn’t stop there. Latches, hinges and handles are usually the first things to fail on most coolers but the folks at YETI didn’t spare the details. The T-Rex™ lid latches are the same latches used to secure hatches on ATVs and the YETI NeverFail™ hinge system consists of a full-length, rust-proof aluminum rod integrated into hinge stops which are molded into the lid. The handles themselves are virtually indestructible and the plug itself has a story of it’s own.

You probably get the point now but we invite you to watch this entertaining video of a bear having fun with a YETI Tundra.

Keep ice longer!

Up to 3″ of insulation.

While durability has helped YETI earn its claim to fame, it’s the ability to do what coolers are meant to do that has pushed these products into the limelight — keeping your food and drinks cold. They say it themselves, “it’s not rocket science”. More insulation means better insulation. While many coolers have less than 1/2” of insulation, YETI uses up to two inches of insulation in the side walls and  gives you a whopping 3” of it on the lid, which works together with an integrated freezer-quality rubber gasket to keep the cold in and the heat out.

Whether paddling, camping, hunting, fishing, long road trips or any other activity involving a need to keep your food from perishing and your drinks ice cold, YETI coolers should be a staple in your arsenal of gear. They’ve not only built a reputable product but have certainly claimed their stake as a leader within the outdoor adventure industry which is not an easy feat for anyone.

We invite you to browse our complete line of YETI coolers and accessories. Don’t need one yourself? They also make great Christmas gifts too. I’ve got the Roadie 20 on my list!

Do you own a YETI? What’s your experience been like?

Roland @ACK

The Holiday Madness Begins @ACK

Ya know, it’s never been easy for me to get into the holiday shopping spirit. In fact, for at least the last 20 years, I’ve always waited until the weekend before Christmas to do all my shopping. Well, now that I am an employee of an outdoor retailer, times have changed and so have my holiday shopping habits — I’m on it before Halloween! I owe it to my duty of working with our team on creating and launching our annual Holiday Buyer’s Guide, which through the process, gives me countless ideas on gifts to buy for my friends and family. It may be easy to assume that all we sell is paddling gear but take a closer look, you’ll find a wide array of products for men, women, children and even pets who enjoy the outdoors in every price change.

Here are some great stocking stuffers, all under $25:

Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel
For anyone that enjoys hiking, camping, hunting or any other activity where they may need a fire in an emergency situation or simply need a spark to cook up their favorite camp meal.

GoGirl Female Urination Device
Need a stocking stuffer for your lady friends and family? How about a device that…well, as they put it “allows you to urinate while standing up”? Don’t laugh, it has a customer rating of 5 of 5!

Kelty Camp Pillow
Not just for camping, it’s also a great gift for those who travel often or choose to take a catnap during their lunch breaks at the office.

Hobie Fish Grip
For the angler in your life, the list can go on for miles but here is a tool that every man, woman or child that fishes should have, a fish grip. Made to help anglers land fish safely without harming the fish or their very own hands.

Zing Z-Curve Bow
We’ve got one of these lying around the office and it brings out the best in us. Great for younger ones and based on our experience here, adults too!

Katie’ Bumpers Bottle Tracker Dog Training and Fetch Toy
Give a dog a bone people…show them some love too this holiday season. How about a new toy for our furry friends?

See what I mean, there is no need to shop anywhere else…avoid the lines, grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, light your fireplace, play some holiday cheer and shop at AustinKayak.com!

Roland @ACK