Employee Spotlight: Kyle Blair – Customer Service Representative

Kyle Blair

He is originally from small town west Texas but eventually made his way to beautiful Austin and we are sure glad he did. Blair has already proven to be a valuable team member providing the level of customer service you’ve come to expect from ACK.

Blair, always prepared!

Blair received his BS Degree in Environmental Science from Abilene Christian University and after graduating moved to Western Wyoming for a couple of years. He has worked in the outdoor educational industry and also did some wildlife research for a consulting firm. While living in Wyoming, fly-fishing became his hobby, spending the majority of his free time floating rivers and fishing streams. He has also guided for two different organizations, which took him all over the United States backpacking, paddling and sailing — he’s quite the outdoorsman!

We’d also like to use this opportunity to congratulate Blair as he recently got married and is currently off enjoying his honeymoon. Welcome aboard Kyle…err, Blair!

A Focus on Paddling Gear for the Outdoor Woman

Forget the pink, this is about form, function and comfort!

There was a time when the outdoor industry had a tendency to focus on manufacturing outdoor gear that was tailored mostly for men. However, in the past decade or so, manufacturers (even those in the hunting and fishing industries) have taken great strides in creating products that are geared specifically for women and for good reason. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, 44% of all outdoor participants are female. That is a huge number especially when you consider that over 135 million people participated in an outdoor activity in 2010. Which brings us to this…

Did you know that ACK offers a variety of paddlesport and outdoor products geared towards women? Of course, we do! While we don’t have concrete numbers, you’ll find that like the outdoor industry as a whole, women make up a huge percentage of our customer base. That’s why we are constantly on the lookout for quality, specialized, outdoor gear tailored to women.

I have personally used many of the products we sell on paddling and camping trips and I thought it would be a great idea to share the list with you.

Ocean Kayak Venus 11 Kayak

Ocean Kayak Venus 11 Kayak – Let’s start with the obvious, a kayak! While most kayaks are meant to be unisex, Ocean Kayak developed the Venus 11 Kayak with the woman in mind. It’s a great general use recreational kayak and as one customer described it “This boat is ridiculously light.” — which is primarily what makes this a great choice for the female paddler.

Stholquist Cruiser

Stholquist Cruiser PFD – Probably the most popular product we sell to female paddlers is our PFDs. More specifically the Stholquist Cruiser which I personally enjoy using myself. The Cruiser is made for woman and features a smaller cut, shortened torso and supportive inner cups along with a variety of other features you will appreciate.

NRS Women's HydroSilk shirt

NRS Women’s HydroSilk Shirt - When it comes to paddling apparel, comfort is key but I must admit, I want to look good too! The NRS Women’s HydroSilk shirt is not only stylish but is also the perfect solo layer when it’s warm out and it also makes a great base layer when it the weather turns cooler. More importantly, the shirt material provides UPF 50 for protection against the suns rays while the nylon/spandex blend quickly wicks moisture away and dries fast.

CamelBak Hydration Backpack – Stay thirsty my friends…not in this case. It’s important that all women, men, children and even pets stay hydrated. When paddling, hiking or biking, fighting with your water bottles can be annoying. Instead, pack up a CamelBak Hydration Backpack designed for Women. You’ll have water readily available while doing your part in conserving our natural resources.

Teva Dozer III Water Shandal

Teva Dozer III Water Shandal – Spring has to be the best time of the year to combine paddling trips with hiking adventures. Be prepared to tackle anything whether on land or water with the Teva Dozer III Water Shandal…yes, Shandal. Sandal meets shoe, get it? It’s simply provides great traction, comfort and safety.

Outdoor Research Oasis Sun Hat

Outdoor Research Oasis Sun Hat – Speaking of spring, protect your face and head for that matter from the sun with the Outdoor Research Oasis Sun Hat. It will keep you cool, offer protection from harmful UV rays and the wicking band will keep perspiration in check.

Immersion Research J-Lo Sprayskirt

Immersion Research J-Lo Sprayskirt – Here is an unexpected product developed for women, a kayak sprayskirt! The Immersion Research J-Lo sprayskirt features a shorter tapered tunnel (to fit a women’s torso), and super stretch hip panels to make it easier to slip on. The J-Lo features bungee construction for a dry seal on a wide range of cockpit rims.

Go Girl Urination Device – I know this list is getting long but how can I NOT mention one of my favorite paddling/camping products, the Go Girl Urination Device. Ok, so what is a Go Girl anyway? Simply put, it is a device that allows you to urinate while standing up. It’s neat. It’s discreet. It’s hygienic and I highly recommend it!

These are just a few of the many items designed for the female outdoor enthusiast. I do encourage you to visit our website and type “woman” or “female” to see what else we carry. On a side note, don’t manufacturers realize that women collectively make up a higher percentage of all retail sales in the U.S.? ;-)

Everyday, we look to expand our product offering and outdoor gear for women is absolutely no exception. We invite you, our female customers, to tell us what products you think we should carry by visiting our product recommendation page. We value your input and we look forward to serving you again soon!


Featured Outfitter: Live Adventure

So many people work hard at what they do so they can earn a living to pay the bills, buy things they don’t need, or hopefully save enough money so they can retire in comfort. Live Adventure, a company that specializes in unique outdoor programs and expeditions wants to dramatically change the way people live their lives.

Branndon Bargo started Live Adventure in 2005 by putting together a trip that would transform his life. He wanted to do something that would push him physically, mentally, and spiritually, and also accomplish something that no one else had ever done before. He invited his brother Greg to join him and after coming to the conclusion that his two favorite things were mountains and sharks he decided to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska then bike 4,000 miles to Baja Mexico and in between scuba dive with great white sharks in California. Brandon completed this adventure and became determined to use the outdoors and his sense of adventure to help others live full, passionate, and significant lives so he founded Live Adventure. In 6 years Live Adventure has grown its program services to include leadership skills workshops, team building experiences, rock climbing, mountaineering, and orienteering designed for corporate groups, athletes, and students.

In 2007,  Branndon founded One Blood Initiative, a non-profit that does work both locally and globally. The local mission is to offer outdoor programs to inner city kids from communities throughout Texas. One Blood’s global mission is to eradicate malaria from Africa by joining forces with several African organizations in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Most recently Live Adventure launched a kayak rental service at Cedar Hill State Park just outside of Dallas, Texas. Live Adventure sees this as a way to reach out to the community and continually remind people to live life to the fullest and remember to focus on the things that are important.

To read more about Live Adventure the work they are doing visit www.Live-Adventure.com.

Columbia Sportswear: More Than Just a Brand, It’s a Lifestyle

No other apparel brand has ever made such an impact on the outdoor industry as much as Columbia Sportswear. Anglers of all types, whether on powerboat, pier, surf, canoe or kayak have almost made the brand synonyms with fishing. Columbia has also proven itself a well-respected outdoor clothing brand for almost all outdoor activities. There is a long history behind it all. Columbia started off as a hat company in 1938 and eventually evolving into a “sportswear” company by the 1960s. Today, they maintain a focus on the same values that has brought this company to where it’s at — helping you enjoy your outdoor adventure anywhere you like to play.

ACK is not only proud to be an authorized Columbia Sportswear dealer but our employees are big fans as well. Already, dozens of employees have submitted a request to order shirts for personal use. And, if you happen to attend one of our demo days this spring, you’ll be seeing ACK employees wearing the Tamiami II series of shirts. Personally, I own about 6 of these shirts in a variety of colors — love’em.

As an outdoor retailer that maintains a focus on paddling and camping, we have hand selected several items that we know our customers will enjoy. This, of course, includes their famous PFG Blood and Guts, Bahama II and Tamiami II button up shirts in a variety of colors. You can pair those up with a Columbia’s Backcountry Convertible Pants which are quick to dry and can be converted to shorts as the heat of the day sets in. Curious to know how the different shirt materials compare to each other? Click here to view a comparison chart.

We’ve also picked up a few stlyes of Columbia shoes including the Outpost Hybrid 2 Water Shoe, Techsun Interchange 2 Sandal and one of my favorites, the Techsun Flip. These are not flimsy, one-summer shoes here. The Columbia Techsun Flip features durable construction and a synthetic leather/carbon fiber upper that is built to last season after season.

Pick up a few item from the three lines mentioned above and you’ve almost got a full wardrobe. All you need are some Columbia socks, hats and gloves and you are ready to get out to enjoy the great outdoors. Do us a favor though, please get yourself some underwear.

Apparel is Columbia’s core focus but they also design a variety of other accessories to accommodate the outdoor enthusiast. For example, the Columbia PFG Bullshark Duffell Bag for all of your extra clothes and gear. It’s great for your boat or store it in your kayak stern tankwell because the bottom 2 inches of the bag is 100% waterproof. We also carry a couple of useful watches including the Singletrak which helps give you direction when returning from your destination amongst a variety of other features. And, for the salt water angler, there is the Tidewater Watch, which, as the name states, monitors tide movement for 200+ locations throughout the world.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. We have added hundreds of new items in the past few month and will continue to expand our selection to make sure we are covering all of your needs when it comes to quality outdoor gear. We are excited and looking forward to being your #1 Columbia Sportswear dealer. If there is ever a product you think we should carry or simply have a question about this or any other brand we carry, please contact us at customer@austinkayak.com or comment below!


Event Recap: Alamo Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation Banquet 2011

The Banquet Hall

ACK recently attended the 2011 Alamo Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation Banquet. The event was held in San Antonio where over 200 members and guests attended making it a great success. This yearly banquet is held to raise funds to help restore, conserve and manage wild turkeys and their habitats.

The Manta Ray 12 Was a Popular Bidding Item

The NWTF did a great job of organizing this event complete with good food, friendly conversations, a raffle and of course the ever-popular auction. This year, ACK contributed a camouflage Native Watercraft Manta Ray 12 Kayak outfitted with a tag along wheel, rod holders and a Wildcat Fishing Light System with custom navigational lights. The kayak ended up being a popular item in the live auction generating an excellent winning bid that went towards supporting wild turkey habitat restoration.

While there, we had the opportunity to showcase a variety of other kayaks and handed out store coupons. ACK had a great time at this event and we look forward to supporting the NWTF in future events.

ACK San Marcos

Event Recap: San Marcos River Clean-Up

Preparing For the Clean Up

We recently participated in the 25th Annual Great Texas River Clean-Up (San Marcos River Clean-Up). Folks from all over Texas joined forces in what is known as the world’s longest river clean up. People were cleaning up the entire length of the San Marcos River (approximately 90 miles). The section of river we took part in cleaning was from Fentress to Prairie Lea 1 (2 miles) with the Spring Woods Canoe Group.

Kayaks are helpful when trying to reach hard to get items

Despite waking up to chilly 20mph winds we battled the elements to do our part in river conservation. The kayaks we chose this for this trip included the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 and Tarpon 100 for their high point of view, tracking and nimbleness for navigating through the tight waters caused by fallen timber and other debris.

It seemed to be an endless battle but we did our best to clean up empty cans, bottles and other trash, filling up trash bag after trash bag. We had very little room left in the kayaks for the over 100 feet of deserted trot and limb lines, many of which had rusted hooks still attached. These lines were camouflaged with moss and grass, just waiting for the unsuspecting swimmer to get tangled up in.

By the end of our excursion we had more trash than energy but still managed to fill up the remaining space in our bags. It will be a never-ending process but we finished feeling confident that it was a job well done. We look forward to next year’s event!

ACK San Marcos

Join ACK at the American Canoe Association State Meeting & Training Event

What are you doing next weekend? How about joining ACK and the good folks from the ACA for the Texas State Meeting and Training Event?

When: March 19th – 20, 2011

Where: McKinney Falls State Park (Austin, Texas)

Who: Members and prospective members of the ACA

Why: Hear what the national organization is doing to support paddlers and promote paddling in our region. Voice your ideas and share how you are willing to make it happen! Experience a Stand Up Paddleboarding demonstration, a new ACA discipline. Continue reading Join ACK at the American Canoe Association State Meeting & Training Event

Night Fishing with the Wildcat Lighting System

Kayak with lights installed.
Mad River Kayak with Installed System

For me kayak fishing is not just a hobby or an activity to pass time, but an obsession. I am always on the water whenever I have a few hours to spare. However, since I am a working college student, my spare time is very limited so I usually fish at night. Fishing from a kayak poses some challenges but I recently discovered a new product that ACK carries — a fishing light system by Wildcat Lighting. This system not only makes it easier and safer to fish in the dark but it actually attracts fish to my kayak!

At first I was a big skeptic because I have previously spent lots of money on fishing lights that just flat out didn’t meet my needs. Unlike most lights out there, these Wildcat lights are 100% waterproof and work well in both salt and freshwater environments. I installed the “Basic Kit” on my Mad River Synergy 12, which consisted of two 15.75” green light strips and two 6” amber light strips. The green lights are placed on the outside of the kayak and provide deep penetration into the water to attract more bait, which in turn attracts more game fish. The amber anti-bug lights are installed in the cockpit area and are designed to discourage pesky bugs and also provide enough lighting to bait my hooks in the dark.

Bait in the Water
Bait in the Water Attracted to the Lights

It works! One evening, I was fishing the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels Texas, and within 10 minutes of using the lights, I had a ton of bait schooling around my kayak. The first fish that I saw was a stealthy alligator gar that swam right underneath my kayak and shortly thereafter more fish followed. I had bass, catfish and perch chasing the smorgasbord of bait that was attracted to the light. That night I was able to reel in some nice bass, a few catfish and just before I called it quits for the night, I decided to try to catch an alligator gar for sport — I want to let it be known that reeling in a nice alligator gar at night is an exhilarating challenge.

It’s also a well-built product. The lights are super bright, durable and the system was easy to install. I was initially concerned that the lights would drain the battery but my lights stay on for over 8 hours on a 12V battery. Now that these lights are a permanent fixture on my kayak, I am not only catching fish with them, but they are also serving as a great safety feature helping me navigate in the dark and keeping me visible to motor boats.

After using and having great success with the Wildcat Lighting System, I am happy to give this one two thumbs up. I highly recommend this product to anyone who is looking for a way to fish at night and increase your visibility. Do you have one installed? As always, we want for you to share your experiences with us…comment below!

ACK-San Marcos

Press Release: Outdoor Retailer, Austin Canoe and Kayak, 
Announces the AustinKayak.com Mobile Website

ACK’s paddling and outdoor gear eCommerce website 
is now available in a mobile optimized format.

Austin, Texas (March 7th, 2011) – Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK), today announced the launch of a mobile optimized website located at www.AustinKayak.com. The website, which auto detects if the user is on a mobile device, has been developed to provide a more accessible and convenient shopping experience for ACK’s ever growing customer base.

The mobile website is a fully capable eCommerce platform for purchasing any product currently offered by ACK. Whether the user is shopping for a simple repair part, an accessory item or a complete kayak package, customers can expect to find the same full-featured eCommerce functionally they would experience on the non-mobile website.

“Our goal was to bring the same level of experience our customers have come to expect from our current website but in a convenient mobile friendly format. Our current website already gets more visitors than we had ever imagined so it’s exciting to see how reaching a broader audience, those that aren’t close enough to visit one of our stores, and a new generation of smart phone mobile users that are getting rid of their computers will increase our sales.” said Peter Messana, Austin Canoe and Kayak CEO. “With the exponential growth of mobile shopping and the fact that many of our customers would rather be outside than in front of a computer — we knew this mobile website would be a big hit!”

Aside from full eCommerce functionality and detailed product information, users can read customer reviews, access physical store contact information and maps, save items to a wish list and create and manage their accounts. Additionally, mobile users can still choose to access the non-mobile site.

To experience the recently launched mobile website, visit www.AustinKayak.com with any mobile browser enabled device.

About Austin Canoe and Kayak

Founded over 20 years ago, Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK) is an award-winning paddlesports and outdoor retailer based out of central Texas dedicated to providing exceptional customer service and the widest selection of paddlesports and outdoor equipment. ACK operates three physical retail shops in Austin, San Marcos and Houston, Texas and an online store at: www.AustinKayak.com.

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For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Austin Canoe and Kayak, please call Roland Jimenez at 512.687.3010 or email pr@austinkayak.com.

GRTU Troutfest 2011 Recap

ACK was recently honored to host a kayak demo at the 2011 Troutfest at Rio Raft Resort in New Braunfels, TX. Troutest is a Fly-Fishing Banquet and Exposition held annually by the good folks at Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited. The funds generated by the Banquet and Expo are used to conserve, protect and restore the cold tailwater fishery immediately below the Canyon Dam on the Guadalupe River.

Troutfest 2011 Demo

The event had a really nice turnout and we got to greet some of our regular customers along with meeting many who were new to kayaking. Many anglers were showing off their fly-fishing skills just a few feet from ACK. We set up a tent with a variety of kayaks on the banks of the  beautiful Guadalupe River to demonstrate the use of kayaks for fly-fishing. A number of anglers were interested in testing out those same skills on a kayak.

Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and were glad to have made some new friends. We were very pleased to be there to answer questions and were happy to have shared plenty of expert kayak fishing knowledge with the attendees. We look forward to seeing you and all the other folks we met at one of our retail locations soon!

Did you get a chance to attend? If so, we are interested in your overall experience at the event…let us know by commenting below.

We look forward to next year’s event!

ACK San Marcos