We SUP…do you SUP?

They took the nation by storm and they’re here to stay.

I realize that most of our readers are paddlers of the kayak kind, but before you skim this over and move on to the next article, take a moment to consider trying a stand up paddleboard — if even just to break your curiosity. And for those who do SUP, well, this one’s for you too!

My curiosity of stand up paddleboards came about when a customer chatted me up about using a kayak paddle on a surfboard almost 10 years ago. He proceeded to say this was a big thing over on the west coast. Without hesitation I asked what the point was and he simply said “umm, it’s fun”. What I didn’t realize at the time was how quickly this new-to-most sport was to become one of the next big things in paddlesports.

At ACK, we were quick to acknowledge this growing trend, did our homework and settled on two brands, which were Hobie SUPs and SurfTech. This wasn’t simply by chance but by sheer determination on our part to find the best brands in the business. While dozens, if not more, SUP manufacturers exist, we knew we made the right move with these two brands. Both companies had been in the board making business for eons, but more importantly have proven themselves manufactures of quality products.

Diablo Paddlesports “kayak/SUP hybrid”

As “SUPing” became more popular, other manufactures took note and decided to try their hands at it but with a twist. Within a time span of just a few years, companies like Ocean Kayak (Nalu) and Native Watercraft (Versa Board) came up with their own renditions of SUPs, which I personally refer to as kayak/SUP hybrids. These SUPs offer best of both worlds meaning you can paddle them while standing but also have the option to sit. Furthermore, they offer a variety of outfitting options for both fishing and recreational use. One brand in particular, Diablo Paddlesports, edges more towards the kayak side of things but as pictured, the design clearly focuses on the ability to stand up.

So now this begs the question, what’s the big deal…why do I want to stand while I am paddling? Sure, it’s fun but depending on your personal recreational interests why one would SUP can vary. Standing can feel somewhat liberating and provides a new visual perspective of your surroundings. For the angler, specifically those that enjoy fly-fishing can take full advantage of being able to cast while standing but can also utilize a higher viewpoint for sight fishing. And of course, for the more courageous, you can hit the waves and even whitewater for the ultimate experience of it all.

If you already SUP, I applaud you, not because I personally enjoy it and think it’s a fun sport but rather because you simply gave it a shot. Sure, it may not be for everyone but I can tell you that almost every single person that I have professionally and personally introduced to SUPing enjoyed it. I challenge all of our readers to at least give it a shot. I can assure you that even if you don’t decide to add a SUP to your fleet, you’ll have to agree, you had fun trying it.

To view our complete line up of SUP boards and accessories, click here. We also have some great starter packages so check those out too!

Peace,
Roland @ACK

Outdoor Summer Fun, Fun, Fun!

School’s out, summer is here, let’s all get out and play.

Whether you’ve got kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews…or not, you can’t deny that summer is a season of fun in the sun and if you don’t already have plans, why don’t ya just get up and go — outside that is! As a reader of this blog, you are already familiar with how enjoyable any outdoor adventure experience can be so c’mon now, don’t be selfish, share it with your friends and family. Theme parks, cruise ships and beach resorts are great but this summer, dodge the crowds and consider taking your family and friends with you to an outdoor destination adventure they’ll never forget. Need some ideas? As always, we’ve got a few…

Go Kayak/Canoe Camping
It’s affordable, exposes everyone to a part of any river or lake they may have never seen and provides an opportunity for the younger ones (and unfortunately some adults) to learn what it means to work together as a team. Make it enjoyable with hearty meals, plenty of pit stops and gear for a good night’s rest. A little too warm? That’s the joy of kayak camping, you’re right on the water, go swim!

Go Primitive
Sure amenities are nice when camping but with proper planning and the right gear, you can easily have just as an enjoyable experience in the backwoods. Imagine a campsite that offers nothing but the true sounds of nature, a night sky that is black as ink and a true feeling of disconnect from all the hustle and bustle. Of course, you’ll more than likely have to backpack to the campsite so it’s always a good idea to eliminate unnecessary items (ahem…handheld video games).

Make a Day of It Every Other Week
Afraid a 5-day outdoor adventure is more than they can handle? Go play for the day! Start early, load up some kayaks and head down to the lake. Paddle, explore then plan a picnic along the shoreline. Bring some water toys for the kids and some hammocks for the adults. Use this time to swim, play and relax and if time allows, enjoy the sunset. Of course, if you paddle at night, always take great care and outfit your kayaks/canoes with proper lighting.

Urban Destinations
Long distance travel plans not in the budget? Explore the city from a different perspective by paddling local waterways and just like our previous suggestion, picnic along the banks. If access to water is not anywhere near your city, make it a point to visit every city park by summer’s end.

So these are just few a suggestions and chances are you have just as many. If you do, be sure to share them with us, we want to now what you’ve got up your sleeve. Regardless of what you do this summer, we hope that outdoor adventure is a part of your travel plans. Sure, we’d love to sell you more outdoor gear but the reality is, we are all outdoor enthusiasts ourselves and there is a good possibility that if one us hasn’t already, we will probably put a check mark next to one of our recommendations.

Have fun out there!

Roland @ACK

Camp Moken

We’ve always wanted to camp out of our kayaks and promised ourselves that this year we would finally do it. Back in April, my good friend Jason and I set off down the Tennessee River Blueway for an overnight trip out of our kayaks. We had researched on the Internet and based on previous attempts we decided a course.

We picked Suck Creek boat ramp right outside of Chattanooga and the beginning of the Tennessee River Gorge to start the journey — on a Thursday at 2pm, we were on our way. According to the map, we had about 10 miles to paddle to the camp. The camp is free and part of the Prentice Cooper State Forest.  The weather was overcast and about 70 degrees. The water was glassy and smooth and our boats were gliding right along. It was great too, we had the entire river to ourselves. The only other boat we saw were two guys fishing out of a flat bottom.

Camp was on river right and reached about 7:30pm. After setting up the tents, my buddy started working on the fire and I started gathering wood for it. We had roughly 1 hour of daylight left and didn’t want to loose it! The weather was calling for bad thunderstorms, about a 60% chance, so we wanted to at least get dinner in our bellies before the fire was rained on. It did rain starting about midnight, but never stormed real bad.

The next morning the clouds had cleared and the sun was bright and shining. There is nothing like rolling out of your tent a few feet from the river. We cooked breakfast, explored the area a bit, came back and starting packing up camp.

Paddling to the take-out was WAY different than paddling to camp. The sun was out in full force and left little to no shade near the bank seeing how it was midday. We battled a small headwind all day and the water was choppy. We did get passed by a couple of big luxury boats and it was fun riding the wake. We got off the water at Sullivan’s Landing, a boat ramp on Highway 41 between Chattanooga and Haletown, about 4pm.

It was a good first trip, we both really enjoyed it, and plan on doing it again one day. My friend paddles a Jackson Riviera and I paddle a Feel Free Moken 10.

Most of my info was acquired from http://canoetennessee.com

Thanks!
Matt O.

Press Release: Outdoor Retailer ACK, Launches iPad® Optimized Online Store – ACK.com

Austin, Texas (May, 29 2012) – Outdoor retailer, Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK), a division of MSP Holdings, LLC today announced the launch of an Apple® iPad® optimized version of their online store at ACK.com enabling customers to quickly and easily purchase outdoor gear anytime and anywhere.

Users who access the website via an iPad will automatically and seamlessly be directed to the optimized version which boasts a sleeker more refined user interface making it convenient for those on the go. Customers can expect the same shopping experience they currently enjoy on the regular version of the site including access to the complete inventory database, detailed product information, full ecommerce capabilities, search tools, account management/order tracking and other functionality.

The launch of the iPad version of site is one facet of a much larger mobile strategy involving a fully integrated user experience for all customers — regardless of how they choose to access ACK.com. This strategy focuses on a wide variety of mobile devices and technologies but the iPad version was considered a top priority based on the impressive increase of customers using iPads to access ACK.com. ACK reported an increase of over 2,000% in customer iPad use versus last year-to-date.

“2012 is considered to be the year of tablets with industry stats showing staggering increases in use,” said Peter Messana, CEO of MSP Holdings, LLC, “the same holds true for our very own customer base which is currently showing that over 40% of our mobile traffic is coming from iPads.” Peter added, “It all comes back to providing our customers the best user experience regardless of platform or device and they can expect to see more of this soon.”

ACK is will be launching other tablet versions and redesigning the current mobile smart phone version over the course of the next several months. To view the iPad optimized version of the website, visit ACK.com with any iPad.

About MSP Holdings, LLC

MSP Holdings, LLC operates Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK), an award-winning paddlesports and outdoor retailer and Rack Boys a vehicle rack and sports travel outfitter dedicated to providing exceptional customer service. Both retail outfits are based out of the central Texas area, with their respective online stores at www.ACK.com and www.RackBoys.com and within three physical locations in Austin, San Marcos and Houston, Texas.

If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Austin Canoe and Kayak or Rack Boys, please call Roland Jimenez at 512-687-3010, or email pr@austinkayak.com.

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ACK Featured Brand: Feel Free

Feel Free is all about delivering boats to the customer that provide “the best feeling on water”. Their unique boats feature specific designs for specific paddlers. Their Moken 10 Angler kayak, for example, is made for the paddling angler. It includes features like a center mounting block, a wheel in the keel, rod holders already built in, and even a flip up console for lures. We also carry Feel Free’s Corona Tandem Kayak which is designed for families and it can actually accommodate a third, smaller passenger in the middle.

Feel Free has also been a generous sponsor of KATS, our Texas based kayak fishing tournament. They have donated one of their Moken 10 Angler boats which will be awarded to our Angler of the Year.

Inks Lake Trip Report – Texas

About 2 months ago one of my closest friends, Ben, and I decided to encourage each other to lose weight and get in shape. Ben had already been at it for 4 or 5 months and I was just starting. A few weeks later we decided to sit down weekly to discuss our experiences and release the discussion in the form of an oddly named podcast called “Bacon Tastes Good“. During our discussions Ben mentioned that he would be spending the summer in our native state of Michigan at his in-laws cottage on Intermediate Lake and he was interested in getting a kayak. I suggest he come down to ACK’s San Marcos Demo Days as the Austin Demo Days had already passed, but he was unable to make it down. I then suggested we could rent a couple of kayaks from ACK and take a day off to go paddling and with that the plan was set in motion.

Our mutual friend, Daniel, ( Who also works at ACK. ) has been telling me for years how awesome Inks Lake is so I decided that we’d head there to check it out for ourselves. Ben decided that he wanted to try the Wilderness Systems Ride 115 and I really wanted to try a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120. Since it was Ben’s first time kayak I took it upon myself to over plan/prepare for the trip. Inks Lake is about an hour from Cedar Park, Texas where Ben and I both live so there would be no running home for anything we forgot. When all was said and done we ended up having everything we needed for a comfortable day of paddling.

After days of torrential rain in Central Texas the sun rose on a cool clear day. Around 7:30am we loaded the kayaks and packed the car with the final bits of our gear. We got on the road shortly after 8am and arrived at Inks Lake State Park a little over an hour later. After paying our entrance fee’s ($6 a person) we made our way to the boat launch and unloaded the kayaks. Ben scouted out the General Store and the bathroom situation while I unloaded the rest of the gear.

Around 9:45am we started on our first trip of the day to Devils Watering Hole. Not really knowing anything about Inks Lake we were pleasantly surprised to find a small waterfall once we reached the end of Devils Watering Hole. There’s no wonder why that part of Inks Lake is a popular swimming spot. The route to Devils Water Hole is littered with submerged boulders and rock formations. They are tough to see when they are right in front of your kayak. I ran up on one and almost tipped my boat but I was able to keep my balance and stay dry. The nice thing about the paddle from the boat launch to Devils Water Hole is it’s all inside a no wake area so there’s no boat wakes to contend with although I’m sure on the weekends there are a lot more swimmers back in that area.

After an hour of paddling we returned to the boat launch area and pulled the kayaks up on the beach area next to the launch. We ate lunch at a picnic table behind the General Store and recorded a quick 30 min episode of “Bacon Tastes Good”. Before heading out toward Inks Dam we refilled our water bottles and applied more sunscreen to defend against the Texas sun. The trip to Inks Dam would take us outside the no wake area but it wasn’t a real issue as we had the lake pretty much to ourselves except for one ski boat and a couple of fishing boats.

The trip along Inks Lake’s Southern shores to Inks Dam has several inlets that would be tough for motor boats to navigate as they are either littered with submerged trees and rock formations. The coolest being an inlet where there’s part of a forest that is mostly submerged under Inks Lake. At the end of the inlet there’s a small “beach” area where we saw a few fisherman, but except that it would seem that the submerged trees limit access to this area of the water only to human powered boats. Even in our kayaks we couldn’t avoid hitting the tree trunks just below the surface. Our journey into the “forest” proved worth the effort when, from a few feet away we saw a bird, which we were later told was a blue heron, snatch a fish from the water and eat it.

Another inlet led to a neat hidden cove where we found a small motorboat had anchored up. The driver of that boat must of had nerves of steel as there is only a narrow channel between rock outcroppings leading into the the cove. Once we reached Inks Dam we crossed over to the other side of the lake that is lined with houses and Camp Longhorn which made me wish I was a kid again so I could go there for summer camp. From what we could tell it seemed that many of the “cabins” are floating on the water with cool “obstacles” strung between them like a zipline and a wire “bridge”. Once we neared the boat launch we crossed back over to the other side of the lake and once again pulled the kayaks up on the beach.

After a short rest we switched kayaks and did one more paddle to Devils Watering Hole. Then we packed up and headed back to Austin to drop of the kayaks at ACK. Then it was back to Cedar Park in rush hour traffic for food and much needed naps. We had paddled for a total of 4 hours and had a great time. We decided that we needed to come back in the fall to camp at Inks Lake State Park and do some more paddling. Ben decided we will be buying a Wilderness Systems Ride 115 to keep at the cottage in Michigan and in the spirit of building healthier lifestyles we are talking about doing some kayak races in 2013 with the goal of competing in the Colorado River 100 in September.

Jeremy

ACK Featured Brand: Danuu

Danuu manufactures watersport accessories for kayaks, canoes and even SUPs! Their claim to fame are their boat covers which are a great way to protect your craft from the elements and extend their lives. They’ve got a cover that lets anglers avoid the hassle of breakdown, one with a open hull design for sea kayakers so sand doesn’t get trapped and plenty of other specialized designs. Not only do we carry a variety of their covers but also others accessories like their kayak carrier and paddle leashes.

Danuu has also very generously sponsored KATS, our Texas based kayak fishing tournament, by donating a number of their kayak fishing seats – great for any paddling angler!

 

Celebrate Outside this Memorial Day

We’ve put together a Memorial Day gear guide that we hope helps bring fun for the whole family, see it here.

Feel Free’s Corona Tandem

Memorial Day is only a few days away and its a great opportunity to honor and celebrate with family and friends while enjoying the outdoors. Not only is it a three day weekend but Memorial Day means summer is right around the corner. Since the weather is already getting hot for many of us, what better way is there to welcome the heat than with some quality family time at the lake?

YakAttack American Flag

So load up those boats (we recommend the red, white and blue Corona Tandem if you’re looking for a new one), bring some grilling equipment and get out there! Let the kids play while you rest on the shore and then find a nice secluded bank to paddle to and set up the grill. Honor and remember those who have served in the past and present during those moments of peacefulness one always seems to find in the outdoors. We hope that you have a great Memorial day! – Joseph @ACK

ACK Featured in SNEWS Magazine

This article was originally published in SNEWS Magazine (online) back in March offering some insight into ACK’s commitment to customer service.

Building trust is the key ingredient for online success at Austin Canoe and Kayak

It was probably one of the biggest upsets in Retailer of the Year history. Picture it: The Red Door. Salt Lake City. January 2012. The winner for the Best Online Retailer is about to be announced. Many eyes were on the table in the front full of folks from Backcountry.com.

But it wasn’t meant to be for the online retail giant this year. Rather, a dark horse — Austin Canoe and Kayak — galloped in to claim the honor for Best Online Retailer, something in which brothers and owners Peter Messana (photo, right) and Steve Messana (photo, left) take great pride.

It’s not just about the award; it also validates that they’re doing right by their customers, many of whom rallied behind them to beat out Backcountry.com in the public voting on the SNEWS Facebook Fan Page.

“It’s truly an honor,” Steve Messana said. “Backcountry has an enormous selection and while I’m not a customer, I know they do a good job taking care of their customers. I have spent time browsing their site and seeing what they have to offer to take that honor away from them was really a highlight of the year for us.”

Building an online legacy
The reason their own site has been so successful, the brothers maintain, is because they always put the customer first.
Everything we put into the business is with the customer in mind, whether it be product or services that we offer,” Peter Messana said. “We’re always looking at what the customer wants and we work hard every day to keep that goal and objective in mind. We strongly believe our growth is attributed to customer service.”
The brothers have grown the business tremendously since they purchased the first location in 2005. Back then it was a 2,500 square-foot space in Austin, Texas.

They soon expanded that to double the size. Six months later, they added a second location and a warehouse. Now the retail locations offer a combined 15,000 square feet of space plus the warehouse. Neither brother was comfortable disclosing an exact formula for the online store’s success, but they did offer hints on the ingredients. When they first decided to focus their efforts on their online store, they knew one thing for sure.

“We realized we had to be different from everybody else,” Steve Messana said. “That meant shipping orders the same day [we received them] and running around — literally running around — to get them out.”

Plus, they both added, focusing on how to create a user-friendly online experience for their customers was a must. That included producing their own images of products, which they’re both proud of, and hosting as many customer reviews as possible. Plus, they said, they also post videos of products for users to view.

“We’re up to 11,000 reviews right now on the site,” Peter Messana said. “It’s all about getting information to the customer that makes them at ease when ordering.”

Tending the customers
Since the Austin Canoe and Kayak world revolves around the customer, one of the biggest challenges the brothers have faced over the years has been finding staff members who share the customer-focused mentality.

“We are so customer-centric,” Peter Messana said. “We have to find people whose mindset is that same way.”

Plus, the brothers said, they want “do it now” type of people: “Peter and I both have a very much, ‘do it now’ attitude — let’s get it done, let’s move on, take care of the customer,’ no matter the task or chore.”

Though it remains a challenge, the pair has a staff that is 40 strong (which grew from one, not counting themselves, back in 2005). And work life is good, they said.

Working side-by-side with a relative isn’t for everybody, but the Messana brothers don’t have a problem with it. Nearly 10 years ago, the brothers, who are both lovers of the outdoors, running and bicycling, decided they wanted to go into business together. Though originally they wanted to open a cycling shop, it turned out to be a stroke of luck that didn’t work out since they’re enjoying their success with Austin Canoe and Kayak.

Peter Messana said having a successful online store is simple. Not easy, but simple.

“It’s providing that online experience that best can mimic alpine experience,” Peter Messana said, “which is building trust with a customer.”

2012 Kayak Angler Tournament Series – Wildcard “Decker” Report

NRS PIke - Wildcard Grand Prize Awarded to Ryan Herzog

The KATS Wildcard event was a battleground event as competitors took a chance at securing one of five spots for the 2012 Classic Championship. Thirty-two competitors lined the shores of Walter E. Long Lake also known as Decker Lake in Austin, Texas. Although the competition was tough and focused, when asked what about KATS keeps them coming, the most common response from competitors was “the camaraderie, the people”.

Anglers who had already secured a spot into the Classic were eligible to participate in last weekend’s event for prizes (including an NRS Inflatable Pike Fishing Kayak), but the five Classic entry’s were reserved for hopeful competitors.

Unlike the first four events of the series, the Wildcard was all one division. Ryan Herzog took 1st place with a 93.25” stringer, as well as the NRS Pike grand prize, and one of the Classic entries. Mark Nordstrom secured second place with 91.75” as well as Big Bass with a 21.25’er! Michael Bayer took third place with a 21 inch bass over Daniel Peters which tied with 91.25”.

Ryan Herzog, Mark Nordstrom, Michael Bayer, Daniel Peters, and Cornelius McDermott all earned a spot into the 2012 Classic coming up on June 2nd.

It has been announced that the Classic Championship will take place on Lake Bastrop. The Classic event is the final and most sought after event of the KATS series. The Top Ten finalists from the series will join the five Wildcard finalists in a competition to battle it out for Classic Champion. This event will also help determine the Kayak Angler of the Year and King of the Fish winners. The Charity Team Fishing Challenge will be open to all anglers (even those that have never fished any of the events) Benefiting the Core Health Foundation’s ADA Wheelchair Accessible Fishing Pier project on Lady Bird Lake in Austin.

For official details for both events, click here.

Thanks to everyone that came out to join us at this event and we cannot thank our sponsors enough for providing the amazing prizes given out at each event so please do make sure to check them out and support them when you can.

To see the complete results, click here. Want to see more pictures, check out and like our very own Kayak Angler Tournament Series Facebook page.

Kristian @ACK