Mud and Mosquitos

As a kayaker, I am fortunate when I see new water but it never seems to come often enough. When you do find yourself somewhere new, it forces, and teaches, you to focus on finding a new technique or a different rhythm to the way you kayak or more importantly the way you fish. This is one of the reasons even a bad day of paddling or fishing is better than a good day at work. Trust me, I’ve had just as many unproductive days as I’ve had good ones. Being in the industry I hear so many people saying “you have to do this” or “there aren’t any fish there”. I personally find this completely wrong. There are different methods to productive fishing and it’s all different for each of us. It takes the ability to seek out those different places that allows you to learn new things.

I was able to tear out of town right after eating turkey on Thanksgiving to fish with a friend of mine, Jeremy Chavez, around the Houston area. After listing to so many tall tales about the fish around that area I had to see it for myself. Despite the endless cloud of mosquitoes and bottomless pit of mud, it was by far the most ridiculous area I had ever seen. Being so much closer to the Coastal Bend area, I’m used to fishing completely different water and having the opportunity to see such a different place is what makes kayaking so unique.

Anyway, check out these pictures (courtesy of Jeremy Chavez), I know you’ll enjoy!

Grant @ACK San Marcos

Grackle Watching

ACK’s Chris Hackerd, co-owner and VP of Store Operations, recently discovered a passion for bird watching. Follow him through a series of blogs documenting his adventures as he partakes in a series of trips to gratify his newfound hobby. In his first of many, Chris tells us all about how it all got started.

I recently watched a movie, that when it was in theaters, I thought looked like a poor attempt to revive the essence of Steve Martin in the great Three Amigos. It is called A Big Year and the cover reeked of poor slapstick comedy. But when I finally watched it I found myself completely involved in world of birding or bird watching. It was fascinating and I had to learn more.

I spent days learning about the sport, hobby, obsession or whatever you want to call it and now I am hooked. My friends and co-workers think I’m loony, but they’re used to ridiculous stories from me. Usually though, it’s stories that end with “…can’t believe I didn’t get [insert adjective here]” (maimed, dead, broken would be a few good examples). Birds, really? I see birds every day so how could this be exciting? Well it’s the identification of species and the investigation to what I’m looking at that inspires me. My first bird I successfully located was a Grackle. If you’re snickering at me, I get it. My wife was quick to dismiss my excitement at locating a bird that is literally found by the thousands in Austin. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t know what it was and my life never really required me to learn what it was.

I now have a life list I’ve created to catalog the birds I’ve seen. I need a camera with a lens because these dang birds will not sit still long enough for me to figure out what the heck they’re sometimes! Here is a setup that I am considering using. I’ve got the iPhone and I own a set of binoculars so I figured this would be all I need. I also got my son a set of binos as well so he can trail along with me and help! I have pamphlets and waterproof notebooks to keep notes in.

The next step is to incorporate my new passion and my job. I’ve got an opportunity coming up to get on the water in a pedal driven kayak for a few days and I plan to fully engage in my new hobby! Hands free bird watching on the water, I’m such a dork but I like it!

Do you bird watch from a kayak? Any advice or suggestions for a newbie?

Chris @ACK

Les Voyageurs Sans Trace

The year was 1938, and three French paddlers had taken it upon themselves to be the first to paddle the untamed and un-dammed rivers of the American west. They took with them on their expedition a camera to capture their adventure on 16mm color film and the footage has sat in archives for years. That was, until recently when the Les Voyageurs Sans Trace team decided to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the French  ‘travelers without trace’ by using the footage, along with some newly captured expedition and historical commentary, to tell the trio’s story through a new film slated for release in the Fall of 2013. See more details about the upcoming film here. Some of our favorite brands and paddlers will be a part of this project, including GSI Outdoors, Kokatat, Pelican, Werner Paddles, Outdoor Research, Rite in the Rain, Pyranha and Klean Kanteen.

Les Voyageurs Sans Trace from Ian McCluskey on Vimeo.

In Focus: Knives – A Sharp Gift

I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, but if someone in your life loves the outdoors, a knife would most certainly make a sharp gift this holiday season. We offer a wide selection of knives here at ACK and I’ll run down a few different models you should check out:

First up is a beautiful knife from the Norwegian company Helle. Their knives are made with fine wood and are stunning to look at but also very functional in their design. The Eggen knife features a curly birch handle shaped into a finger guard near the blade. The triple laminated stainless steel blade will hold up throughout your excursions and the Eggen comes with a very handsome leather sheath to keep it (and you!) protected. Continue reading In Focus: Knives – A Sharp Gift

Automatic for the People with Native Watercraft

Native Watercraft is a favorite brand in the kayaking industry. They constantly strive to create innovative designs that have resulted in things like their foot powered Propel Drive, easy to use Groove track system for accessory mounting and even the unique stand up paddleboard/kayak hybrid Versa Board Angler. So how do they keep the creative juices coming?

Part of their design process starts with you and they call it Automatic for the People. The best way to get involved with it is via social sites like Facebook, where they hold Q&A about how they can best make products to suit your needs. They started using the idea with their latest creation, the Slayer, which has been turning heads in the kayak fishing world. Watch the video below, where Woody of Native Watercraft explains how Automatic for the People helped design the new Slayer, then get involved with the process yourself and tell them what you want to see!

Top 10 Kayaks For Cold Weather Paddling

A few months back, I wrote a short piece that caused a bit of a stir. Apparently “storing your kayak for the winter” didn’t resound well with many, especially those residing in more temperate regions (tongue in cheek of course). But the reality for many is that the idea of putting a kayak out of commission for a few months is unheard of because of either mild winters or the utilization paddling gear designed for cold weather paddling. I recouped some of the fury through a visual presentation highlighting cold weather paddling apparel and now, in an effort to continue this positive momentum, I’d like to offer some recommendations on kayaks that are ideal for paddling during the coldest months of the year.

The concept actually, is simple — get a kayak with a combination of a higher freeboard (hull that remains out of the water while paddling) and elevated seat that will stay dry or a kayak with a cockpit that can be fully or partially covered by a skirt. Continue reading Top 10 Kayaks For Cold Weather Paddling

Quest for a Kayak Ends at Tarpon 120

I have been on a quest the past few months. No, not for hunting dragons, but for a kayak. I have tried out tons of different models from sit insides to sit on tops and have even had a chance in the Hobie Adventure Island. I was being somewhat picky on the model of kayak I wanted, and was trying to find one that I could paddle around Austin and occasionally take down to the coast. After a few months of trying out different models I think I might have finally found the right kayak for me.

Recently, I went down to Lake Bastrop with Kristian (Austin store‘s assistant manager) and we brought with us some of new boats for me to try and paddle around. I soon found myself in the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 along with our Werner Camano Fiberglass paddle. I enjoyed the tracking, maneuverability and stability of the Tarpon 120. It was a quick boat, especially with the Camano fiber glass paddle I was using. I was able to cover most of Lake Bastrop during my paddle.

The Werner Camano series is hands down one of my favorite paddles. Unfortunately, unless I earn a huge raise, the carbon fiber paddle is out of my price range, which is why I tried out the fiberglass Camano. I feel the Camano FG was a good middle of the road paddle as it is tougher and stiffer than a nylon paddle but it will not break the bank like a carbon fiber paddle will. Also the low profile button system on all the Werner Paddles made it very easy to feather my paddles on the water.

Here’s my final word: the Tarpon 120 and the Werner Camano FG go well together like chili cheese and tater tots.

Bill @ACK Austin

In Focus: Sierra Designs Zissou 0 Sleeping Bag

Condensation might not be at the front of your mind when planning for a cold weather camping trip, but a little bit of moisture can seriously dampen the fun you should be having outdoors. If it isn’t snowing, the frost on your tent melts when the sun comes up or if it is snowing and it piles up and soaks through the tent. Either way, you could end up with a soaked sleeping bag and that has the potential to ruin a trip. Don’t let that happen to you! Thankfully, Sierra Designs has introduced the DriDown line of bags including the Zissou 0 sleeping bag.

What sets this bag apart from the competition is that it is filled with 600-fill DriDown insulation. That means each individual feather in the bag is coated with a molecular level polymer to create a hydrophobic finish. Simply put, the down inside the bag is water-resistant. It stays dry longer than regular down, puffs up better and if it does happen to get wet, it doesn’t take as long to dry out. That means you will stay warmer for a longer period of time in this space-age, yet down-to-earth bag.

The fill weight is a mere 33 ounces and the bag features an ergonomic footbox and hood to keep you snug and comfortable. It comes with stuff and storage sacks and we offer it in regular and long sizes so there’s definitely a version for you! The Zissou 0 has been getting a lot of positive press lately and was recently featured in a cold weather camping blog on the Huffington Post.

For more information about these and other Sierra Designs products, visit ACK.com.

Trent @ACK

ACK Spring Grand Opening Reminder

Come on by, we can’t wait to see you there!

If you’re synced in with any of our social pages or even an avid reader of our blog, no doubt you’ve heard our excitement about opening a new location north of Houston in Spring, TX. But just in case you haven’t been paying attention, the Grand Opening is this weekend! We’ve been preparing our store, getting prizes from our vendors and meeting the local community and now we’re ready to officially open our doors to the public. This two day event will take place Dec. 1st and 2nd from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and will offer discounts on a wide range of products as well as plenty of raffle prizes. We also have a surprise visitor that can earn you a bonus prize if you’re one of the first three to find him, take a picture and post it to our Spring Facebook wall. For more details, you’ll have to visit the event page (here). Hope to see you there!

In Focus: Sawyer Paddles Kids Tales Canoe Paddle

If you’ve looked for paddling gear for kids you’ve probably noticed there isn’t as much variety for the young ones as there is for us adults. Most paddlesports manufacturers offer some sort of tricked-out, accessorized version of a product for the grown-ups but kids aren’t always so lucky. While a lot of kids gear will certainly get the job done, the Sawyer Paddles Kids Tale Canoe Paddle exceeds expectations.

The paddle, designed for children age 2 to 10 years old, comes in two different sizes and four designs, each with a nicely illustrated critter of your choosing (beaver, dragonfly, fish or otter), so you’re probably going to be able to find one for the pint-sized paddler in your life. The reverse side of the blade  features a log to record your child’s first paddling adventures and as they outgrow the paddle it will become a memento worth holding onto for years to come.

Each paddle has a  seven degree bent shaft which will help increase the efficiency of every stroke, making paddling a little easier for the little ones. These high-quality paddles are made from ponderosa pine and douglas fir, come with a universal t-grip handle and weigh in at a mere 16 ounces!

-Trent @ ACK