Kayak Skid Plates Explained

A kayak skid plate.
Kayak skid plate.

It’s true that kayaks are pretty tough pieces of gear. Rotomolded polyethylene plastic kayaks are sometimes even referred to as indestructible but this is not quite the case. Just like all outdoor equipment, your kayak is susceptible to regular wear and tear and needs to be taken care of.

One part of the kayak that’s consistently susceptible to wear and tear is the keel because it is the most likely part of the kayak to be dragged during transportation or low water crossings. Luckily, manufacturers have recognized this and commonly install a skid plate to cover your kayak’s keel.

How does the kayak skid plate work?

The idea is very simple: rather than having your kayak’s keel be susceptible to damage, the skid plate is. The benefit is, when/if damage does occur, is happens to an easily replaceable piece of plastic rather than your entire kayak.

Watch Ryan from ACK San Marcos, who commonly performs repairs and installs as an assistant store manager, explain the kayak skid plate:

When to replace a kayak skid plate

Remember, not every kayak has a skid plate. If yours does, give it a look over and check for wear. If it’s no longer flush with the hull, this is a sign it needs replacing as it will stop being effecting at protecting the hull from damage at this point.

Skid plates are very durable so replacing them shouldn’t be a frequent occurrence. However, we recommend bringing along an extra in your hatch just in case you find yourself on an outing where your skid plate ever does give out. If it does, you’ll be happy to have it.

Whether you’re grabbing a spare or replacing your old skid plate, make sure to give our selection a look.

Life Jacket Facts From The Safe Boating Campaign

Keep these Life Jacket Facts in Mind

Enjoy the water and wear your life jacket!
Enjoy the water and wear your life jacket!

Whatever kind of paddling you like to do, it’s important to always wear your life jacket (or PFD) while you’re out on the water. Think of it like wearing a seat belt in your car – you probably won’t find yourself in a situation where you need it, but it’s a precaution that can be live saving should the worst happen. I came across some great life jacket facts from the Safe Boating Campaign about why you should actually put it on one while you’re out paddling and wanted to share them here:

  • U.S. Coast Guard’s 2010 statistics stated that approximately 88 percent of boaters who drowned were reported as not wearing life jackets.
  • This means that over 400 boaters died unexpectedly because they were uninformed or simply not in the habit of taking this significant safety precaution.
  • It is human nature to think it can’t happen to me–but it can.
    • The majority of people who drown in boating accidents know how to swim, but become incapacitated in the water.
    • Sometimes they are injured or unconscious.
    • Others develop hypothermia or become exhausted.
    • Some are weighed down by clothing.
  • An accident usually happens without warning.Other reasons why people don’t wear a life jacket are that it is too hot, or it will mess up their tan line, or they are simply not comfortable.
    • Usually after the accident, the life jackets are not within reach–in cabinets, trapped under the vessel, floating far away in the water.
  • Many people don’t realize the variety of new life jackets that are on the market–belt packs and other inflatable styles that are low profile and light weight.
  • It is important to wear a life jacket at all times while boating.


CamelBak Paddle Collection Updated for 2014

Stay Hydrated on the Water with the CamelBak Paddle Collection

It’s important to bring water with you on any outdoor adventure and paddling is no exception. That’s why we were thrilled when the Camelbak Paddle Collection was released in 2013 with an assortment of hydration packs designed specifically for paddlers. After spending the year receiving feedback and making improvements, they’ve just released the updated Camelbak Paddle Collection for 2014, a total of three packs designed specifically for a paddler’s needs.

CamelBak Paddle Collection Lineup for 2014

Cortez Deck Mounted System.
Cortez Deck Mounted System.

1. Cortez Deck Mounted Hydration SystemCompletely new for 2014, the Cortez is an insulated hydration bladder that easily clips to the deck of your SUP or kayak using snap clips and a grip strip on the back that prevents sliding. For kayakers, this would fit great on the bow of your ‘yak!

2. Molokai Hydration BackpackThe Molokai is a backpack designed specifically for stand-up paddlers. It’s made from quick drying materials, offers hands free hydration and includes a 70 oz. reservoir so it’s great for long treks with your board. It’s also designed to carry waterproof electronics cases, sunscreen and snacks (not pictured) and is compatible with inflatable PFDs.

Tahoe LR Hydration Backpack
Tahoe LR Hydration Backpack

3. Tahoe LR Hydration BackpackFor stand-up paddlers hoping to avoid anything going over the shoulders and encumbering upper body movement, the Tahoe LR is for you! This waist-mounted paddle pack includes a 50 oz. reservoir and will hold gear ranging from an inflatable PFD, waterproof electronics case, sunscreen and snacks. Compared to the Molokai, the Tahoe is great for lighter SUP outings.

So how do you stay hydrated on the water? Let us know by commenting below!

10 Of Your Biggest Paddling Accomplishments from 2013

ACK's own Andrew caught his first ever King Mackerel in 2013.
Andrew caught his first ever King Mackerel in 2013.

With 2013 behind us, many paddlers are looking back at their paddling accomplishments from 2013 and feeling good about what they were able to do with their kayak, canoe or paddleboard. I wanted to get a sense for exactly what people had accomplished over the past year so I started asking around. Here were the most common 10 that I heard:

  1. Buying a first kayak, canoe or paddleboard. No wonder we had to ship so many kayaks out last year! 2013 was a year that many paddlers made their first big purchase and they were certainly proud of it.
  2. Going kayaking more than in 2012. For many paddlers, just getting out more than they did in 2012 was their biggest accomplishment. I can attest, making time for paddling can sometimes be hard but always worth it!
  3. Not flipping over, falling out of the kayak, or losing anything over board. Add a couple of gear leashes and you’ll be a shoe-in for this accomplishment in 2014.
  4. Taking on a particularly long or strenuous paddling trip. Going on a long kayak camping trip or taking on a difficult whitewater river is a big accomplishment and in 2013 many paddlers were able to do just that!
  5. Visiting a certain paddling spot. Many paddlers were able to take a long trip to visit a special paddling destination in 2013, which is great! This also happened to be one of the 5 most common paddling goals for 2014 as well.
  6. Rolling for the first time. It’s an awesome feeling when you finally perform your first successful roll and something many paddlers learned to do in 2013!
  7. Going to the Boondoggle. The kayak fishing Boondoggle was a chance for kayak anglers from across the country to come together and have a good time in 2013. We were very glad to be a part of it!
  8. Taking a paddling class or getting a paddling certification. Whether it was becoming a certified guide or instructor or just taking a couple classes with the ACA, 2013 was a year many paddlers learned new skills!
  9. Winning a paddling competition like a fishing tournament or race. As if participating in an paddling event wasn’t enough, we heard from many paddlers who caught the biggest fish or paddled the fastest. Keep it up!
  10. Insert joke about paddling in the classroom or the bedroom. Ya..when you start asking people what their biggest paddling accomplishment was in 2013, you’re bound to hear a few bad jokes.

So what was your biggest accomplishment? Leave a comment below and let us know!

3 Videos With a Unique Spin on Winter Paddling

Winter Paddling Looks a Little Like This…

Winter paddling has different meanings to different people. For some, it means layering up with different apparel options for cold weather paddling and continuing on with their kayaking as usual. For others, it means putting the ‘yak into hibernation for a period of kayak storage.

For a few people, it means something completely different and rather than try and explain it myself, I thought I would show you with three different videos. Enjoy!

1. Snow Kayaking by Warren Miller


2. Snow Kayak Race in Estonia – Red Bull Snow Kayak


3. Kayogganing and winter paddling at Lochaber Lake Dec. 2013


Getting Started Snowshoeing

SnowshoeingWhen the snow starts to fall and the water turns solid, what’s a paddler to do? Strap on a pair of snowshoes and take a hike! Snowshoeing is a fun wintertime activity that can be either exhilarating or relaxing (and sometimes both), depending on how you approach it and definitely worth giving a try!

Why Go Snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing is a versatile activity which people choose to take on for different reasons. For some, it’s a way to extend a hiking or running season into the colder months and can be a great workout. For others, it’s a way to keep exploring the outdoors when its usually very peaceful and quiet compared to other times of the year.

One of the best things about snowshoeing is that it’s a very simple activity. It’s not gear heavy and doesn’t have much of a learning curve at all. After all, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. If you’re contemplating going on your first snowshoeing adventure, take a look at my blog post from last year where I share my first experience.

Picking Out The Right Snowshoe

The MSR Evo Snowshoe
The MSR Evo Snowshoe

Snowshoes come in different shapes, sizes and materials and picking the right one largely depends on a your weight and the type of snowshoeing you plan on doing.


The first thing you need to determine is how much “float” you need. Float measures a snowshoe’s effectiveness at keeping you on top of the snow by spreading your weight as you walk. The heavier you (and your gear) are, the more float you need. When you don’t have enough flotation, you’ll find yourself sinking more and spending extra energy pulling your feet out of the snow. Manufacturers will list a suggested weight or load capacity so you can determine the best fit for your needs.

Keep in mind that flotation is also going to be effected by snow conditions too. Fluffy dry powder will require that you have more flotation than hard-packed stuff. Sometimes manufacturers will state that a shoe is designed to carry a certain capacity based on snow type. A good way to plan for different snow types is by investing in a flotation tail, which can add float capacity as need.

This snowshoe has toe and instep crampon for basic traction.
Example of a snowshoe with a toe and instep crampon.

Traction will be important when considering the type of terrain you will be taking on. Toe or instep crampons are the primary source of traction for every snowshoe. Other common traction devices found in snowshoes are heel crampons, heel lifts, side rails (or traction bars) and braking bars.

As you begin to tackle more mountainous terrain or hard icy conditions, traction becomes more and more important. For those just getting started, I recommend starting with a flat area ideally after a fresh snow. This type of terrain doesn’t require more than basic traction, so you won’t need more than a snowshoe with the basic toe and instep crampon.

Snowshoeing Apparel

As with any winter time activity, snowshoeing requires that you dress warm. The best approach is to layer, usually with at least three layers. Keep in mind that sweat and snow melt will soak into cotton fabrics, so it’s best to avoid clothes made with this type of fabric. Check out our selection of outdoor apparel and keep in mind that you want to aim for the following types of layers:

  • Base Layer: A moisture wicking base layer that will retain warmth even when wet (like the one you use for paddling).
  • An Insulating Layer: Go with a fleece that will trap your body heat and still keep the moisture away from you.
  • Outlet Layer: You’ll want a nice breathable shell to keep you dry and fend off wind. 

Footwear is also important. Insulated, waterproof boots are best and surprisingly shoes good for paddling can also be good for snowshoeing, like the NRS Boundary Shoe. Coupling a good pair of hiking boots with gaiters is also a common footwear choice.

The last thing to remember when choosing your apparel is that snowshoeing is a aerobic activity and can actually be quite strenuous compared to a normal hike. As long as you’re moving around, you’ll probably be much warmer than you think!

Give it a try!

At the end of the day, snowshoeing is a very simple activity and the best way to get started is to jump right in. Find a flat, easy trail, strap on your snowshoes and give it a try!

FeelFree Lure Comes to ACK in Jan. 2014!

The Lure at the Houston Boat Show
The Lure 11.5 at the Houston Boat Show

We got our first look at the new Feelfree Lure last weekend when it arrived at our booth for the Houston Boat Show and we can’t be more excited to finally get these in stock! We expect to have them later this month.

For those that haven’t heard, the new Lure is Feelfree’s latest kayak fishing creation. It follows a common trend in kayak fishing by adding a raised seat with four levels of adjust-ability. What I think is particularly cool is that the seat can be removed from the kayak and used as a camp chair or for a lunch break on the shore.

The Lure includes all of Feelfree’s latest technology including their uni-track system, wheel in the keel, molded in handles and rudder capability. It will be offered in an 11.5′ version, available later this month and 10′ version, available in either February or March.

Here are some important specs for the 11.5:

Length: 11’6”
Width: 36”
Weight: 69 lbs
Capacity: 375 Lbs

Keep checking in for more updates regarding the availability of this new ‘yak! Texas paddlers interested in the Lure should come stop by any of our three Winter Boat Shows to place a pre-order and score a good deal. In the mean time, here are some pictures to check out from Feelfree’s warehouse:


5 Most Common Paddling Goals for 2014

Bring on 2014!
What’s your paddling goal?

With a new year comes new adventure and paddlers everywhere are looking ahead to what they want 2014 to hold for them and their kayak, canoe or paddle board. I decided to find out what types of paddling goals were being set by asking our ACK social pages. Here were the 5 most common paddling goals that I heard:

  1. Paddle more. More than anything else, paddlers said they just wanted to get out on the water more in 2014.
  2. Learn how to roll. This specialized paddling skill is one that sets the novice and expert apart and can be done in just about any sit-inside kayak.
  3. Buy my first kayak. Many paddlers get on the water using rentals or a friend’s second ‘yak and are ready to have their own in 2014. Hey, we can help with that!
  4. Paddle a particular body of water. It might be an old favorite or a destination well known for beautiful paddling views (like Glacier Bay, Alaska). I’d like to visit Texas’ Devil’s River!
  5. Catch ___ from my kayak. Kayak anglers are hoping 2014 will be the year they catch the big one, and for some that means a 20 lb Striper off the coast and others just means their first bass. Whatever your kayak fishing goals are for 2014, I wish you luck!

So what’s your paddling goal for 2014? Share it by commenting below and then check out what goals ACK Facebook Fans set for themselves.

5 Tailgating Essentials

It's time to tailgate!
It’s time to tailgate!

No matter what team you root for, one thing every football fan can agree on is tailgating. Filling up the parking lot outside the stadium with good food, drinks and close friends to celebrate a mutual obsession for your favorite team has become a pregame ritual that is just as much a part of football Sundays as the games themselves. So grab your face-paint and your friends and head on down to the stadium lot, and don’t forget these 5 tailgate essentials…

 1. A quality cooler. Whether you’re hauling around meat to grill or just a six pack of your favorite beverage, a cooler is probably the most essential piece of tailgating gear. Keep it simple with a NRS Dura-Soft 6-Pack cooler slung over your shoulder or bring enough for the whole crew with a Yeti Tundra. A good quality cooler is an investment that’ll last the whole season, plus will be something you can use on your next paddle too.

2. Something comfortable to sit on. Almost as important as the cooler is your tailgating chair. You have to be comfortable lounging around in the parking lot before a game! I suggest bringing along a nice folding chair like the Kelty Mesh Folding Chair or one of our portable camp chair options which can get you through your tailgate and also add some comfort to your stadium seat.

3. Defense against the sun. If you end up sun-burned before you even sit down in your stadium seat then you didn’t set yourself up for an enjoyable football experience. A little game-day shade is an important part of any tailgate and we’ve got you covered with several different options to choose from. Not only will most sun shades and shelters protect you from the sun, but they’ll also keep you dry on rainy days so you can keep tailgating no matter what the weather is like.

4. Tunes! There’s nothing that makes a good tailgate quite like playing the right music. Download your team’s fight song or just fill your MP3 Player with your favorite jams to get pumped up before the game, then hook it up to some rugged outdoor speakers to keep it safe from spills, tumbles or from being drowned out by all the other tailgaters. Our line-up of EcoXGear should do the trick!

5. A grill for your meat. You can’t forget the grill, that’s just part of the tailgate. I prefer to keep things simple by bringing along my Primus Grill/Stove combo. I bought it for car camping, but it works great cooking up a package of hot dogs and I don’t have to worry about loading up a full sized grill. However you prefer to do it, don’t forget to bring the grill!

Make sure to bring these five tailgating essentials along with you on your next tailgate! For more ideas on what to bring, visit our tailgating page.

A Look Back at 2013

New Year Fireworks
Happy New Year!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2013 is already over! It was a big year for us at ACK, thanks to all the support from readers and customers like you. As we get geared up and excited for another great year, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back at all the things we accomplished in 2013.

New Inventory Management System

In the summer of 2013, we implemented a new eco-friendly mobile inventory management system in our warehouse replacing long rolls of paper with electronic tablets. The result has been greatly improved speed and accuracy of order fulfillment as well as an over 90% reduction in daily paper usage. Just another way that we have improved on our internal processes to benefit the customer! Read more about the new system.

San Antonio Store Inbound

Another year, another ACK store. Our newest location is set for San Antonio, Texas and will be open later this month! The location was chosen to better serve our customers who were already commuting from San Antonio to our San Marcos store. We can’t wait until the doors open! Make sure to stop by later this month to visit and also don’t forget to RSVP to the Grand Opening Celebration in Feb.

Redesigned Mobile Website

With so many different sized tablets and smart phones becoming relevant to our customers, we decided to take on a redesign of our mobile site that responds to users’ screen size. The site launched in November and was coupled with a revamping of our checkout system, making it even easier to shop with us. If you haven’t tried it already, visit ACK.com on your smartphone or tablet and see it for yourself!

Three Customer Service Awards

It’s always great to know you’re doing a good job, and in 2013 we were reminded of this not once or twice, but three times! For the 5th and 3rd consecutive year respectively, we were awarded the BizRate Circle of Excellence Award and Kayak Angler’s Choice Award for Best Retailer of 2013. In addition to these two repeat awards, ACK was also upgraded to an elite service designation by Stella Service! We’re proud to have earned each of these awards and will continue to do our best in offering top rated service for readers and customers like you.

Kayak Angler Tournament Series

In 2013, our Kayak Angler Tournament series saw significant growth with over 115 different anglers participating in 7 events. Our new website, www.fishkats.com, was a huge success in communicating information and will continue to be a hub for all things KATS for the 2014 season. The series was so successful that Tournament Director Kristian Kolflat was offered a full time position as ACK’s first ever Operations Specialist. Kirstian continues to plow forward with a largely expanded 2014 season as well some exciting new projects involving Austin Kayak Fishing.

New Centralized Warehouse

We took a huge step in September of 2013 by moving into a much larger, centralized facility. Not only did the move consolidate ACK’s two different warehouses and support functions (like customer service, merchandising, website development and more), but it also tacked on an impressive 10,000 square feet for increased operational efficiency with an additional 12,000 slated to be leased in 2015. The move allowed us to tackle a record breaking holiday season while still providing quick shipping and top notch customer service and we look forward to continue utilizing our space to its fullest potential in 2014. Read more about the move.

While these were some of our most notable accomplishments in 2013, the list doesn’t stop there. 2013 was a year that we saw huge growth in product selection, hired many new faces into the ACK family, improved on various aspects of the website and much more.

As always, we couldn’t have done any of it without your support, and for that reason we wanted to say thank you! We’re looking forward to another great year and are glad to have you with us.

The ACK Team