The Grand Canyon Lottery?

Source: National Park Service

Time is running out! It’s time to join the weighted lottery for a chance to win a permit to go down the Grand Canyon on a non-commercial raft, canoe or kayak river trip. The lottery is for 2013 and is open through February 22nd, 2012. The cost to get in the lottery is $25. If you are interested click here to sign up. Not familiar with this? Learn more here or check out their FAQs.

– Luke @ACK San Marcos

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

For the Ladies

Being one of a handful of girls, in a largely male dominated company and in some ways industry, can be an interesting experience. It can feel like a “good-ole-boy” paradise at times, with all the goofing around and obsessing over the latest and greatest fishing gear to put on your kayak. But make no mistake, the ladies are here and we’ve got just as much enthusiasm about the rivers, lakes and oceans as those trouble making boys do.

I personally am an avid outdoorswoman, veteran backpacker, scuba diver, rock climber and San Marcos, Texas river rat. I am an Austin native and I can’t tell you how many summers I spent kayaking both Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin. You can catch me and my girlfriends out and about almost every weekend (when the weather permits), either snorkeling for treasure left by absent minded tubers, with our kayaks in tow or taking a short trip down to our favorite camping spots just for the heck of it.

I’ve recently had several questions about our “Ladies Night” seminars we’ve been hosting in our stores, as well as inquiries into any clubs around the San Marcos or Austin areas that cater to women — specifically with interests in the rivers that surround us. Let me offer some more information.

Ladies Night @ACK
Our Ladies Night seminars are designed to offer information about the gear you need and the places to go for outdoor paddling adventures tailored towards women. It’s an informal gathering of like-minded paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts and is open to all women of any experience level. Our next seminar is on November 16th, 2011 from 6-7pm at the San Marcos, Austin and Houston stores. Our focus for the night will be about picking out the right gear, whether you’re going fishing or just taking a trip down river. For more information about this event, click here.

Paddle Lessons and Guided Trips
For those looking to get take the next level and are ready to get out on the water I decided to do some research of organizations that I could recommend and so happen to come across a group that my fellow kayaking ladies should look into — See Jane Paddle!

 See Jane Paddle is a group led by experienced marathon paddlers and athletes, Debbie Richardson and Janie Glos. These ladies know what they’re talking about, being finishers of the Texas Water Safari as well as being a part of a women’s canoe racing team known as “The Hippie Chicks”. Their goal is to reach out to women who have a love of adventure and the outdoors but have yet to experience the joy of paddling. Their group offers women’s paddling clinics for beginners where they teach you the basic skills of paddling in a relaxed and very friendly environment. You can go alone to make some new friends or bring a bunch of your girlfriends with you, either way it’s a wonderful learning opportunity!

They also offer guided river trips on the San Marcos, Guadalupe and Colorado rivers. These trips are beginner friendly and complete with all the gear you need. You’ll be able to explore the natural beauty of the Texas river landscape and bond with ladies who enjoy this natural beauty as much as you do! 

Debbie and Janie are very enthusiastic and knowledgeable who want women of all backgrounds and athletic ability to share in the wonder and beauty of the rivers of Texas.

As a fellow river enthusiast, I couldn’t agree more with their philosophy and mission and encourage my fellow ladies who have, or have not been out on the river before to check them out. Who knows, you could find a new passion, or have a wonderful weekend adventure! Either way, it’s worth looking into.

Texas Outdoor Women’s Network
The group was created by Texas Parks and Wildlife to provide all women the opportunity to experience outdoor activities in a safe, non-threatening and supportive environment. The beauty of the group is that each one has members interested in a wide variety of outdoor activities including paddling! They have local chapters that you can specifically in Austin, Bastrop, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Rockport, San Antonio, San Marcos and Waco. Click here for complete details.

So for all of my fellow ladies who love the water, join us at one of our “Ladies Night” seminars, get some lessons, join an outdoor adventure group and get out there and explore! With as much natural beauty as Central Texas, there’s no reason not to.

Do you have any other great resources related to paddling or the outdoors that you’d like to share with other ladies? Comment below!

Bronwynn @ACK San Marcos

Event Recap: FSA Fishing Tournament

Grant and a Very Attentive Crowd of Young Kayak Anglers

Editor’s Note: Several weeks ago, the Federation of Student Anglers (FSA), an organization that offers competitive fishing for kids and young anglers, held a fishing tournament in New Braunfels. Grant Heatherly, ACK Store Associate, was invited to speak and shares his experience with us.

The FSA offers a wonderful opportunity for young kayak fishing enthusiasts to experience the competitive world of fishing and even more importantly offers great benefits like the opportunity to obtain college scholarships.

I was honored to be invited to speak at one of their weekly fishing tournaments in New Braunfels, Texas and was pleased to find so many dedicated young anglers participating in this event — many of who are already very talented.

My presentation focused on fishing abnormally warm water since the rivers are so low due to the extreme drought we have been experiencing. This included how to use take advantage of the low water situation by taking utilizing the water column to find out where the strike zones are at. We also talked about lure selection and presentation highlighting the pros and cons during these type of condition.

After the presentation, I joined the group on the water and was happy to see so many of them catching fish. I was thrilled to be a small part of their tournament and of course look forward to participating in future events. It truly is a wonderful thing to see young anglers participate in this type of event and take pride in their local waters.

Grant Heatherly
ACK San Marcos

Rent a Yak, Get a Bag

Get one of these next time you rent a kayak at ACK San Marcos

A few weeks ago I paddled with Doug, ACK San Marcos Store Manager, on the lower portion of the Guadalupe River here in central Texas. Despite the abnormally low water level, the amount of trash and litter that has accumulated just downstream of New Braunfels is flat out hideous. It wasn’t long before we both agreed it was time we found a way to do our part in trying to keep our waters cleaner not only on the Guadalupe River, but everywhere. After putting some thought into this I contacted WORD (Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County), an organization that was founded to regularly clean up rivers and lakes. WORD graciously provided us with mesh trash bags to give out (free of charge) to ACK customers who rent a kayak from us.

ACK is proud to do our part in keeping our waters clean and we always encourage our customers to do the same so that future generations of paddlers will be able to enjoy the same healthy waters and fisheries we have today. Hopefully our efforts will encourage other water enthusiast to be more responsible with their trash. Remember the old saying “Take out more than what you brought in”.

Come on by to our San Marcos store, rent a yak and get a free bag!

ACK San Marcos

Event Recap: Ladies Night w/Holly Orr (San Marcos)

Editor’s Note: Beginning this August, all 3 ACK stores will be hosting periodic “Ladies Night” seminars and special events. We’ve hosted them in the past and were deemed a huge success so we decided to reintroduce them as part of our regular running calendar of events. For more information, click through to San Marcos, Austin or Houston to access our quarterly calendars.

ACK Staff and Holly

ACK San Marcos hosted the first in a series of ladies night seminars with guest speaker Holly Orr, an avid and experienced paddler with many outstanding accomplishments under her belt including a recent win of the 2011 Texas Water Safari with Women’s First Place and 10th overall. She is also a USCA Certified Instructor.

A Focused Audience

We had a wonderful turn out with both experienced and novice paddlers who were pleased to gather valuable information from a pro. The group learned proper paddling technique, useful gear to take with you on your excursions, how to read a river and many other trip saving ideas. Drinks and snacks were available during the seminar; while the ladies studiously took notes that would help them become more skilled and confident in their abilities. A big thanks to Holly for sharing her expertise with us and bringing some of her own personal gear to help give us a better idea of how to make our next trip on the water more enjoyable!

ACK-San Marcos

ACK hosts a Kayak Outing for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance Convention

ACK Brings the Fleet!

ACK San Marcos recently had the privilege of hosting an outing for the 2011 TAPHERD convention. TAPHERD (Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance) is committed to the development of knowledge and programs that promote active, healthy lifestyles, enhance skilled and aesthetic motor performance for those employed in public or private education.

Educating the Group on Paddling

ACK provided kayaks and gear for a guided trip down the San Marcos River from City Park to Rio Vista Park and back. The turnout was great and everyone had a nice time. While many folks had some paddling experience, we also had the opportunity to get some first timers into the water. All in all it was a beautiful day to be out on the water, and ACK enjoyed hosting this outing for our TAPHERD friends.

Looking forward to the next one!

ACK San Marcos

A Happy Group of Paddlers on the San Marcos River

ACK Store Now Offering High-End Paddle Rentals

You may have been there once, that moment when you are standing in front of a display of paddles, debating between buying a lower or middle range paddle or the cool looking, super light and oh-so-pretty one on other side. You focus on standing in front of the lower end section trying to convince yourself to spend less. You may even try to avoid touching the higher end models because you are afraid it will stick to your hand like glue, yeah, that moment. We don’t blame you, it can be a bit intimidating, but you’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, do yourself a favor, go for the higher-end paddle, you will not regret it.

Our suggestion: If you need some convincing, try one.

In the past I have had hundreds of customers come in looking for a kayak paddle. Mostly they end up purchasing a medium grade model in the $100 to $170 range. This is usually a result of simply feeling the paddle and weighing it in the store but ultimately they made their decision based on price.

Fact is, your paddle is the “motor of the boat” and you should always pay close attention to what you purchase. The high-end paddles we carry are made of lightweight materials such as fiberglass and carbon fiber which are both very strong and rigid. Using paddles made of these materials will allow a person to paddle longer with less fatigue since they feature reduced swing weight and their increased rigidity makes them more efficient.

Of course we know that it’s hard to spend $300 to $400 on a paddle when realizing the benefits of using a high-end paddle are not easily apparent by simply holding a paddle in the store. Being able to paddle, especially for an extended period of time, or in questionable conditions is the best way to understand a high-end paddle’s benefits. Once a paddler gets the opportunity to try the lighter, stronger paddle, they typically never look back.

As the San Marcos Store Manager I am excited to announce our new high-end Paddle Rental Program. This program gives our customers the opportunity to experience the advantages of higher-end paddles for a nominal fee of $20 per day. If you end up buying a paddle of equal or greater value than the paddle you rented, we will credit you the $20 rental fee.

I encourage all paddlers near any one of our 3 stores to come in and take advantage of this rental paddle program. Do not base your paddle purchase decision solely on price. Upgrade your paddle (AKA motor) and make your paddling experience an enjoyable and effortless one.

ACK San Marcos

Is this Stream Navigable?

This will most likely be one of my most confusing and somewhat controversial blogs yet, so please bear with me. Since we’re getting closer to the summer season, the question about the legality of river access here in Texas (and other states for that matter) has become a hot topic in our store. There are many concerns as to where paddlers and tubers can put-in or take-out, stop to take a break and even where they are allowed to float.

This brings me to water rights, which refer to whom the water belongs to. In regards to paddling, the focus is not so much on use for drinking or agriculture but more about public navigability rights — where you can and can’t be. Here in Texas, they define waterways as navigable and non-navigable. This is where most people get confused with the law because there are so many different definitions and contradictions — in other words, a lot of “gray area”.

According to state law and to help define a navigable stream, it is one that is at least 30 feet wide (the entire river bed, exposed or not) from mouth up. Anything else is considered non-navigable. There are some exceptions but if you stay focused on the 30ft. rule, you will be comfortable knowing that you are within the boundaries of the law. Non-navigable streams are generally considered private property. Along a non-navigable stream, generally the public at large has no right of use and a private landowner may forbid public entry upon or along the waterway.

Gaining access to navigable rivers is only permitted at a public venue, such as a park. Trespassing on private property to get to a public waterway is never acceptable. Some landowners will allow people to access a river for a small fee, which are usually private businesses that line the river. One thing to keep in mind is that state law prohibits parking on a highway bridge and generally forbids (with certain exceptions) parking in the main traveled part of a highway so be sure to park in clearly marked parking areas.

Another major concern is in regards to what is defined as public or private land. This is a common situation people run into when simply wanting to get out of their boats to rest or even camp. Since most of the land in Texas is privately owned it can be a tricky. Some private property lines stop 5 feet from the water line while others actually meet up with the water line and in some cases they even contain the whole riverbed (the bottom of the river). This is where it can get very confusing. There is no one “Rule of the Land” law as it varies in different parts of the state and waterways. The best thing you can do when in doubt is to think conservatively and yield to the property owner. Certain rivers have clauses to them that can contradict the law at hand.

My advice is simple, learn more about your local waterways. When you are planning a trip, be sure to properly research area water laws by contacting the local county office and try to obtain or access as many maps as possible. Many published maps identify public land, parking areas and launch points. Here is a link to an overview of laws regarding the navigation of Texas streams.

We’ve heard countless stories of paddlers getting confronted by landowners saying that they can’t be there. Do you have a story you’d like to share with us? If so, comment below.

Have fun but be prepared!

Dave Graves
Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos

Quality Gear…Because it’s worth it.

Lately I’ve been on a binge of purchasing products THAT ACTUALLY WORK! For years, especially in this economy, I spent my money on bargain products only to discover that these products either didn’t work well or simply didn’t last.

One item that quickly comes to mind are my shirts. My closet is lined with clothes that I can only wear for specific activities because they got ruined or stained at some point. One of these activities of course is fishing which ironically is the root cause of many of those stains.

When I learned that we would be carrying Columbia brand shirts, I was quick to get some for myself and what better line than the Columbia PFG Blood & Guts Shirt. They repel liquid like nothing else — even the disgusting stuff like fish blood and guts (hence the name). Sure, I specifically bought them for fishing but quickly discovered that even after a long day of fishing and quick wash they are good as new! In fact, you’ll often see me wearing them while cruising around town, at family holiday events and yes, even as dinner attire. Nothing can stain these shirts as long as it’s less than 170 degrees Fahrenheit. The shirts repelling ability was actually tested in a tub full of fish blood and guts but don’t worry, we sell them fish-smell free.

Another product that comes to mind is a tent. I have at least 6 tents in my collection, however I refuse to use four of the lower end designs since they have a number of problems including inadequate pole structure, leaking seams and susceptibility to condensation. Instead, I rely on my Mountain Hardware Lightpath 3 as well as my Kelty Trail Ridge 4 tents. I’ve used the Mountain Hardware tent more times than I can count on both hands since I’ve had it for well over 6 years. Both of these tents have proven themselves time after time, which says a lot coming from me — I’m not gentle with my equipment.

Good equipment doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg but you’ll find that by spending a little more, you’ll save a lot in the long run. Speaking of good equipment, what higher-end products have you purchased that have proven themselves? Maybe it’s somehting we should be carrying. We want to know, comment below!

Dave Graves
Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos