Adventure Tech Quest Paddle In The Hands of a Picky Paddler

After leaving for Greece just under a month ago to take on an exciting sea kayaking adventure vacationCutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter, reports back with intel on her experience with the Adventure Technology Quest Paddle.

Finding the Right Paddle Is No Easy Feat

Have you ever noticed that people who paddle are picky about their paddles? There is a wide assortment of picky, paddler types out there. Like a Greenland guy, or a paddler hung up on high-angle, or a lady who likes long, light and low. However my buddy Brian, the BCU coach in Greece, who with tongue in cheek, says “rubbish”! (Truly, you haven’t lived until you listen to a Scotsman from Glasgow roll his “R’s”, drop his consonants and say “It’s quite a load of cr*p.”)

Brian Paddling
The Scotsman (Brian) in his ‘yak.

For years, Brian has been supplying his sea-kayaking customers on Poros Island with durable equipment that must be one-size-fits-most, rugged enough for rocks, suitable for salt and tolerant of temperature. He bought new paddles this year and they are all 220 cm, 60 degree (!) feather, heavy plastic blades and sturdy aluminum shafts.

So in I come; always showing up to push Brian’s buttons and rattle his world a bit. Just like every other year, I arrived on Poros with a padded paddle bag packed with an assortment of carbon fiber, high and low angle blades and adjustable ferrules. He wouldn’t dare admit he had paddle envy, until now.

Enter the Adventure Tech Quest Paddle

 Quest Paddle - Adjustable Ferrule
The Quest’s adjustable ferrule.

This year I packed an Adventure Technology Bent Shaft Quest from ACK. This is a beautifully made paddle and I think it will be great in salt water since the two pieces easily slide together and lock with a little lever. It’s simple to rinse at the end of the day and shouldn’t get clogged with salt. The adjustable ferrule accommodates significant length adjustments, right or left hand offset and any style paddlers can dial in the degree of feather. Personally, I always paddle at 30 degrees right. The blade seems to rotate for a perfect powerful catch when you recover with a good elbow lift from the hip. (But we’ll leave the other components of a safe, strong, effective and efficient forward stroke for another time.)

Barb Tells Herself Not To Be Picky, But…

Quest Paddle Blade
The Quest’s blade.

For this trip, ACK sent me off with an Ergo (bent) shaft version of the Quest. For many years, I paddled with a bent-shaft touring paddle and ultimately decided to go back to a straight shaft. My personal preference for the straight shaft is flexibility. I counsel a beginner paddler to use a specific hand position and then put imaginary super glue on the palm. Beginning paddlers need to memorize their blade orientation, have effective hand separation and learn to lighten up the common death grip. But I like to move my hands to different positions for sea conditions and different styles of strokes, rolls and (of course) the party tricks that paddlers learn for showing off.  Therefore, I would not normally chose this ergo design. I keep my grip loose enough that wrist position is not a big problem for me. Another issue I have with the AT bent shaft is how it weights the paddle. If you put your hands into effective paddling position and loosen your grip, the shaft rolls down disorienting the blades. Quite annoying. However by the end of the day, I got used to it and learned to keep a strong control hand, but over long distances this is more tiring and should not be necessary.

Barb and Quest Paddle
Barb and her Quest stopping for a mid-paddle picnic!

Initially, I also had a problem with the shape of the blade. For the most part, I am a high angle paddler but I do adjust my stroke for sea and weather conditions. AT describes the blade as versatile for high or low angle stokes, however my first thought was that it was good for neither. But don’t be such a picky paddler, Barb! By the end of the first day, I discovered that, indeed, it is a very good low-angle design and when using an occasional high-angle stroke you will get an effective stroke if you employ the “salmon spearing catch” (again, we’ll talk about this another time).

The cool comfort of the carbon blend shaft is my favorite part. It is a smooth matte finish that never gets hot or feels slick.

So in all, even Brian thinks this paddle could work for him and actually didn’t want me to take it home . Have you ever negotiated with a Scot? He drives a very hard bargain.

Getting Dressed for Greek Sea Kayaking with Bomber Gear’s Solar 50 Rash Guard

After leaving for Greece just under a month ago to undergo an exciting sea kayaking adventure vacationCutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter, reports back with intel on her experience with Bomber Gear’s Solar 50 Rash Guard.

Dress for Your Environment

Have I mentioned that in June it is hot in Greece? Not hot like Texas, the humidity is much lower so you don’t sweat just stepping outside. If fact, in Greece we live outside. It’s just 50 yards from our blue front door to the blue, blue sea, there is always a light breeze and the nights cool down, so sipping a Mythos (local beer) at the sidewalk Taverna is a perfect after dark pass time. But I digress. I was talking about heat and what to wear while sea kayaking.

Solar 50 Rash Guard
Barb Cutter wearing Bomber Gear’s Solar 50 Rash Guard

To my paddling customers visiting Greece I always recommend wide brimmed hats and loose fitting long sleeved shirts to protect from blazing sun, but what I say and what I do are different. I put on poly shorts with a sleeveless top, slather on SPF 30 and don my Cutter Aquatics cap. It’s my Greek paddling uniform. Truthfully, I put off trying out the Bomber Gear Solar 50 Rash Guard that Joseph at ACK asked me to pack for Mediterranean paddling. I thought it would be too hot.

Wrong! This shirt is made of comfy, comfy fabric. The seams are nice and flat and the shirt feels wonderful under my lifejacket. It never felt sticky when I was wet and it dried very quickly. I got a couple of compliments on the color, too. Who says gray is boring? With the teal stitching it is a great combination.

Understanding the Sizing for the Solar 50 Rash Guard

The big question is fit. How do you like to wear your shirts, ladies? I usually buy size large these days. I have a good sized frame, broad shoulders and an aging middle. The collar, neckline and sleeves of this shirt felt very good, but for a size large, I think it should be just a bit broader through the shoulders and, frankly, I need more room in the waist.

Take a look at these pictures:

The first is of a woman who usually buys size Small clothing. I think the shirt looks great on her, but I understand that Bomber Gear may think rash guards should fit snugly under a wet suit or PFD.

The next photo is a young woman who is a competitive cycler and very fit. She buys Medium sized clothing almost all of the time. I think this is a good fit. Shoulder seams look like they are in the right place, too.

Sadly, the final shot is me. I’m starting a diet just as soon as I finish all this great Greek souvlaki (skewered chicken, beef, lamb or pork served with tzatziki, wrapped in a fresh pita) and Mythos!

 

 

 

 

 

Vanguard Spray Skirt Undergoes Greek Sea Kayaking Trials

Flying Dolphin
The ‘Flying Dolphin’ in Greece.

Cutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter left for Greece just under a month ago for a sea kayaking adventure vacation. With her she brought a few new pieces of gear from Adventure Technology and Bomber Gear such as the Vanguard Spray Skirt and thought she’d share how it performed. 

Tales of a Travelling Sea Kayaker

Traveling to Greece is no picnic. It’s a nine-plus hour flight from DFW to the chaos of London Heathrow, 4 more hours to Athens airport and then you’re met by blast-furnace heat outside of baggage claim. Cross your fingers that the A-C will be working on the X96 bus to the Port of Piraeus or sweat for an hour and a quarter. Now drag the suitcase, balance the paddle bag and sling the daypack aboard an odd-looking water taxi that the Greeks call the Flying Dolphin. In just one more hour you can disembark on Poros Island totally jet-lagged. But waking up the next morning to a sea kayaker’s paradise to totally worth the effort.

My first morning on Poros I’m invited to join a group of six Brits and Scots finishing a four-day BCU Three Star training. I am promised that we all speak the same language, but it is hard to tell at first. We laugh at all the accents and different terms we use. “Fit your buoyancy aid (lifejacket);” “Tuck up that spray deck (skirt),” they say.

Breaking Out the Vanguard Spray Skirt

Poros Bay, Greece
Poros Bay, Greece

They admire the Bomber Gear Vanguard spray skirt that I’ve brought along and I am thrilled with the wide “hook & loop” band on the neoprene tunnel. It is nice and wide with durable pull-tabs that adjust easily for a really comfortable, snug-as-you-like fit. Another feature I discover on this cool new skirt is a very handy slide release buckle on the grab loop. Our BCU coach, Brian, is a bit of a safety nut (a good thing) and makes sure that everyone tucks up the decks of their spray skirts into a strap or something on their lifejacket. When out of the kayak this keeps you from tripping over unseen rocks and such. The extra little strap and buckle on this skirt is perfectly suited to this safety practice and will also make it easy to hang the skirt to wash and dry later in the day.

Before leaving Texas I worked with Joseph at ACK to choose the correct spray skirt size for the large cockpits on our Rainbow Oasis boats in Greece. XL seems like a good choice. It snaps easily onto the stern cockpit of the big tandem boat I’m assigned with my buddy. We launch out into the blue, blue sea and follow the 3-star candidates to the Poros lighthouse.

Paddler's picnic in Greece
Paddler’s picnic in Greece

By lunchtime we have reached a beautiful beach on the far side of the island and there are a few scrubby trees under which we can find some shade. While others dig into dry bags for lunch I grab one of the solo boats to try some rolls. The spray skirt fit so easily onto the cockpit combings I want to make sure it is snug enough to keep out water while upside down. Besides, the heck with shade trees, the water is absolutely the best relief from the heat.

Admittedly I am surprised but the cockpit stays dry. The roll trials were great. Now everyone wants to try and we spend the next hour working with lots of different folks to learn to roll. There is success all around. This beautiful clear water with the sandy bottom turns out to be a better teaching space than a Texas swimming pool and Greece is a perfect place for a picnic after all.

Vanguard Spray Skirt
The Bomber Gear Vanguard Skirt

 

The Dagger Zydeco Kayak: A Great Place to Start

Zydeco Kayak
Zydeco kayak on a river trip.

We often receive the question, “What’s the best first kayak for me to buy?” It’s a hard one to answer without more information. Typically, ACK responds with more questions like “What are you trying to do with it?”, “What kind of transportation do you have?”, “What’s your price range?”, etc. Even then though, the customer may just not know or aren’t sure exactly what answers to give. This is when we start pointing them towards products like the Dagger Zydeco kayak.

Why the Zydeco Kayak?

The Dagger Zydeco kayak comes in a 9 ft option & 11 ft option and could best be described as a “jack of all trades & master of none”. It’s a great recreational sit-inside kayak that performs well in flat and moving water, is lightweight & easy to carry, has a roomy, comfortable cockpit and comes at a great price point. It isn’t the fastest kayak around nor does it have a ton rigging ability but it certainly is a great place to start!

See more about it in this video from Dagger:

Stop Borrowing Your Friend’s Kayak and Get a Zydeco!

One customer wrote in with a review of the 9ft Zydeco kayak, sharing that, after being introduced to kayaking by his friend, he finally took the plunge and bought his first kayak and landed on the Zydeco.

“After a summer of repeatedly borrowing my friends Perception Carolina 12 I started feeling like a bum and broke out the wallet to get my own. I did a ton of research and went with the Zydeco 9. I wanted a smaller boat that was easy to maneuver and steer through rocky areas of the rivers where I live and this boat was great. VERY responsive yet tracks well with a little paddling technique. Im sure Ill learn to keep it straight as I could barely keep the 12 footer in a straight line when I first started. I am so pleased with this boat that I am saving now for a second one so that friends of mine without them can come along for the paddles. Also, I looked into several other cheaper kayaks like the Perception Swifty, and went with this one as the difference in price is less than it would have cost me to replace the seat with one that wouldnt wreck my back. I have lower back issues and this seat is way more comfortable than some of the $800 and up kayaks I’ve used before. HOW I USE IT: – Flat water lakes and rivers – Flowing rivers – Class 1 rapids open, class 2 rapids with a skirt PROS: – SUPER COMFORTABLE SEAT! – Very light and easy to load on a roof yet short enough to fit in a truck bed or the back of an SUV. – Plenty of room on the sides of the seat for a hydration pack, cockpit bags or small soft cooler for snacks. – Very easy to maneuver through obstacles and turns on a dime. – Tracks well and gets up there in speed for its length. – Room for dry bags or a deck back if going on trips lasting longer than a day. – Drain plug. – Thigh pads. – Stable as all get out! – Carry handles are easy on the hands. CONS: – Takes on some water in rougher paddling. I would recommend a skirt for anything over class 1 rapids. – For some reason the cup holder is UNDER THE SEAT! Makes zero sense. – Paddle holder pops loose every now and then but it was an easy fix with the paddle clip I got from this site. BOTTOM LINE: – I highly recommend this boat to any new to the sport or intermediate paddler that is looking for a very nimble boat on the water thats easy to transport. – Perfect for a starter, second, or spare boat… especially for the price.” – Starks

Want to Learn More?

So if you’re thinking about making your first kayak purchase, give the Zydeco kayak a look. If you’re still not convinced that it’s the one for you, comment below with any questions you might have!

Old Town Predator 13 – First Look & Review!

 Predator 13 on Display at ACK Houston
ACK Houston is one of the first to display the new Old Town Predator 13 kayak in it’s store.

After finishing up at the Houston Boat Show this past Sunday, it was time to go have a little fun on the water. I had been eyeing and slightly drooling over the new Old Town Predator 13 kayak  that has been on display in our Houston store this past week. With advertisements boasting it’s user friendliness and stability, I figured there is no better way to find out if it is true than to take it for a test drive myself. :)

First Impression of the Predator 13 Kayak

Right off the bat, I was impressed that that rumors of the Predator 13 being a very quiet hull were true. Moving into the cockpit area, the layout was very well designed. The seat DID NOT block the mod pod hatch which allowed me easy to access to my gear in both the low or high position. Also, the side mounts were close enough for me to reach without obstructing my paddle stroke. One thing I did feel it was missing were brass inserts for an anchor trolley  similar to what you find on the Ocean Ultra 4.7, however, it was overall a very nice set up.

Yeti Standing on Predator 13
Stability Test – Standing on a Yeti Cooler in the Predator 13.

Beyond Expectations for Stability

Standing at 6’1” and 230 lbs., I must say I was most excited about the kayaks stability. It was easy for me to fold up the seat and get it out of the way, letting me stand and move around quite comfortably.  Putting it through a true test, while kneeling I pulled a loaded Yeti Tundra 45 from the rear tank well and place it where the seat normally goes. I was then able to sit sideways on the cooler and even stand up on it and paddle. After paddling for a while, I can tell you that you will definitely not win a race with this boat. However, I am willing to give up a little bit of speed for the added stability.  In my book, the Predator 13 definitely gets an A+ for stability.

To sum it all up… I can truly say I was blown away by this kayak. Other than a few additional  features that would have been added bonuses, the overall layout design, stability and smooth paddling make the Predator 13 Kayak top notch. Way to go Old Town!!!!

For those interested in purchasing the Predator, we are currently accepting pre-orders online or via any of our locations and expect to have them sometime near the end of July.

Astral Ronny PFD Deemed a Comfortable Option by Kayak Angler, Travis Abner

Several people have asked me about my gear and why I chose what I did. Being a convert from whitewater boating, I started completely new with kayak fishing, so pretty much all of my gear other than my rods and tackle are brand new (I have fished in a bass boat for many years). I did countless hours of research to make sure I was getting the best deal and the best product for my money. I didn’t go with the highest end gear for everything, simply because it’s not necessary for me. The products I did pick though were what I deemed the best bang for my buck, and none of them have let me down so far.

Astral Ronny PFD
Astral Ronny PFD

As far as my PFD goes, I knew it would be difficult to find another as comfortable as my old Lotus Lola, which my wife now uses. As mentioned before, I did quite a bit of research, mostly looking through reviews and message boards. The product that seemed to stand out the most for my specific application of kayak fishing, appeared to be the Astral Ronny, so I bought one to try out. I was not disappointed.

This is by far the most comfortable PFD that I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing. It’s completely adjustable from the shoulder straps to the side straps. The back panel of foam is only 1/2″ thick, so it’s extremely comfortable when leaning against a full backrest such as the one on my Ride 135. There’s no big chunk or wad of foam making you feel awkward or uncomfortable, which is a very welcome change. The back panel also has a small vent in it to keep the air flowing a bit better. I’m not sure how much it really helps, but it looks cool and I feel cool, so that’s pretty much all that matters to me.

The Ronny has one front pocket made out of mesh that I use to hold my Gerber EZ-Out knife and glasses strap. It’s not a very big pocket, but would at least fit a cell phone in a waterproof case or similar.

Overall, I am very impressed with this PFD and will certainly keep on using it for quite a while. While I am satisfied with this PFD, especially for the price it typically goes for, there are a few things that I would like to see either changed on this model or possibly for a future creation. I’d like to see thicker fabric such as 400 or 500D nylon. The nylon on the current Ronny seems tough enough as-is, and it dries out super quick, but I’d just like to have a tad tougher material. I’d also like to see another pocket or two on the front for additional gear. This is where if they did take that into consideration, it might be for a completely new model made specifically for fishing, but still keep the 1/2″ thick back panel. That’s pretty much it! As I mentioned before, I’m very happy and look forward to using this PFD for many seasons to come.

Check out the video below for a quick look and basic overview. Comment with any questions, thanks!  — Travis Abner

Protect Your Paddling Pup with a Dog PFD

Always ready to paddle.
Always ready to paddle.

Who’s your favorite paddling partner? Wait, don’t answer that…we have a feeling we might know the answer. It’s not your friends or family, who too often have an excuse for why they can’t make it down to the water with you – no, it’s someone who’s always game for a trip outside. Someone who can’t say no to jumping onto a kayak, canoe or paddleboard and usually into the water too. Unless your dog has a fear of water, “man’s best friend” makes a great paddling partner and, just like any paddler, they need to be safe around the water. The best place to start is with a Dog PFD (personal flotation device).

What is the Benefit of a Dog PFD?

Adventuring outside gets tiring.
Adventuring outside gets tiring.

Unlike with people, there are no laws stating that dogs are required to have a life jacket when they hit the water. However, there are a number of benefits to outfitting your dog with a quality PFD that will protect the safe-being of your furry companion and as a result bring you peace of mind.

Whether it’s a distraction like waterfowl or just the allure of water, it’s hard for any dog to resist jumping overboard and doing some dog-paddling. It’s even harder for them to realize how tiring it can be. A dog PFD gives canines something to fall back on – to just sit back and float – if they need it. A quality one also includes reflective cloth for increased visibility and a handle that makes it easy and painless to pull them back on board your paddle craft, when they’re ready to of course.

What Are My Options?

NRS Dog Life Jacket.
NRS Dog PFD

We offer a wide variety of outdoor gear for you pooch, including two different dog PFDs at ACK.com. The first is the low profile Dog Life Jacket from NRS which comes at a lower price and with 1000 denier cordura material, providing buoyancy of up to 2.7-7.9 lbs. The second is the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat which would be considered the premium option of the two. It offers 4-14.5 lbs of buoyancy and is made with a thicker, ballistic nylon material.

While both have received glowing reviews, we though this recent customer feedback on the float coat was worth sharing:

Dog PFD - Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat
Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat

“Although my dogs are great swimmers (Labradors) I bought this coat for kayaking with my dog.  This coat fits all 3 of my dogs from 63 to 80 lbs with minor adjustments for each dog.  However my 13 year old dog is scared of the vest, but once I get it on her she runs around happy like a puppy.  I can pick her up by the handle to put on the kayak and it holds her without hurting her (like the cheap vests would).   I let the dog get wet first and also dunk the vest in water to keep it a bit cooler on the dog.  I highly recommend the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat.  Great for aging dogs or just for safety.” – Susan L

So what are you waiting for? Grab your puppy a dog PFD for your next outing – we’re sure that he or she will appreciate it!

Every Ounce Counts | AT Exodus Fishstix Kayak Paddle

A few days ago, I dropped my boat into the water for the 50th time since November. Looking back, there are a few pieces of gear that I wish I’d had along on every trip. One such piece of gear came to me in May when Austin Canoe & Kayak sent the Adventure Technology Exodus Fishstix paddle.

The Exodus Fishstix
The Exodus Fishstix

Since then, I’ve powered through high winds, crawled through backwaters, and stalked tailing redfish on the coast. And, in every situation the  Fishstix paddle has proven itself a trustworthy companion. Continue reading Every Ounce Counts | AT Exodus Fishstix Kayak Paddle

Fit More for Less! – Family Sized Tent at a Solo Tent Price

Tetragon 5Looking for a family tent? Eureka’s Tetragon 5 Tent might be just the ticket with plenty of space, easy setup, quality features and, maybe most importantly, quality that’s meant to last! This five person tent from Eureka is a popular buy and has been known to hold up for plenty of years. Oh – and it comes at a great price too! Just ask ACK customer ‘Happy Camper’ who submitted the following review:

“This is my second Tetragon 5. I also own the Tetragon 4.  The first one lasted for 15 years and I was so happy to see this was still sold.  Exoskeleton makes setup a breeze, floor wraps up for added rain protection and rain-fly goes all-the-way-down. Every quality I want in a tent!” – Happy Camper

This tent is so great for families that we created a camping package for it! Check it out if you’re looking for  some great savings & want to get the whole family enjoying some time outside.

 

 

Hybrid SUP-yak Impresses Casual Paddlers

The Ocean Kayak Nalu began turning heads when it was released about four years ago. Today, this hybrid Kayak-SUP continues to impress those who come across it. Incredibly versatile, the Nalu is meant to offer the best of both worlds with the ability to both sit and stand while you paddle.

Nalu from Ocean Kayak
The Nalu 12.5

Over the years the Nalu has become popular among casual, recreational paddlers just looking to have some fun in either position. A big point of interest has been the price, which is relatively low for typical SUP board. To top it off, we at ACK offer a package deal involving the Nalu which couples the board/kayak with a paddle and leash for some great savings. A recent reviewer going by the name “Beach Bum” submitted this lengthy review sharing his very positive experience with our packaged Nalu 12.5:

A great package deal.
A great package deal.

“I wanted both a kayak and SUP but didn’t want spend $,2000 for both.  Then I came across the Nalu Hybrid.  At first, I couldn’t believe that you could have the best of both worlds with one product without a lot of compromise.  I spent hours scouring the web for reviews and more information.  The more I checked the more I was convinced that this may be the perfect product for people who recreationally enjoy both kayaking and paddle boarding.  I purchased this product around a year ago and let me tell you that I could not have been happier and the price for the package deal at ACK is was one of the best values around.  I use it all the time in the creeks and ocean.  It is very stable and works as expected as a kayak or SUP.  Not sure if they still make the smaller version but I would recommend the larger size of 12.5 which is still very maneuverable and glides nicely.  Enjoy!” – Beach Bum

See more about the Nalu in this video from Ocean Kayak: