It’s “Take a Friend or Family Paddling” Month

First paddling experience for a 3 year old - literally paddling

Do you remember the first time you launched a kayak? There was that feeling of nervous excitement eventually turned euphoric when you subconsciously gained control of your boat, your body relaxed and before you knew, all of your life’s worries were left behind. It was at that point that you knew something was right, you were in your element and if you’re like me, you are now addicted to paddling. Lucky for me, I get to relive that experience almost daily whether it’s helping a customer launch at one of our demo days or simply posting a photo that one of our customers shared with us on Facebook in regards to their maiden voyage. This also holds true for those of us who introduce friends and family to the sport, which brings me to this — what do you say we designate April as the unofficial “take a friend or family paddling month”?

My neighbor's kids enjoying their first paddling experience

Seriously, not only will this help you settle the score with those that wonder why you are crazy about kayaking but it may even encourage you to get out more often. However, the most rewarding experience you’ll get from it is the reaction from those paddling for the first time — especially the brightest biggest smiles from children.

Why not take them both with a 500lb capacity?

I recently had the pleasure of camping out on Lake Georgetown here in central Texas with my family along with several neighbors and their children. Nobody asked, but I decided to load a Wilderness Ride 115, Tarpon 120 and a Hobie Kona on my truck anyway. Sure, I figured I would be paddling alone but much to my surprise, everyone was on board and what a joy it was. I even got to introduce my 3 year old to her first paddling experience and two hours later I still couldn’t pry her little hands off my kayak! Fact is, it turned out to be the highlight of our trip and weeks later I heard anything from “wow, I never knew it would be that easy” to “that’s it Roland, I’m hooked and I’m buying one”!

A first time even for some adults!

Over the years, I have introduced hundreds of family, friends, customers and even complete strangers to paddling and it makes me feel great knowing that I am helping create memories and in some cases even changing lives.

C’mon and join me and let’s all band together and make a commitment to introduce this amazing experience to at least one person this month. I’m also interested in hearing about your experiences. Who first introduced you to kayaking and who have you taken paddling for the first time?

Roland @ACK

(Pictures courtesy of Jim and Bridget Arndt)

Need a “Staycation” Plan this July 4th Weekend?

While many of us are preparing to hit the road this weekend, some of us are focusing on how to enjoy the July 4th celebration at, or near home. Personally, I have yet to make solid plans due to a series of commitments but a friend of mine wanted for me to help lay out an inexpensive and uncomplicated weekend of paddling for him so thought I would share my suggestions here. Most of our blog readers are avid paddlers so you’ve probably already got it all figured out but for those of you that are unsure, this one’s for you!

First off, if you don’t already have a kayak or canoe, and if you live near any of our stores, I suggest you make rental reservations asap. If you don’t have access to a place that rents kayaks by the day, borrow or (ahem) buy one! In fact, try to obtain 2-3 of them to share with your friends and family or have them get their own. Paddling alone is a relaxing experience but getting together with a group can be a load of fun.

Watch the Fireworks from a Kayak!

Saturday – Enjoy a day with your friends and family.
If you live near a lake or river get a group of friends and family together, set up a day use picnic area and dock the boats on the shoreline for everyone to use at their leisure. It’s not only a great opportunity to keep your group entertained and keep cool but may help introduce paddling to those that have yet to give it a whirl. If it’s as hot as it is here, you’ll want to make sure you keep your food and drinks cold with a quality cooler and should consider setting up a tarp for shade.

Sunday – Take a break from it all.
After a long day of spending time with family and friends take some time for yourself. Get up before sunrise to enjoy a peaceful paddle on your favorite river or lake. Take your camera for some awesome sunrise photo opportunities and don’t forget your fishing pole. You’ll feel nice and refreshed, and depending on how much paddling you did, may burn off some of the calories you absorbed the day before.

Monday – Enjoy the fireworks from your kayak!
Unfortunately for us the hot and dry conditions have resulted in a ban of firework displays, hopefully this is not the case in your area. Have you ever watched fireworks from a kayak? It truly is an exhilarating experience. You’ll not only enjoy a different perspective but you’ll be able to steer away from the crowds. Pack up your dinner and arrive early to enjoy the sunset before the show.  You’ll never want to watch another fireworks display from land again. Of course keep a safe distance!

Now doesn’t that sound like a good time? I think it does. In fact, after making these suggestions to my friend, I’m starting to think that I should cancel my prior commitments and do the same.

What do you have planned? Share it with us by commenting below. Be safe and have fun!


Mentioned and Recommended Products:

Yeti Coolers – With temperature soaring well in to the 90’s and even 100’s for many of us, rely on a cooler that will keep your food and beverage ice cold all day long.

Kelty Noahs Tarp – Need shade? No need to haul heavy and bulky canopies around, pack it light with this easy to setup, instant tarp.

S3 Dry Box T2000 – Chances are you’ll have countless photo ops, protect your point and shoot camera with this crushproof dry box.

Scotty Sea Light – If you plan to watch the fireworks at night, you’ll need to be sure you are visible.

Yak Attack Flag – Show your pride, attach this flag to your Scotty Sea Light.

School’s Out! Now What? Take the family paddling, that’s what!

Generate fun filled memories that will last a lifetime!

May is one of my favorite months of the year, complete with great weather, good fishing and now that I have a child in grade school, a time to celebrate another school year passed. My daughter is 6 now and it occurred to me that I have yet to really get her immersed into to the world of paddling and what better time than now! It’s easy to want to get away as paddling provides an almost Zen like experience for those wanting to get away from it all. However, nothing compares to the enjoyment and satisfaction a person gets from spending quality time with their kids, nieces, nephews or grandkids in the great outdoors. For most folks, school is either out or preparing to let loose so now is the time to start planning your next family adventure.

Bending Branches Kids Splash Kayak Paddle

Before you head out here are a few tips that may help you experience a safer more enjoyable trip. Start by deciding on using tandem (two person) or single kayaks. This really depends on a lot of factors such as personal preference, water and weather conditions and location but generally speaking if the child can swim, make sound decisions and is strong enough to get a kayak moving, they are probably ready to paddle their own boat. Despite what many adults think, even younger children are fully capable of paddling too. Through my own experiences, I’ve seen children get the hang of paddling quicker than a lot of adults. Paddling can come natural to younger folks because they focus more on going as opposed to making sure they are doing it correctly. So why not get them a paddle that is designed for kids? The key is in finding a paddle with a smaller diameter shaft such as the Bending Branches Kids Splash complete with graphics kids will appreciate. With smaller hands, they’ll have an easier time grasping the paddle. Whether paddling in tandem or on single kayaks, letting kids take control (even if it means that you have to work a little harder) you’ll keep them engaged and will keep them from getting bored.

NRS Vista Youth PFD Life Vest

Speaking of bored, whether 6 or 14 years old, children and teenagers need to be stimulated with experiences that will keep them focused on enjoying the great outdoors. If you plan to go on a 2+ hour paddling trip, it may seem like eternity to a child that is thinking about what the neighborhood kids are up to or teenagers itching to check their text messages. First off, leave their hand held video games at home and instead think of activities that will keep them excited about the next trip. Take a rod and reel and do a little kayak fishing or play a wildlife watching game and reward the person that can spot the most critters with a prize at the end of the trip. If weather and location permits, take periodic breaks to go swimming. And of course, make sure you have plenty of drinks and snacks!

Next you’ll want to make sure everyone is properly outfitted with a Personal Flotation Device or PFD. The number of lives that could have been saved if a person was wearing a PFD is staggering and keep in mind that children under the age of 13 are required by law to wear one at all times while on any watercraft. Make sure you utilize a PFD that is designed with children in mind such as the NRS Vista Youth PFD Life Vest. Planning to take infants? Consider the Stohlquist’s Nemo Infant Life Vest, which has unique wrap-around flotation that turns a child face up in the water. Key point to take-away here though is that a PFD is only as good as the adult that fits it on a child and educates them on what to do if a boat is capsized. In fact, before you launch and if conditions are appropriate, conduct a few tests in shallow water. Have all children get in the water with their vests and advise them on how to keep their heads out of the water.

NRS Guardian Kayak Rescue Throw Bag

Participating in any outdoor adventure with children and teenagers introduces some new dynamics. For instance if you were to capsize, its not just about you anymore, you’ll need to think fast to ensure that everyone is quickly accounted for. If you feel that you’ll be paddling fast moving or rough waters, consider carrying a throw bag with you. If see that a child or anyone for that matter is struggling you can try and assist by throwing the rope their way to help pull them back to shore. Another product you should always have attached to your PFD when paddling is a safety whistle. If conditions are rough or if it is after dark, a whistle can be a lifesaver. River or Dive knives are also handy for a situation where you or someone else gets caught up on a bungee or rope.

Outdoor Research Rambler Sombrero Sun Hat for Kids

Make sure you children are wearing proper attire too. I’ve personally seen many kids get on a canoe or kayak wearing jeans on a hot summer day. Not only are they prone to heat stroke, if they do happen to fall in the water, movement is limited. This is true for adults too! Additionally, kids have sensitive skin. Aside from applying sunscreen, outfit them with apparel that offers protection from harmful sun rays such as NRS Kids HydroSilk Long Sleeve Rashguard shirts and Outdoor Research Rambler Sombrero Sun Hat for Kids. And of course, always keep yourself and everyone else hydrated. Sure you’ll end up with a few more pit stops but at least you’ll have some peace of mind!

Finally, do your best to prepare for any situation you may encounter. Start by creating an emergency plan of action. Create a “what if” checklist. Perform an off the water orientation by detailing what to do in case of an emergency. Pick a spot to meet if you should get separated. Identify specific tasks for the older kids to do and a develop a buddy system that pairs adults with younger paddlers. The chances of encountering an emergency situation are slim but it’s always best to be prepared!

So there you have it, a few tips that will help generate fun filled memories that will last a lifetime and will help beg the question, “when are we going paddling again?” Let us know if you have any tips you’d like to share by commenting below.

Have fun and be safe!


New Year Resolution #1: Paddle More

Why you should paddle more in 2011

Happy New Year! We hope that 2010 was a great year for you and that 2011 welcomes you with an even better year. We can’t complain here at ACK and are very thankful for that. We had another excellent year and contribute it all to you. As we quickly dive into 2011, we find ourselves surrounded with week after week of boat shows,  Demo Day planning and of course preparing for another dynamic spring paddling season. Yep, things never slow down here at ACK. However, while we do love our work we also like to play and in 2011, it’s going to be our goal to get out and paddle more — we encourage each and every one of you to do the same!

According to several reports published in 2010, recreational kayaking has been, and continues to be, one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the nation, and for good reason. It continues to be affordable, it’s always fun, it’s convenient, it can be healthy and most importantly, it brings families and friends together. Let’s take a few steps back and elaborate on these points a bit to remind ourselves why we all enjoy paddling and why we should get out and do it more often.

It’s still affordable – Despite an increase in manufacturing costs, kayaks prices have remained fairly stable. You’ll also find that almost every manufacturer now offers affordable entry level models. Whether you’ve been toying with the idea that you want to get into paddling or think you may need a second, third or even fourth kayak, there is no reason to why you couldn’t find something within your budget. Compared to other watercraft, kayaking is still considered to be some of the most affordable watersports to engage in and the amount of accessories you need to buy are minimal.

It’s always fun – There is no question about it, people enjoy paddling. Whether you are out to experience a peaceful paddle alone, take on the surf, cast a line or traverse some rapids you are setting yourself up for a great time.

It’s convenient – Another advantage compared to other watersports is how quickly you can be on the water, especially if you live close to a lake, pond or river. If you already have your gear stored in your kayak, all it  takes is a few minutes to load it up and once you reach your destination, you typically don’t have to wait in line to launch — just go!

It’s healthy – If you are like most people, getting fit is your number one new years resolution. It may be difficult to get out right now due to weather but why not set yourself up for a paddling fitness program this spring? Unlike running on hard pavement or riding a stationary bike in noisy and crowded gym, paddling provides a non-impact, relaxing and enjoyable workout. Here is a recommended read for those thinking about using a kayak for fitness.

It brings family and friends together – Another resolution that many will try to follow through with is to spend more time with their families and friends. Setting up weekend or day paddle trips will not only encourage you to spend more time with them but will also create unforgettable experiences for everyone involved. Not everyone has a kayak so consider adding another one as a backup, send them over to ACK or remind them that rentals are always an option. So as you begin to plan your adventures for 2011 make sure you include those that you want to spend more time with.

Now we know that you already knew all this but it’s easy to take things for granted and thought we’d offer this pleasant reminder of why we all enjoy paddling so much. On that note, we want to know why YOU enjoy paddling. Email us your reasons (First Name, Location and Reasons) and we’ll be sure to publish them in next month’s newsletter.

Have a great 2011 — get out and paddle more!


Photoblog: Family Fun on Inks Lake

Occasionally, we think it’s best to let photos speak for themselves. Amy, ACK’s Office Manager, took her family out to Inks Lake State Park in central Texas for a fall weekend camping trip and was nice enough to share some photos of her experiences. Looks like it was a beautiful day out there Amy. Want to share your adventure here on the ACK blog? Email us!

My husband preparing to wet his line.

The leaves were still turning making for a great backdrop.

Who says big brothers are mean to their little sisters? They conquered this island and named it "their island".

Waiting to see how long it takes for my husband to notice he was dragging my son. Drift anchor?

Wind or no wind, she kept up with the big boys.

Teenagers don't mind the cold. "Mom, when can I get in?"

Despite what you may think, he wasn't the camp cook, he just played with all the cookware.

Thought this was a great angle of my daughter and son returning to shore.