Insights from a First Time Paddler

Reading and sharing paddler’s stories is something we love to do, and when we came across this story from Wes Turner on our Google+ Kayaking Community we thought it was a great opportunity to share some insights for first time paddlers. Wes had recently found a great deal on a very old Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T Tandem Kayak and decided to take it out with his wife for their maiden voyage despite some high river conditions, strong flow and cold winter water. Here’s his story.. 

Photo by Wes Turner

Well my initial trip on the Catawba was eventful to say the least. I got a late start due to some Military duty but the weather was nice, so about 3pm we headed out with a friend and his canoe and me and my wife with the Wilderness Systems 145T I just purchased. The river is actually very high now and flow was around 1,1000 cfm and temp around 50 deg. F (not exactly optimal for my first trip). I started out by myself to get a feel for the kayak. Let me say, it was a bit wobbly, and I was very leery to let my wife get in as she was quite comfortable riding with my friend in his canoe.  Let me take that back.  The kayak felt like I was walking a tight rope over Niagara Falls without a net! After a while I was finding my happy place and we found a bank and she decided to give it a try with me. I am the only one paddling in the back and she is just chilling in the front seat. Tons of screaming ensued whenever we would wobble as to almost flip over every 5 minutes when one of us actually moved slightly.  It truly was unstable to say the least and my butt muscles got a workout from being clenched so hard for hours.

Photo by Wes Turner

Well the short 2 hour trip to the next landing was almost over without incident, and my buddy wanted to switch and give the kayak a try so we made our way towards an area that was sketchy to dock at to say the least. He had his canoe length wise to a large downed tree on the bank and I tried to make my way to a somewhat flat area that in reality turned out to be a red muddy clay cliff in disguise. At the last minute I realized the current was angry Hulk super strong here, and it was almost all I had to try and get it in a place to dock. Well the current was winning and it was turning us backwards to the direction of intended travel and into some overhanging limbs and sticker bushes (as we like to call wild thorny plants here down south).  I placed the paddle down to try and abort this tortuous bloody hell sticking torture trap but I guess between us moving from limbs and the current pushing us the same way we moved a little too much and over we went upside down!  Cold Cold Cold!.  Instant brain freeze!  My buddy said he heard the scream and when he looked back all he saw was the upside down kayak.  Then saw me exploding out of the water like Superman avoiding kryptonite.

Saving grace was the water here was only chest high but the bad thing was there goes my phone, paddle, cushions. etc. downstream.  I was able to swim and actually retrieve everything and throw them on the bank but realized as I turned around my wife was losing the battle trying to hold the kayak back from sinking and traveling downstream. At this point I almost didn’t care but quickly realized how the hell am I going to finish this trip. I sped back to help and was able to hold it and let her get to the bank. My buddy was able to dock his canoe and get in to help me pull this up out of the water and turn in over and pick it up to drain the water.  All of this probably took 5 minutes but seemed like eternity standing chest high in 50 degree water.

Needless to say all was not lost.  We saved the kayak luckily along with paddle and everything else and luckily I had purchased a floating waterproof bag for my phone so it was undamaged. My wife was done with this kayak as she got in the canoe.  I got back in the kayak and we all laughed our way to the end of the trip. Albeit shivering with the sun sneaking behind the tree line.

Believe it or not my wife is for going out again (as early as this next weekend) but either wants a canoe or hopefully can talk her in to a more stable sit on top kayak this time around. I dunno but back to the drawing board

Lets just say this kayak went back up that night on craigslist, and hopefully will sell for what we have it and we can find something more stable! Its not that fun if you are wondering the whole trip if any move you make will send you into the cold drink!

Anyways thanks for listening and hopefully laughing at my expense. I know I was (and still am!)

We encourage readers to avoid situations like this by visiting our ACK Resources like our Articles & Research, ACKTVNetwork and our blog.  Some dry wear, bags/boxes and research into kayak stability could’ve saved some trouble for this paddler, but we’re very glad that both he and his wife are still pursuing some paddling adventures and thankful that they shared their story with us.    

First Time Snow Shoe Experience

It’s important to layer with a good outer shell.

Snow shoeing is a northern thing, let’s face it. You can’t do it here in Texas because, well, you need snow and that’s just something we don’t have. So when I was looking for something new to do for my ACK Go Play Day, a company initiative that allows employees to spend time outside, I decided to grab a pair and head up to the powder for a long weekend. I traveled to a cabin smack dab in the middle of the Twin Cities at the Dodge Nature Center to have my first snowshoeing experience. Dodge was a great place to start because it provides some very light areas to walk about and while it’s in the middle of St. Paul, Minnesota, it feels like a wilderness area.  

I couldn’t have asked for better weather, with 30+ degree temperatures (which sounds unbearably cold now that I am back in Texas) and fresh snowfall from the previous week. While I quickly realized the simplicity of the activity, it did require some heavy layering for obvious reasons. I threw on a basic base layer, some NRS Boundary Water Shoes over my wool socks, blue jeans, gloves, a wool shirt and, most important of all, an outer layer consisting a snow jacket and pants. Keeping warm is about all there is to snowshoeing and with that setup I was nice and cozy when we got to walking around.

Again, it was incredibly simple once we actually got walking. Having the snow shoes allow you to spread your weight as you walk, through what’s called flotation, and as a result you spend less effort pulling your feet out of the snow and more time walking around through some beautiful snow covered areas. I found that I really enjoyed snowshoeing as it gave me the ability to explore a snowy hills and trails as if I were on a normal hike. Enjoy the photos below and I highly recommend giving it a try when you get the chance! You can find everything you need and more to outfit your next snowshoeing adventure at here.

Joseph @ACK


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)