Unexpected Twist for a First Ever Paddler – Customer Blog

Trekking around the lake.

Just because a paddle isn’t all smiles doesn’t mean it isn’t a memorable one, nor does it mean it won’t have a happy ending! This paddling story comes from Ari Leach of Maine and touches on a dreaded subject for paddlers: losing things on the water. Lesson learned, leave those valuables at home or secure them in a dry box…enjoy!

My first ever paddle ended up with my partner and I getting caught in the middle of a Maine lake during a freak lightning storm. We were both terrified and had to fight the waves to get back to shore. Once we finally made it to shore, packed up the boats, and drove our soaked-selves home, I realized that somewhere along the way I had lost my wedding band. I was sure it had slipped off of my prune-like finger as we fought our way to land, and would sit on the lake bottom for all eternity. I had already accepted that fact that I would never see it again, and made arrangements to purchase a replacement the following week.

Lounging, prior to the storm.

A few days later, I went to the post office to check the mail, only to find a bright pink Post-it note sitting in the box. I pulled it out, slowly realizing that it was rolled into a tiny scroll and held together by my wedding band! My partner had rented a metal detector, gone back to the beach the following day in the still-pouring rain, scoured the beach for several hours, and eventually found my ring! I was so shocked that I started to cry, right there in the post office. I slipped the band from around the Post-it and onto my finger. It may not have been the best kayaking adventure, and certainly not one that I would care to repeat, but it was absolutely the most memorable paddle of my life.

Cold Water Boot Camp – Another Reason to Wear Your PFD

Here’s another reason to wear your PFD! It’s an older video but still a powerful one. Put on by the US Coast Guard, Cold Water Boot Camp shows how even good swimmers who don’t think they need a PFD can quickly be overcome without one in cold water. Just wear your PFD! – Joseph@ACK


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

Kayak Camping – You’ve Thought About It, Go Do It!

Note: This article was originally published in ACK Paddler, our very own in-store printed newsletter which features a variety of resources including how-tos, maps and a calendar of events. To obtain your copy, visit any one of our stores.

There is a very good possibility that you’ve either visited or are currently standing in one of our stores and probably noticed that we carry camping equipment. There is a reason for that. Aside from the fact that most paddlers also enjoy camping, the two are meshing together more than ever. Kayak manufacturers are building kayaks more stable and with plenty of storage options, making them ideal for get-aways.

Kayak camping is like going on a backpacking adventure, it’s all about slimming down the gear you are carrying to a few select and necessary items. Of course, everyone has their own gear preferences and selections can vary depending on where, when and how you are traveling. With that in mind, this article doesn’t necessarily focus on a gear list but rather things you should know when compiling your equipment, storing it and ultimately keeping it secure and yourself safe.

ONE: Stay Afloat
Probably the most important thing you should consider when kayak camping is knowing and understanding the capacity of your kayak. You’ll be carrying more gear than usual and no matter how hard you try, you will add more weight to your kayak than you plan for. The good news is that most 12ft+ recreational kayaks can handle capacities well into the 300s and even low 400s in some cases. However, you should consider leaving at least 50lbs-75lbs between your total weight (including gear) and the maximum capacity of the kayak. Why? A gallon of water weighs just over 8lbs and if you happen to get some unexpected water in your kayak, you’ll be comfortable knowing that you’ll still have some wiggle room for the extra weight.

Tip: Weigh yourself and gear before you hit the water!

Kelty Salida Tent - Only 3 lbs!

TWO: Keep it Light
Just like backpacking, you’ll need to focus on either buying lightweight gear or simply trim what you plan to take with you. Make a gear list, take inventory of what you have and put it all in three piles — “need it”, “nice to have” and “might need to replace with a lighter alternative option”. Speaking of lighter gear, despite what you may think you won’t have to break the bank when you shop for these items. Manufactures such as Kelty and Eureka, focus on developing durable gear that is lightweight yet affordable. You can also shed extra weight by sharing gear if you are paddling with a group. For instance, take one camera, share amongst each other and distribute the photos to everyone when the trip is over.

Tip: Leave any unnecessary product and food packaging, cases, bags and covers at home.

SealLine Baja Dry Bags

THREE: Make Sure It All Stays Dry
Now that you’ve got you gear in order, you’ll need to determine what needs to stay dry. After a long day of paddling and being wet, you’ll be happy to be resting up at the campsite in DRY gear. Keep in mind that the word “dry” in “dry hatch” can be misleading so don’t rely on that option. Most, if not all kayaks will eventually get some water inside the hull. If you don’t already have them, get yourself several dry bags for your tent, clothing, bedding and food items and dry boxes for electronics and gear with sharp edges. If you need to have access to a GPS or phone, several manufactures such as AquaPac and Seattle Sports make small dry bags for electronics that you can secure around your neck or to your PFD. Make sure you get dry bags that will fit in your kayak and follow instructions on how to properly pack them.

Tip: When packing your dry bags, color-code them by category – red=emergency, blue=clothes, yellow=food, etc.

Wilderness Systems Commander 140

FOUR: Store it Right
Now that you’ve got all your gear in order, packed and ready to go, you’ll need to figure out how to properly store it in your kayak. If you have a sit inside kayak, you’ll need to take full advantage of your dry hatches and tie downs on the topside of the boat. For those in sit on top kayaks, your rear tankwell will make a great place for gear that you’ll need to access often or that is waterproof. If you are using a hybrid kayak such as the Native Watercraft Ultimate or Wilderness Systems Commander, storage options are more flexible. Either way, the key is to make sure that everything is distributed evenly throughout the kayak for proper flotation and maneuverability. The heaviest items should rest on the bottom of the kayak and closest to the cockpit area while the lighter items (usually clothing and bedding) can be shoved into any remaining spaces left behind. By keeping the heavy items low and close to the cockpit you will help keep the center of gravity low. Refrain from placing too much gear on top of your kayak as it will affect your stability.

Tip: Create a mock packing session in your garage days or at least the night before your trip.

FIVE: Keep it Secure
If you happen to capsize your boat, the last thing you want to do is worry about your gear floating away — you need to focus on you! Most kayaks come with a series of bungee cords on the deck and across the wells, but don’t be fooled, they are not the most reliable attachment points for your dry bags and other gear. Instead, secure some rope to your kayak at various points. Use the bungee as secondary security if your rope happens to fail or if something comes undone. One other thing, make sure your hatch latches are in good working order and don’t forget to properly close them after each use!

Tip: Don’t tie everything together, use some good quality carabineers so that you can easily unclip dry bags and boxes individually.

ACK's iPhone App can help you find launch and take-out points.

SIX: Know Your Route
Just like any type of trip you take, be sure to do your research before you head out. Nowadays, we have the luxury of utilizing the Internet to access a variety of resources to maps with satellite imagery, flow rates, weather forecasts and much more. Print what you can and take a step further by identifying and marking your launch and take out points. Last thing you want to do is end up miles from where you should have taken out especially in a river with a strong current. You should also take the time to identify and mark any known hazards. Once again, do your research, you’ll find plenty of information out there and don’t forget to store your maps and notes in a waterproof map sleeve.

Tip: If you own an iPhone, download our ACK Kayak Launch Points App! (www.AustinKayak.com/app)

SEVEN: Respect the Environment
You don’t have to be a diehard environmentalist to understand the impact humans are making on our natural environment. When planning your trip plan ahead for what you will be doing with your trash and yes, human waste. Try to eliminate as much packaging as possible for all food items. Also, when disposing of trash, consider utilizing an “animal” proof container instead of plastic trash bags.

On the flipside, you probably won’t have access to any public restroom facilities so when it comes to human waste, dig a hole and bury it. However, be aware that some federal and state agencies have specific requirements regarding how to properly dispose of human waste — get informed.

Tip: Take an empty produce bag with you and do your part to pick up trash you see along the shoreline. Just don’t over do it, remember your boat’s capacity!

EIGHT: Be Conscious of Private Property
Most of Texas is privately owned and when it comes to riverbanks and shorelines, they are usually no exceptions. When you are set to head out on your adventure, be sure to study those maps and other resources you found and mark all the points that you know are legally available for public use. While it’s easy to want to just get off your kayak to picnic on a secluded piece of land, keep in mind that you may be doing this in someone’s backyard. Respect his or her property just like you would want someone to do yours. Last thing you want to do is end up in a confrontation in the middle of nowhere.

Tip: Some landowners will let you rest and maybe even camp on their property, it never hurts to ask!

NINE: Stay Safe and Be Prepared
With proper preparation, you will have a fun and safe trip but when the unexpected happens, be ready! Aside from the a few must haves such as a complete first aid kit, signaling device, matches, etc. it’s probably a good idea to carry a few other not so conventional items such as rope, an extra emergency paddle and a kayak repair kit. Also, one of the most important things you can do is tell someone what your plan is. In other words, share your route, return dates, etc. with anybody and everybody. Once again, we could dedicate an entire article to this topic so just be cognizant of weather forecasts, your route, and the wildlife you may encounter and make sound decisions on the type of emergency gear you should take.

Tip: Use a red dry bag for your emergency kit and mark it as so along with your name, emergency contact and any other important medical information with a permanent marker.

TEN: Enjoy Yourself!
Okay so nobody needs to be reminded how to have fun on a kayak camping trip because you just will but make the best of it in every way possible. Kayak camping can be one of the most exhilarating, relaxing and rewarding experiences for any paddler. With proper planning and execution, you’ll surely be making memories that will last a lifetime!

I do invite you to comment below with your suggestions on the things that make your trips more enjoyable and safe.


Winds of Shift

Always stay up-to-date on the weather forecast

I recently had an opportunity to take a quick trip to Matagorda Bay here in Texas with my co-worker Jerron for some coastal winter kayak fishing. The game plan was to target trout in the morning and hope for the sun to lure some redfish into the flats for some easy catching. However, the weather didn’t quite cooperate the way we had hoped. While the forecast called for 10-15 mph winds out of the southwest with mostly sunny skies, the weather quickly turned on us. Shortly after getting on the water the winds shifted from the North and quickly approached the 20-25 mph range.

Paddling in winds over 20 mph may not necessarily be ideal paddling conditions in an open bay but with some practice in paddling technique, understanding how to use the weather to your advantage, and the right equipment it can certainly be achieved. If you’re like me, when you have a busy schedule, you take the opportunity to go fishing when you can regardless of the weather conditions.

The first and most important thing is to know what to expect in terms of the weather. As you can see, we were caught off guard, and could have easily avoided this scenario if we knew when this front was going to hit.

Next, know and respect your physical limitations. One-way to avoid getting tired too quickly is to use the weather to your advantage. For instance, if your launch point is facing north and the wind is coming from the same direction, head out directly against it. Once you’ve reached your destination, you can simply drift to where you started by letting the wind take you back to the launch point. Besides, you typically have more energy when you get started.

Of course the winds can shift on you without warning, and when they do, you can always rely on your gear to help you get through it. One thing I recommend for any kayak angler is to get a rudder. It will enable you to compensate for “weathercocking”, which is what happens when a side wind pushes the stern of your kayak causing your boat to always turn into the wind. It stabilizes the stern of the boat allowing you to maintain your normal paddling cadence for maximum efficiency. Without a rudder, you will constantly have to perform corrective paddle strokes in order to track straight. This will cause you to tire out more quickly and lose efficiency in your forward momentum.

Most paddles give you the option to "feather" the blades.

Then there is always paddling technique. Stat by “feathering” your paddle. It does take a little time to get used to but once you get comfortable, it can make a huge difference. Your paddle blades act as small sails when the wind grabs them, so by feathering them you are setting them at an angle and your paddle blades can now essentially “slice” through the wind as opposed to hitting it face on.

Stohlquist Warmers Fingerless Gloves

We’ve recently talked about cold weather paddling apparel but I can’t stress how much of a difference a simple pair of gloves can make. I recently purchased the Stohlquist Fingerless Gloves. I highly recommend these because they help keep protect your hands from the elements, including the sun, as well as reduce the friction on your hands when paddling. Of course, as a kayak angler, the half finger design is imperative when fishing.

These are just a few tips to help make your kayak fishing trips a little easier on those windy days. If you ever have any questions or just want to come into the shop and talk kayak fishing come by our Houston location and we will be more than happy to share all our kayaking and fishing knowledge. And as always, we want to know more about our customers. Do you have any tips you’d like to share with us? Leave us a comment below.

ACK – Houston

Don’t Leave Home Without It!

A simple anchor float is rarely an item of discussion when talking about paddling gear. However when kayaking on a less than perfect day it can really save you from losing your gear, especially if you are in a kayak in less-than-perfect conditions.


Point in case:

Recently I was kayak fishing one or our coastal bays facing 20 mph+ winds and made the amateur mistake of forgetting to check my drain plug. I quickly found my kayak sinking while anchored in deep water. I wanted to avoid a bad situation so I unhooked and flung the anchor rope off my kayak and made a mad dash to an Oyster bank and drained the water from my boat.  It was then I realized that finding my anchor rope would be next to impossible. This was exactly the issue. With no anchor rope in sight, combined with the high winds, I was forced to leave my honey hole with the fish still biting. If only I had an anchor float I could have continued fishing and not been obligated to buy a new anchor and rope. I also lost the fishing spot before I could mark it on my GPS.

When I purchased my new anchor system, I decided to add an anchor float. At only $4.99, it’s an investment worth its value when you compare it to the $25 plus you’ll spend on a new anchor system.

Once again, I found myself back out on the water on a less than perfect weather day. I felt comfortable knowing that I wouldn’t loose my anchor this time. I also found the perfect alternate use for it. I was anchored in fairly deep water and realized when I was pulling up my anchor I was pulling my kayak against the current and in doing so I was getting soaked with cold December water. To avoid getting soaked I would just un-cleat my anchor line and make a U-turn to retrieve my anchor positioning the bow of my kayak into the current and use the rocker of my boat to absorb the waves thus staying dry and of course, not losing my anchor.

By using an anchor float I don’t have to worry about loosing my anchor and I am even able to stay dryer and when Mother Nature is against me. I highly recommend these floats to anyone who finds themselves using any type of anchor. It can save you from having to replace costly gear and will help you enjoy paddling with fewer headaches.

Do you have any alternate uses for your anchor float? We want to know! Leave some comments below.

Grant Heatherly
Store Associate
ACK – San Marcos