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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PFDiva lives to yak another day

"Well there's floodin' down in Texas
All of the telephone lines are down
And I've been tryin' to call my baby
Lord and I can't get a single sound."

*Trigger warning for anyone who has lost somebody to drowning.

Tony has been telling me that I put way too many statistics in my blogs, and most people tune out because of that.  For this entry, I’ve decided to put away my research and just go for it:

People are drowning.  At Sea.  In Lakes.  In Rivers. In Texas Floods.  Lots of people.  In record numbers this year.  And almost all of those people could have avoided their deaths by wearing a life vest of some sort.  

As a kayak angler, there isn’t a single part of my brain that understands this blatant disregard for life.  I’ve seen anglers attach rod floats to their custom rods while explaining that, “that sucker cost me $300.  I don’t want to lose that fine piece of work.”  I’ve seen anglers buy floating keychains, floating fish grips, floating measuring boards, floating sunglasses.  These kayakers will buy paddle leashes, zip-ties, action cam mounts, floating stringers, bungees, etc.---- all in the name of protecting their precious cargo.  But God for-freaking-bid they protect the most precious cargo in that boat… their own lives.

There are plenty of excuses, and I have an answer to all of them:
  1. PFDs are uncomfortable.  Yeah, well, so is a jock strap and a cup--- but I’m sure you don’t mind protecting those jewels.
  2. PFDs are expensive.  Yeah, well, so are funerals.
  3. PFDs are bulky and make me look fat.  Yeah, well, birth control makes you look fat, but I promise you look more fat when you’re pregnant.  
  4. PFDs are constricting.  Yeah, well, I bet you won’t be able to move around much after you’ve drowned either.
  5. I can’t find a PFD that I like.  Yeah, well, I bet your family won’t find a casket for you that they like.
  6. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

If you think I’m being too harsh, I don’t care anymore.  I most certainly am judging you if you aren’t wearing a PFD while you are on the water.  You might think - “well, I’m familiar with this area of water.”   No.  No, you are not.  Unless you’re freaking Jacques Cousteau’s genius mentor/ submarine guide to the entire oceanic floor, then you are NOT familiar with that water.  That water is an unpredictable beast.  She is a doting wife one second and an angry mistress the next.  If you think you can clock her movements, with observable science, you need mental help.  If you think that you aren’t hurting anyone else, you are dead wrong.  That sea will swallow you whole and look for her next snack while your family and government employees lose weeks of sleep and suffer irreversible trauma because of your negligence.

I’ve got those excuses too.  I still haven’t found my go-to life vest because this PFDiva needs:
  1. an appropriate length.  I’m 5 ft. 10 inches. Not all chicks are 5 ft. 2 inches.  It would be awesome if it didn’t look like I was wearing a toddler life jacket every time I sat down in the yak.
  2. a cost that isn’t higher than my wedding ring.  Seriously--- if it costs that much, my husband might feel that my priorities were a little sketchy (Who am I kidding- we all know he’d be proud).
  3. cute colors and a fitted shape because I am not trying to be one of the guys.  I’m a woman- and that PFD better be damn awesome if it’s gonna be covering up my Rowdy Maui shirt.  Maybe some girls want to wear RealTree Camo print, but I’m just fine NOT shooting a deer from my yak. Plus, I'd really like to NOT be "invisible" to nearby boaters. 
  4. room for actual boobs to actually exist while breathing at the same time (not the kind that are paid for and just stay in one place, not the tiny runway model kind--- the kind that fed two kids and shift around during movement).  Also-  I have hips. Please account for that extra space, so my vest doesn’t ride up and give me double chins during my grip and grins.
  5. While I'm at it--- Can I get an "AMEN" for top-loading pockets? Who in the hell decided that women's PFDs needed no pockets? Who in the hell thought side-loading pockets were convenient on a life jacket? I mean- I'm girly, but I damn sure don't take my purse out on the yak with me, C'mon y'all. For Real-----> top loading pockets, please. 
  6. And a convenient place to clip my pink Smith and Wesson knife.

What it all boils down to is that this buttercup is gonna suck it up.  I just flat out don’t care anymore about any of those excuses.  I have them all too, but there isn’t a single part of me that thinks I will look cute getting sucked into the vortex that is Charybdis, grasping for my life or stuck under the root of a huge tree in the Trinity River while Equisearch and my family scour a grid on a map looking for my dead and bloated bass-eaten body.

This PFDiva will continue to sport a cheap Stearns life-jacket from Walmart until my design demands are met, but you (without a doubt) won’t catch me in the yak without it because forgetting your PFD is just like forgetting you left your baby in the backseat of the car during an August heatwave.  Both actions can destroy the most precious cargo.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Let the Games Begin


There comes a point in your angling career when you must decide whether you will go the tournament route.  This is a decision that I’ve been considering for about a year, and I can’t escape the question:  Are tournaments for me?

For some people, competition is a natural course.  For others, it seems that competition brings out an ugly side to something that is otherwise a peaceful outlet.  When you enter a tournament, your otherwise private skunk becomes embarrassingly public within moments after the weigh-in begins.  Instead of just a slow day on the water, you begin to wonder if all those who have supported or sponsored you will doubt their faith in you.

Fact of the matter is- if you want to be a pro, you have to prove that you are a pro in a public forum.  No longer does it matter if you are your mom’s favorite angler.  

I had been signed up for my first Lone Star Kayak Series Tournament for several months. The first event out of four was to be on April 18th. I was more than anxious on several levels. Before the 18th came around, I got the opportunity to fish in a local benefit tournament for Lance Linthicum . I was excited to be able to compete for a good cause, and this was also a great way to pre-fish for the LSKS.  I had my Hook 1 jersey ready for the winner’s stand and my new T-bone bed extender  was going to get my Wildy Ride 135  there in good condition.


It took me until about 10 pm the night before to rig up my HookSpit Performance Rods and finally decide on a spot to fish. I wanted to be close to the weigh-in located in Sunny San Leon, but at the last minute, I decided to fish a familiar spot in Galveston. Since this tourney allowed bait or artificial, I decided to use both.
hook spit.jpg  prep.jpg

This proved to be a fun mistake on my part. I know live shrimp can be a great choice, but I usually go with dead shrimp if I'm using bait. I was confident I'd catch some reds on it. Instead of a beautiful red, I ended up catching the following (on dead shrimp):
- Two stingrays
- a 22" gafftop
- several hardhead catfish
- one small black drum,
- a whiting
- a  couple of croakers

I knew I had back-tracked into a pattern of fishing I had started out with years ago and although I don't discourage it because it can be fun for some, it’s just not my style anymore. Too many unwanted fish caught and precious minutes with my line out of the water while releasing them. Running out of time, I found a familiar deeper channel in the marsh and started throwing a popping cork with a Vudu shrimp. A few minutes later, I felt that hit and knew I had a redfish. 17" was not going to cut it, but I was relieved it was not a stingray. My buddy, Jose, joined me in my spot and he, too, quickly got a smaller redfish. He was smarter and using live shrimp. Sadly our time was running out, and we both ended up with an empty stringer. Later on in the day, I found out that only four kayakers had signed up and out of the four of us- only one caught some tourney-grade fish. One keeper redfish, flounder, or trout would have put me in second place. I'm sure I won’t get that opportunity again.  This is likely something that will haunt me for quite a while, as my Hook 1 jersey will have to wait for another day in the sun.


The weigh-in was a blast as this tournament had a boat division as well, and I loved watching the fish being brought in, especially when so many were released to fight another day. Most importantly, they raised quite a bit of money to help Lance and his family out. I met lots of new people and saw some friendly, familiar faces. I'll be back, better and with no dead shrimp. Add in that I missed a couple of flounder and had a nice trout get off at the boat somewhere.

After getting a few high-fives and hand shakes from the wonderful Pier Pressure Girls and Mike Bishop (the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner - he and his lady are cool as a fan) in my first-ever tournament, it was good to learn that most people in the angling world are still supportive and understanding when a day on the water doesn’t turn out as expected.  It was also important to learn that the only expectations I have to live up to are the ones I set for myself. No bad days on the water... only lessons learned.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Coastie Culture on a Mission

“In one way or another, every landform and creature on Earth
reflects the presence of the oceans.
Understanding the Earth’s oceans is essential to our understanding of human history,
the origin of life, weather and climate, medicines, the health of the environment,
energy sources, and much more.” 

Lately, we’ve been handing out Coastie Culture business cards left and right to any and every person we meet who seems remotely interested in water, kayaking, or angling- carefully explaining that our business will officially launch “soon”.  The one question that immediately follows is, “what kind of business is this?”  The answer to that question is something we have tossed around for a while now, and we have finally been able to nail that down.

Over a year ago, we sat looking at our one and only kayak and decided that it shouldn’t just be a toy in our garage.  We made the choice to shift our career-driven lives into a Coastie Culture.  Since then, we’ve added three more yaks to the fleet and spent hundreds of hours on the water (with and without fish).

Crystal and Tony (husband and wife)- Owners of Coastie Culture

After building our social media presence, collecting some wonderful sponsors, and meeting so many amazing people, we sat at that same garage table while staring at our yaks and, thanks to some advice from Brooke and Robert Dunning (our friends over at Allgood Auto), decided on a mission for Coastie Culture.

Mission: Coastie Culture is the connection between man (or woman) and water.  It is the idea that we are a reflection of the coastline.  It is simply getting outside to explore the merging of land and water. Coastie Culture is self-improvement, exploration, conservation, experience, and safety.

Self- Improvement
Getting outside for a mere 5 minutes a day has been scientifically proven to ease depression, improve your outlook and focus, as well as strengthen your immune system. According to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the closer you live to nature, the healthier you're likely to be. Even more so when you live closer to the water.  Science shows that just being in nature can improve your brain function.  
Coastie Culture focuses on kayaking as a means of spending time outside--- because of this, there are added physical health benefits.  Just one hour of kayaking burns about 350 calories! It improves strength by providing a full-body workout when implementing proper paddling techniques.  Kayaking decreases fat and builds lean muscle muscle mass.  Men’s Journal has even dubbed kayaking as one of the best workouts for heart health (Huffington Post).  

Coastie Culture yaks in three counties: Galveston, Brazoria, and Harris.  
Aside from there being over 1 million different species in the ocean, about ⅔ of the ocean’s species remain undiscovered and according to the EPA, “The Gulf of Mexico yields more finfish, shrimp, and shellfish annually than the south and mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and New England areas combined.”  There are mysteries in our waters calling to curious minds.   
History tells us that the pirate, Jean LaFitte, had a big hand in establishing Galveston--- that, alone, is enough to pique interest, but I will also add that Galveston is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the United States.  You can tour all of these points of interest by foot or car--- but why not take the yak to explore this island filled with Victorian-era architecture.  There is something alluring about a city that has survived the worst natural disaster in U.S. History.
Some of the most gorgeous species of birds roost in Galveston County, but Brazoria County is home to more species of birds than any other county in the country.  You haven’t lived until you have been on the water less than 20 yards from a Roseate Spoonbill (Spoonie)- the feeling is indescribable.

Roseate Spoonbill

Our Gulf beaches are often considered some of the best shelling beaches in North America- boasting more than 400 species of shells.
If you need more of an adrenaline rush, all three counties house multiple freshwater and brackish bayous that are great for alligator spotting although we try not to get too close on account of the desire to keep all of our limbs.  Most of the Coasties down here like to leave the gators to the experts in Louisiana, but you’ll often find us spending a day in the saltwater in search of the South Texas Slam - you’ve got to earn your angling accolades by snagging a redfish, a flounder, and a speckled trout all in the same day.

Coastie Culture is a big advocate of conservation efforts.  While fishing, we practice catch and release a majority of the time.  There is nothing wrong with taking an excellent meal home for your family from time-to-time; however- we are on the water a few times a week, and it’d just be flat-out irresponsible and wasteful for us to keep every fish we caught.  For future anglers and marine biologists, we want to leave some of those big boys out there to fight another day.  It’s just our way of showing gratitude to the fish for providing us with a good day on the water.  
A standing rule at Coastie Culture is to ALWAYS leave the coast looking better than when you got there.  Thanks to the Russ at Coastal Country Cleanup for leaving free mesh-bags at surrounding bait and tackle shops, so we are all able to keep one with us on the yak to hold our trash.  We also like to try to fill our bags with whatever else we see discarded on our coastline since we love where we live and want others to love it too.  
Coastal Country Cleanup

Seaweed- sometimes there’s seaweed collected on the coastline down here in Galveston.  It doesn’t always smell too pretty, but we are grateful for the fact that it is helping to cut down on the erosion of our beaches - which is extremely important considering that the Gulf of Mexico has the nation’s highest erosion rates ( up to 6 feet a year ).

Yak right over that seaweed.

The more a person experiences on the coast, the more likely they are to grow to love it just as much as we do.  Coastie Culture is about having fun and creating memories with friends and family.   We want you to experience the health benefits of being outside.  We want you to experience the self-confidence that comes from challenging yourself physically.  We want you to experience the thrills of exploration.  We want you to experience the feeling of appreciation and admiration for the environment.  We want to feed your coastal curiosity and inspire all sorts of future anglers, yakkers, nature enthusiasts, and scientists.  There is no better way to do that than to provide a fantastic and safe experience out on the water.

Self-Improvement, Exploration, Conservation, and Experience weigh next to nothing when scaled against Safety.  At Coastie Culture we are well-aware that our bays, marshes, and bayous can pose some hazards for even the most experienced kayakers.  That’s why we have partnered up with the American Canoe Association. The ACA is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to expanding proper paddlesport education.  Coastie Culture is owned by an ACA Certified Kayak Instructor (Tony) who can instruct you on proper paddling techniques or safety and rescue procedures.  We also offer Intro to Kayaking courses.  

Our ACA Certified Kayak Instructor, Tony 

*Remember to "Cast the Coast" safely.

We are planning to launch our ACA courses and various Coastie Culture kayaking experiences this summer, as soon as we can finalize all of the legalities (ie: insurance, staff training, and other logistical red-tape). Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Blogger to stay updated.

Until then, we’d like to thank our families, friends, and everyone in this industry who has supported and encouraged our dream for Coastie Culture---- go check them out:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

To Simplify, or Not to Simplify? A Yak Question.

I've been kayaking sporadically since I earned my first beads for a wet exit at Kamp Kanakuk in 7th grade. But, in January, we snagged a good deal on a 2014 Wilderness Ride 135, and that's when things got serious.

Me in my Ride 135

Tony drove all the way to Lafayette, Louisiana to pick up my baby and to add a Tarpon 140 to our fleet. I don't call them our "babies" lightly. When you've got four yaks carefully stowed in your garage and two vehicles parked in the driveway exposed to the elements, it's a huge statement about your priorities. Judge us if you want.
The new babies from Louisiana

The amazing thing about kayaks is that they provide a sort of simplicity to the angling sport. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
1) Boats are freaking expensive!
The cost of maintaining a boat is out of the question for most people. I believe that we'd have to take out a second mortgage on the house to pay for said boat. We'd spend all of our extra cash paying for gas just to take the boat out. Then you've got to worry about insurance and maintenance on top of that. My dad (a boat owner) often reminds me that there are two most exciting days for a boat owner: the day you buy your boat and the day you get rid of it. At this point, we've had zero finance fees, zero fuel costs, and zero maintenance issues with any of our four yaks.
2) Kayaks are extremely portable.
Unlike boats, no special trailers are necessary when you are ready to drop everything and get out on the water. I've even witnessed my 100 lb. friend whip out her tandem yak and scoot it right on top of her Pontiac Grand Am, and strap it to her roof with ease. We were loaded up and on the water within minutes.

Easily loaded and ready to go

3) Yaks provide an added health benefit.
I can tell you from experience that with proper paddling techniques, you will get a full body workout from a day on the yak. It's not just an upper body thing. Your core is constantly working to keep you balanced and aiding in a stronger and more efficient paddle while your legs are helping to brace your position and boost your speed. I don't remember having a single sore muscle on the days I was out on the boat.
4) Yaks are Eco-friendly.
That's right. No environmentally-damaging emissions given off from these babies. No worries about fuel spills in our bays that will harm the aquatic life.
5) Yaks provide the ability to navigate areas that you can't get to by boat or foot.
Man, oh man- have we been able to creep into some confined spaces with these babies. I've seen some things in an up-close and personal way that I never would have been able to experience from a boat simply because boats are much bigger.

Can your boat go here?
or here?
what about here?


All that being said--- there are plenty of yak options that will enable you to bring out your inner-techie.
1) Maybe you don't want a full-body workout or have physical limitations.
Some people choose to get a yak with system that allows them to propel the craft by foot.  Others even add-on a trolling motor.
In a world where we are always "plugged-in", it's quite a change to get out on a yak with no electronics. If that bothers you, most yaks are built with that in mind. You can easily have a fish finder  installed or purchase mounting systems  for your action camera and smart phone.
Tony- battling a red fish and his go-pro

3) Gear Storage
Holy options, Batman! I can't even begin to list the numerous choices you've got for storing your gear on a yak. Rod holders, and Black Paks , and Trax systems - Oh My! We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I'll be the first to admit that juggling a paddle and a rod at the same time would even frustrate Ghandi.

4) Seats
After a day on the water, it's normal to get what I call "bleacher butt". This is a condition categorized by numbness and discomfort even in the most naturally padded hind-ends. This is one of the many reasons we are loyal to Wilderness Systems. They've got the best yak seats on the market. Most of their yaks come standard with a low riding seat that will easily slide forward or backward for proper positioning. You can adjust the straps for better back support which aides in the paddling process. Or--- you can upgrade to their high-seat if you want to get a better view for sight-casting. If that's not enough for you, their new ATAK yak  has what I call the "Autobot" seat option. It's actually called the AirPro Max 3D seat. This bad boy can do everything. In true Transformer- fashion, this sucker can fold all the way down when not in use, it can slide forward or backward across the length of almost the entire deck, it can lift and lower, or it can be adjusted into a standing perch for sight-casting and bleacher-butt avoidance. (Yes, please!)
air pro max.jpg
airpro 3d.jpg

5) Colors
In the kayaking world, it's always an added safety benefit to have a yak that is bright in color, so you become more visible to boaters on the water. Although, many hunters opt for something more neutral in order to camouflage the yak from their prey. If you're looking for a good deal, you take whatever color you can get then pimp out the yak with colored Trax systems, bungee , or ConSeal Kits.

It all boils down to the person in the yak. While the simplicity of yak fishing is certainly alluring, there are many add-ons that offer convenience and ease.  Gear does matter. I started fishing with a Shakespeare rod and reel combo and it sort-of got the job done. After I upgraded to a Hook Spit  Hot Stix rod with an Okuma Trio spinning reel, I quickly realized that Shakespeare don't know shit about fishing. Yet--- Hamlet's centuries-old questioning still remains. To simplify or not to simplify?

That, my friends, is a balance you choose for yourself.