If you’re looking to learn a thing or two about paddle sports, you may want to talk to Jack Schroeder. With a strong background in whitewater kayaking and long-distance canoeing, Jack lead outdoor education classes at Appalachia State University before taking on his current role as paddle sports specialists at Diamond Brand Outdoors. Though he’s paddled all over the world, he says that his love of the sport keeps him in our city. “Asheville is one of the meccas of the world for whitewater kayaking,” he explains. “I especially love having the French Broad River to explore on sunny days.” Here are some of Jack’s top picks for an awesome day on the water.
1. Yeti Tundra 35. This sizable cooler is lightweight and floatable, making it perfect for water sports. It can also keep ice frozen for up to five days in the hot sun and is certified bear-resistant, making it a good choice for car camping, as well.
2. Astral Ronny Personal Flotation Device (Life Jacket). This high-ventilation, roomy life jacket for men has plenty of pockets and even a cup holder built in.This is a zip-into style vest for stylish comfort, and Jack notes that Astral is a great Asheville-based business to support.
3. Astral Linda Personal Flotation Device. This is an all-around great personal flotation device for women, with low cuts around the arm and plenty of room for motion. Like the Ronny, this is a zip-into vest, but features a more sleek and minimalistic design.
4. IR K2 S/S(Short Sleeve) layering shirt: This super-soft layering shirt dries quickly and wicks sweat away easily. It also has no seam lines along its armpits, which prevents chafing. It’s great for keeping you cool on the water, but works well as a layering item to stay warm when heading out in the colder months.
5. Tilley Airflo Nylantium Hat. With a UPF rating of 50+, this hat is excellent at preventing burns, but is still lightweight, working well as a hiking or even gardening hat. Tilley products also come with a lifetime warranty, though this hat is hardy enough that you may never need it!
6. Native Ultimate FX15 Tandem Kayak. This kayak/canoe crossover is extremely versatile, as it can accommodate tandem or solo paddling styles. It also has a stable design, which makes it ideal for fishing and even taking your dog along on the journey. And the company is about as local as they come: they’re only seven miles from Diamond Brand’s location in downtown Asheville!
7. Astral Brewer shoes. This is another excellent product from Astral. Named in honor of Asheville’s breweries, these high-performance water shoes have actually been designed to look like tennis shoes. The Brewers are perfect for getting wet, since they have extremely good traction on wet surfaces, but are great as an everyday shoe, too.
8. NRS Boater’s Glove. These are great for long days of paddling, which can lead to blisters and skin irritation on your hands. These fingerless gloves are also light and incredibly breathable: they have padding on the palms for all day use on the water, and they’re rated UPF 50+ for ideal sun protection.