This past week I traveled to the Jackson Kayak Dealer Summit in Sparta, TN to check out the Jackson Kayak Bite fishing kayak, and the rest of what Jackson, Blue Sky Boatworks and Orion had to show. Traveling to Rock Island State Park is always a welcome adventure. The scenery is awesome and the people are pretty darn fun too. On the way in the Jackson crew started sending me text messages. It seemed the state park has double booked the cabin we were staying in. So they put me up in an AirBnB.
The first morning involved a factory tour led by Eric Jackson himself. It's illuminating and informative to learn about US kayak manufacturing. The Jackson Kayak factory is one of the few places where they have no restrictions on photo taking, etc. Here EJ goes over the density checklist to ensure your kayak is packed with plastic in all the right places.
The rest of the day was spent in Marketing meetings, etc. Jackson does a good job of conveying their passion into their marketing materials, and I always pick up some good tips from those meetings. The next day was product rich. The Jackson Kayak Bite was on the beach and ready to be paddled. It was an early prototype and some things may change, but the first impression was good. At $799, this fishing kayak is a strong push back against the big box offerings.
The Jackson Kayak Bite is 11'3" in length and 35" wide and comes in at 69lbs. The Bite paddled well for a 35" wide kayak, and the stand-ability was very generous. This kayak is going to sell. It comes with gear traqcks, flush mounts, cup holder, and plenty of storage.
Next was the Blue Sky Boatworks line-up:
The prototype sail boat version of the Blue Sky Boatworks 360 looked pretty fun. It also had a prototype electric cart that raised and lowered itself in cart mode with the flip of a switch. It was a good looking rig.
The Blue Sky Boatworks oar rig looks like fun, but it to is still in the prototype phase.
The EDrive was available to test out in the Blue Sky Boatworks 360 Angler and in the new Jackson Big Rig FD. The EDrive proved an easy and fun electric motor. When hooked up to the 360 Angler, the Tri-Cat, or the Big Rig, it elicited a smile and made me envision days of ease on the water. There will be an introductory offer on the EDrive that will come at a lower cost than the future MSRP. Stay Tuned for more info on that.
The Blue Sky Boatworks Tri-Cat was the most demo'ed craft on the water. This may look intense but it is a load of fun. The Tri-Cat stayed on the water and the back drop of the Rock Island cliffs made for quite a scene.
The Jackson Kayak Big Rig HD/FD was also a big hit. Cruising around in the Big Rig with the EDrive was pretty awesome. As more anglers get accustomed to the tournament scene the motors become more and more alluring. The Big Rig has stepped in to the pedal and motor market and should make a splash.
The latest offering from the Sparta crew is Orion Kennels for dogs. These are some slick looking dog kennels! Think about hunting dogs, rescue dogs, show dogs, etc. These safety feature rich, solid dog kennels are impressive. If you have an adventure dog this may be the kennel for you. What do you think?
And finally Orion Coolers. I brought home a new 65qt beast for myself. Pretty psyched in it. Now I get to accessorize it.
In all, the Jackson Kayak Dealer Summit was a great time with a passionate crew of whitewater kayakers, and kayak anglers. The Blue Sky Boatworks line-up continues to diversify. The Jackson Kayak brand continues to thrive with new high end and price point offerings. The Jackson Kayak Bite will sell well. And most importantly for us, Jackson Kayak continues to value the strength of their specialty retail partners in this paddlesports industry. We all live this lifestyle, trying to carve out a successful business practice while recreating outdoors with our family and friends. It's a working / playing philosophy that we here at Appomattox River Company can identify with wholeheartedly.