The First Time My Paddle Hit the Water

I was hooked.  I was hooked in more ways than one, as displayed by the bend in my rod and the smile on my face. At that moment, kayak fishing combined my love of fishing and appreciation for the outdoors, a combination stronger than fried crawfish on my special-recipe Cajun pizza. The experience was not just catching my first fish, but also paddling past a flock of resting pelicans, seeing the beautiful morning sun rise over the water, and most importantly watching my son’s eyes as he showed me his prized trout.

"The first time my paddle hit the water, I was hooked!" -Bill Bragman, Yak Gear President
“The first time my paddle hit the water, I was hooked!” -Bill Bragman, Yak Gear President

As a result, my son and I began to tinker with our kayaks, doing a little here and a little there. After all, I am a firm believer that even the caveman didn’t get a complete kayak from the manufacturer when he crawled to the nearest kayak shop some 200,000 years ago.

This tinkering habit grew. My son, his best friend, and I spent blistering hot Houston afternoons in the garage working on our kayaks. Like Santa and his elves, I manned the saw and drilled the holes, while the kids held the screwdrivers, complained about the heat, and made lemonade runs to the kitchen.

Like all kayakers, we didn’t create brand new products. Instead, we read what others were doing, on what was then the limited number of kayak fishing forums, and proceeded to personalize these ideas. The end result — a unique kayak fishing machine.

We got pretty good at this. In February 2005, we got our start as Reel Deals, an online retailer of two basic leashes and fishing reels. As a kayak angler and curious inventor, I slowly expanded the line to include rudimentary imitations of what is now Yak Gear’s extensive line of rigging kits and leashes. With the manufacturing help of the kids from the garage, we handmade every kayak accessory that went out the door. After all, I offered cable TV and a $3.00 per hour wage, what more could a 15 year old want?

The boys, Mark and Myles, Kayak Fishing at the First Yak Gear Demo Day in 2008
The boys, Mark and Myles, Kayak Fishing at the First Yak Gear Demo Day in 2008

The expansion continued through November of 2007 when Yak Gear reached its 20th product in our paddlesport accessory line. It was then that Yak Gear faced it’s first incoming tide and began offering products to nationwide retail stores.

As the product line continued to expand, Yak Gear began to gain the attention of multiple retail stores, ranging from nationwide big box retailers to family owned, single location kayak shops. Yak Gear currently holds agreements with multiple retail sporting goods stores (Academy Sports & Outdoors, Cabela’s, Dicks Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain, Sport Chalet, Sportsman’s Warehouse and West Marine), as well as over 75 specialty paddle sports shops, with product assortments ranging from 10 to 40 products. On top of these agreements, Yak Gear distributes for other up and coming paddlesport accessory companies, hosts a retail showroom in Houston, Texas, and operates a multinational, e-commerce website.

Little did we know, 7 years later the kids from the garage and I are still at it. Some things have changed since our start in the garage. We have added 10+ other people to the payroll, moved into a 7,500 square foot warehouse, and the kids finally learned how to use the saw. What hasn’t changed is that we are still hand making every leash and counting every screw.

Yak Gear's first holiday season in the new warehouse - Christmas 2012
Yak Gear’s first holiday season in the new warehouse – Christmas 2012

With the new growth of Yak Gear, as symbolized by the new logo and website, and the past success that paddlers and anglers all over the world have helped us achieve, we feel that the guy and two kids in the garage, who used kayak fishing and kayak rigging as a Sunday afternoon hobby to spend quality time together, are proudly waiting to head inside, ready to call it a day. After all, we’ve rigged our kayaks and have helped many people rig theirs. That’s good enough, right?

Sorry guys, we want to keep rigging…

We want to know what you think! What do you think about the home grown history of Yak Gear? Hungry for some “Fried Crawfish Cajun Pizza” yet? Tell us what you think! Comment below, reach out to us at socialmedia@yakgear.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the #YakGear hashtag!

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