Ronny Fisher: All Hooked Up

allHookedUpBannerIntroducing our first ever kayak fishing specific vest… the Ronny Fisher!

3-ina-RowFor ASTRAL, a true fishing PFD was a different challenge than our whitewater and recreational designs of the past. In order to clearly identify the needs of kayak fishing, the Astral design team enlisted crucial feedback and ideas from the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NCKFA) a group of expert kayak anglers based in our home state of North Carolina. Most notably, our good friend and NCKFA president, Mark Patterson was instrumental in this process.

Mark Patteron photo: NCKFA

Mark Patterson, photo: NCKFA

Here are a few of the key design elements we identified for the Ronny Fisher:

Comfort and Breathability:  Fishing kayaks tend to have really tall seatbacks, so in order to get the perfect fit we knew our ThinVent(TM) back design used in the regular Ronny lifevest would be perfect. ThinVent technology incorporates a super thin foam evenly distributed in the back that is ventilated for maximum comfort in hot weather. Thus, allowing the user to be able to fully recline in the tallest of seats without interference between the seat back and the PFD.

Jim Buley, photo: Effort Inc.

Jim Buley, photo: Effort Inc.

Just like all Astral PFDs, the Ronny Fisher is articulated to wrap the torso and large arm openings provide a natural and unrestricted range of motion when paddling and swimming. The front foam is also skived which makes a shelf in the chest area, making it a great fit for women, just like our Linda lifevest.

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Kris Lozier at home in VA, photo: Mark Lozier

Functional Storage:  The two large fold down pockets in the front are sized perfectly to fit up to a 6.5” x 4.25” tackle box (sold separately). Included are six strips of peel and stick Velcro so you can mount your small tackle boxes inside the pocket.

On the inside of both pockets are two mesh sleeves with elastic closure and key loops.  On the outside of each large front pocket you will find zippered storage compartments sized to hold a fishing license, an iPhone, and other odds and ends, with dual YKK zippers for quick one hand access.

*accessories sold separately

*accessories sold separately

As shown above the Ronny Fisher can hold a variety of tackle and accessories like:

  • Zinger with clippers
  • Hemostat
  • Pocket Knife
  • Fishing License
  • iPhone with case
  • Plano #3449 Tackle Box with Misc Spinner Lures
  • Small Flashlight
  • Gulp softbaits
  • Jig Heads
  • Small Tackle Box
  • Fox 40 whistle
  • Shiva IPA Beverage
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Philip Ruckart, photo: North Carolina Kayak Fishing

Safety:  Kayak fishing (especially offshore) has some unique hazards of its own and the big one is collisions with motorboats. Because of this we needed our fishing vest to be easily seen so that potential accidents could be avoided.  Reflective accents on the front and back will help you to be seen in low light, and the Ronny Fisher is also available in our very own FLASH GREEN.

william raglusky

William Ragulsky, night fishing

In particular, one of the really cool new ideas that Mark Patterson brought to the table was the addition of a stowable rain hood. This way, if you happen to get caught out in bad weather just deploy the hood from the neck collar to keep your head dry and make yourself easy to spot.

business in front, party in the back

business in front, party in the back

In case of a swim, the Ronny Fisher is designed with 16lbs of buoyancy derived from 100% PE Foam – its feather-light and recyclable (note the avg weight of Ronny Fisher is only 1.84 lbs)!

On the front of the vest is a square plastic lash tab, that has traditionally been used to mount a river knife to the front of our whitewater designs. This could be used to mount your blade where it would be close at hand if you needed to cut a line quickly.

Astral Mid-Atlantic Sales Rep Kelly Fisher, photo: Rick Drew

Astral Mid-Atlantic Sales Rep Kelly Fisher, photo: Rick Drew

Durability:  We know that kayak fishing can dish out a beating on a lifevest, especially with hooks and sharp objects being used.  For the shell material we chose a 500d Cordura®, and then added some 1050d Ballistic fabric in the high wear zones to help reduce abrasion resistance, and to reduce the possibility of a snagged hook on the shell fabric.

photo: Effort Inc.

photo: Effort Inc.

Style: Our initial design intention was to create a technical vest for the “working man” with some style influences from both traditional fly fishing vests and work clothing.  Through the use of ballistic overlays, the vest truly communicates its durability just like your favorite pair of Carhart™ pants. In terms of the feature layout we strived to attain the fine balance of “form follows function,” where pocket shape and location was carefully considered to provide the utmost freedom of movement when paddling and fishing.

Brian "Vince" Vincent, photo: Appomattox River Company

Brian “Vince” Vincent, photo: Appomattox River Company

Other unique features of the Ronny Fisher include:

  • Covered tool organizer on the right side (as worn) with Velcro closure.
  • Zippered beverage holder on left side.
  • Multiple attachment loops for all your tools and gadgets.
  • elastic keepers to help manage your excess straps (so they don’t get hooked).

storage close up

Release Date: January 20th 2014

MSRP: $159.95

Sizing: S/M, M/L, L/XL

Colors: Green, Charcoal

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In our next blog post we will dive deeper into Astral’s emergence to kayak fishing, and meet our original Astral Fishing Team:

  • Mark Patterson: Greensboro, NC
  • William Ragulsky: Norfolk, VA
  • Brian “Vince” Vincent: Farmville, VA
  • Jonathan Leavitt: Falls Church, VA
  • Philip Ruckart: Mebane, NC
  • Mark Lozier: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Kris Lozier; Virginia Beach, VA
  • Matt Baden: Annapolis, MD
  • Chris Tryon: Wilmington, NC

Winter Kayak Bassin With The Ronny Fisher from Jonathan Leavitt on Vimeo.

Astral Expands Asheville Team with the Addition of Digital Media Coordinator

Ty Caldwell

March 6, 2014 – Asheville, NC – Astral is proud to announce Ty Caldwell as the newest addition to their marketing team. Starting this March, Caldwell will be taking on the role of Social Media Marketing Coordinator and Marketing Department Assistant.

Growing up in the paddling scene and close to Astral’s headquarters in Asheville, NC, Caldwell has been on Astral’s radar for a few years. As a regional athlete he has paddled for Astral since 2011 and has always endorsed Astral products while working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Caldwell received his degree in Graphic Art and Imaging Technology from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. While at Appalachian State, he also studied the local watershed and grew as an experienced kayaker.

Astral’s General Manager Yonton Mehler commented, “Ty is a super energetic guy and is genuinely excited about marketing and brand promotion. His good attitude and graphic design skills are going to be a really great addition to our marketing team.”

Caldwell is based in Western North Carolina and can be found wherever there is water. Look for Ty this summer on your local runs.

About Astral:
Founded in 2002, Astral leads the life vest industry in innovative design and responsible manufacturing. Expanding on its commitment to serving core outdoor enthusiasts, Astral now offers award-winning footwear and an innovative collection of products made from industry scrap materials. Astral operates out of three locations worldwide: North Carolina, Vietnam, and Bali. For more information about Astral and its new footwear line, see

Sea Wolf on the Salween River in China

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to China for the first time.  It just so happens the trip was to teach some kayaking and to host our first ever World Kayak Hometown Throwdown in Asia.  After two and a half straight days of travel I arrived on the banks of the Nu river.  In China it is named after the local people that live along its banks.  Upstream in Burma it is called the Salween, by which it is known by most kayakers.  First up was two days of teaching followed by two days of events.   I was able to demo freestyle moves before each of the events and then judge them during the competition. As with my last trip to Ecuador the Sea Wolf was my go to vest for sure.  I knew we would have great play on this big volume glacial river and I figured I would be needing to do a few rescues along the way during the clinics.  The stoke level for the Chinese kayakers was high, real high!  As a result they were willing to try to paddle some fairly big but safe rapids.  That rested in a good number of swims. The tow capability of the Sea Wolf was a real asset when I needed to get a boat full of water to shore in a very wide river.  We also had the opportunity to surf the famous Fortune Cookie wave, to which it did not disappoint.  It was big and gave up just about anything you could do in a boat.  The low profile fit of the Sea Wolf is great for big wave play and is not a compromise when it comes to a freestyle vest.   When it is all said and done China was an amazing experience with friendly people, great food, and a super fun river.

Rasslin Gear

Astral’s Rassler is the ultimate shoe for whitewater kayakers, offering a confidence inspiring grip on slick surfaces, rapid drainage and drying, light weight and superb ankle support.  Rasslin with your favorite whitewater rapids isn’t all you can do with this shoe.  Like the rest of Astral’s footwear collection you can stylishly wear the Rassler off the water as an everyday shoe or during any number of activities where grip and proprioception are paramount.  Just use your imagination and you’ll see that these are not just a great pair of Rasslin shoes.

Chile Travel Notes

I had been planning a kayak trip in my head to Chile ever since I first saw the Demshitz movie my senior year of high school, and this year, 5 years later, after obtaining a college degree, I finally made it happen. So stoked! Chile is full of big waterfalls, clear blue water, and snowcapped volcanoes, making for an exotic and awesome kayaking destination. Along the course of my trip I made some little notes of helpful tips. While I had a great and adventurous time figuring everything out, I would not have minded knowing some things in advance! So here goes:

1: When to go: November is the prime time for creeking around Pucon, and as the water drops throughout December you can work your way south, which will be coming into its prime.

2: If you want to charge, go with a crew. While there are a lot of kayakers in Chile, everyone is on different game plans and many of the best runs are spread out. If you want to charge Chile, rally a crew, rent a car, and get after it! Don’t get eddied out in Pucon!

Alerces-far---Clay-rsz3: Learn at least a little Spanish. Check out the free app “Duolingo”; you can practice on your phone a few minutes a day and figure out enough to get around.

4: Flying with a boat: Lie Lie Lie. Most companies will not fly a kayak (except United), solely because it is called a kayak and their policy says no. Your best bet is to disguise it as much as possible and call it either a surf ski or a surfboard. I would recommend getting a boat bag (I have a Salamander one) for the main reason that it just looks more like a legit piece of luggage and its much less likely that you’ll be hassled about it.  Also, you can put your paddle inside your boat if you take out the rear pillar.

Kayak-Bag-rsz5: Getting from the Airport to Pucon: After you land at the airport, you will need to get to the bus station. You can take a shuttle (big green double decker) or a taxi. Busses to Pucon run at night, with most leaving the station around 10 or 11 PM. The bus station kind of sucks to hang out in so plan accordingly, and make sure you watch all your bags carefully.  Hop on the bus, try and get some sleep and you’ll wake up in beautiful Pucon, Chile in the morning!

6: Roadtrippin: Depending on how long you are in Chile, you may just want to rent a car for the whole time, but if not you can do what we did and rent a car for an epic road trip around the lakes district (basically from Pucon down to the border of Patagonia). Trucks cost about $70 a day and there are a few places in Pucon to rent. There are tons of awesome rivers in this region, highly recommended!


7: Getting to the Futa: There are two options: the easiest is to pay the $160 reciprocity fee and go through Argentina (make sure you pay the fee online before you get on the bus). If you want to save money and aren’t planning on going to Argentina, then you’ll need to get on the Bus-Ferry-Bus program. Take a bus to Puerto Montt, then an overnight ferry to Chaiten (check schedule and get tickets in advance). Once in Chaiten, it’s a 2 hour bus ride to Futaleufu. However, the bus is small and they are not too keen on always bringing kayaks, so if you get shut down you can hitchhike like I did!

Hitchhiking-rsz8: Once in Futaleufu, Hostal Las Natalias is a great place to stay just outside of town. The owner Nate Mack is a boater and can tell you all kinds of great stuff to do around Futa. From his hostel you can put on the Rio Espolon (which happens to be a great run for beginners and/or your girlfriend) and paddle right through Inferno Canyon. The other place to stay is at Cara Del Indio, located in the middle of the most commonly run section of the Futaleufu, where lots of other paddlers stay.

9: What to bring: Pack light, you don’t need much. Bring some warm clothes and rain gear, and if road tripping, some camping stuff. Besides your kayak and gear bag, limit yourself to a backpack. You will be glad to not have excess stuff when traveling with your boat all over the place on busses and ferries!

Nilahue-3---Clay-rsz10: A few more random thoughts: Prices are similar to the states, the water is fine to drink most places, public transportation is great, hitchhiking is mostly easy, there are lots of places to camp, don’t bother bringing a computer, the party doesn’t start until 2:30!

I hope that these notes from my trip to Chile are of some use to those of you who may be planning or thinking about kayaking in Chile. It’s awesome, just go make it happen!

Huge thanks to Kris Belozer, Sean Hurley, and Hayley Spear for the photos.