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Old Lyme shop gets creative with customizable kayaks

“These are not your dad’s kayaks anymore," said Joe Harasyko.

OLD LYME, Conn. — It’s become a niche business at Black Hall Outfitters; customizing kayaks so people can paddle in style.

Black Hall has locations in both Old Lyme and Westbrook, specializing in all things aquatic. It was during the COVID-19 crisis that they found their business of customizing kayaks became much more sought after.

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Joe Harasyko, a self-described “Kayak Hot-Rodder” provides the steady hand behind the intricate builds. 

The Kayaks are purchased as a separate unit – it’s what Harasyko does with aftermarket add-ons that have become so popular. 

"We start with lights and electronics, anchor trolleys, rod holders, you name it," he said. “I always joke that I will put a pizza oven or a kegerator on the kayak if you want me to.”

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Gene Chmiel, the owner of Black Hall Outfitters said he has been sending Kayaks to customers across the country – especially lately.

“These are not your dad’s kayaks anymore,” said Chmiel, “we’ve had builds where the electronics we put on the boat (kayak) are worth more than the boat itself.”

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With a fish finder, GPS, and small motor on board, Harasyko was putting the finishing touches on a custom kayak bound for a customer in Texas.

"The boats are evolving, the sport is evolving… and we’re just having more fun,” he said. 

Jimmy Altman is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at jaltman@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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