A few weeks ago, I received the very exciting news that Jackson’s latest weapon, the 2016 Jackson Kayak Rockstar, was finally in the UK. Shortly after going to pick mine up, I was able to try it out on flatwater, then head to Cardiff (CIWW) two days later for its first proper test run. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to thoroughly test the boat, having also been to HPP, kayak surfing in Wales and to Plattling, Germany for a week.

Side by comparison with the 2014 Jackson Kayak Rockstar:
Holding the new boat up next to my 2014 rockstar, there are some obvious changes in the design. Firstly, the volume distribution has had a significant redesign; volume has been taken out of the ends and moved towards the centre of the boat, especially around the knee area. The volume distribution also seems to be more balanced between the front and back. By slightly changing the amount of space around the knee area, the boat provides the comfiest and most secure seating position of any freestyle boat I’ve been in. This allows you to generate more power through your legs in everything from loops to blunts and airscrews.

Comparing the width with the 2014 Jackson Kayak Rockstar, there doesn’t seem to be a massive reduction in this looking at the boats side by side from above. However, turn the two over and this is a completely different story. The 2016 has a much narrower hull- at least an inch has been taken out from rail to rail. This seems to have been achieved partly by tapering in the sides of the boat more than in the old model. This translates to the boat having many of the good things about a narrower boat (e.g. faster on a wave, easier edge transitions, faster rotations on end when performing splitwheels etc.) whilst maintaining volume and leg room.

Hole/Flatwater Performance:
The first thing I noticed when paddling the boat on flatwater was the ease and speed of cartwheels; slicier ends make the double pump far less effort than any other plastic boat I’ve been in and, when combined with even volume distribution, allow the boat to cleanly rotate end after end. This translates to hole paddling too. All moves where the boat has to cut through the water on end were much easier and more stable. I found the most significant difference for me to be with finishing lunar orbits and tricky-whus, which I often found myself completing even if the initiation wasn’t perfect and in any other boat, would almost certainly have flushed or failed. This has allowed me to begin linking all of these sorts of moves together far more easily and consistently than before.

Although the narrower hull is predominantly for increased wave performance, I can also really feel the benefits on flatwater and in a hole. Any edge changes, such as in splitwheels, are far less effort and more stable as there is less resistance. This is also very useful for Mcnasty’s and Phonics Monkey’s, which, despite slicier ends, go bigger than ever. Loops also finish much easier as the boat seems to rotate really quickly through the air (or water).

Wave performance:
Due to the lack of good waves in the UK in august, I haven’t had a full opportunity to test the new Rockstar on waves. The two places I’ve managed to try it (in the surf and on small waves at HPP) have made me very excited for the winter season to come so that I can try it at Hurley. Even with this limited experience, it is clear that the new Rockstar is a huge improvement on the last boat on a wave! The narrow hull gives the boat so much more speed and acceleration down the wave and edge transfers are unbelievably quick. As well as increasing performance, this makes the boat even more fun to paddle- I often found myself carving and spinning on the wavier bit of Plattling as a nice break from intense hole rides.

Overall, it seems like Jackson Kayak’s have done it again! On a wave and in a hole, it is the best design I’ve ever paddled and I would definitely recommend it!

Here’s a video of some of my first few weeks training in it:

Big thanks to Squarerock for sending one my way so quick and for all their support!
See you on the water.

By Jake Norman