Dustin's a friend of CKS, and is also one of the best freestyle paddlers on the scene today. For a guy that paddles 10 times a year (seriously), and cleans house in just about every comp he enters, his batting average is nothing short of stellar.
He's spent a lot of time behind the wheel of just about every freestyle boat out there (and many hours in Jackson boats). For that reason we thought that he would be a great person to answer some questions that we had about the 2014 Jackson Kayak Rockstar.
Dominating the Vail Games in the old model Rockstar. You can only expect bigger airs, and more dynamic moves in the 2014 Rockstar.
How do the new larger standard Sweet Cheeks improve your performance in the hole/wave?
I've always been a big fan of lots of height under my butt, and this is especially the case in the New Rock Star. For paddlers who aren't used to being elevated much in their boat, the new Rock Star may take some getting used to with the Sweet Cheeks 200 adding some height. But if you're serious about freestyle, I highly encourage you to give it a chance. Believe it or not, I paddled this season with two Sweet Cheeks 200s! Even my roll isn't as good with that much height, but my tricks are way improved by the added leverage gained with that kind of height. Same concept as why a C-1er can throw their boat around more easily. I especially found this to be the case on my Phonix Monkeys. At 155 lbs, I find that the Phonix can cause an unpleasant amount of torque on my torso without enough height.
Can you feel a performance change with the new parting line and shorter hull length?One of my favorite improvements in the 2014 Rock Star is the parting line in the bow, near the shin area. It dips down some and creates a more slicey bow profile with some concavity just above the parting line on the deck. I find that this feature really helps cut the bow under during long axis rotation on moves like the McNasty and Phonix. I haven't paddled the boat a whole lot on a wave, but it seems the rocker profile is better, improving hull speed and the take off for wave tricks.
Does this boat have any downriver potential for more experienced paddlers?
Sure, of course. I've always enjoyed paddling a full-blown freestyle design on bigwater runs. High water numbers, Upper Gauley, New River Dries... super fun to play your way down runs like this if you're up to it. Of course it's totally dependent on how experienced you are. Ease into it, try paddling it on a run your're familiar on and comfortable with. If it goes great, step it up a bit next time. Make sure your roll is still bombproof in your freestyler- I'd never recommend hopping in your freestyle boat on a more challenging run if it means your roll will suffer. Also, I'm very cautious about taking a freestyler on steeper, lower volume runs where consequences can be dangerous. I was never one to run hard stuff in a freestyle boat for the sake of it. I'd rather be safe in a river runner or creek boat in those circumstances. But if it's a relatively forgiving run you're extremely comfortable on, go for it!
What reasons would the average boater choose the competition over the standard?
Well if you're considering the 2014 Rock Star, I'm assuming that cutting edge freestyle performance is important to you. The carbon seat track really does make a noticeable difference for wave performance. So I'd say that if you're going to drop the dough on a new boat, it's probably worth the $150 extra, especially if you plan to do any wave surfing. If you know that you'll never paddle on waves and work on wave moves, maybe it's not worth it. But if you do, the extra cost is worth it to me. Basically you're getting most of the stiffness benefits of a composite boat (more than double the price of plastic) for $150. Without the carbon track, your hull will when you load up for a wave move, and that definitely translates to less air on the trick. You can stand on the hull of the competition version (not necessarily recommended- especially not on pavement!) and it basically doesn't flex.
A lot of the outfitting has been upgraded how is the over all feeling in the boat.
Feels great! The new hip pads are a nice improvement.
Do the alterations to the hull make the boat more retentive in the hole. Probably. The stern is short, stubby and high volume at the tip; this definitely means that you will be more retentive landing loop tricks on your stern when a slicier sterned boat will tend to flush. I do think the new Rock Star sees a lot of podium finishes (in addition obviously to the skill of the paddlers in the boat) because it's more retentive, especially in the stern, than many of the other boats in competition. This is especially true in the flushy features that we see at many of the event. That wider high volume stern can be a bit harder to pull through if you don't get a lot of air on your trick, but its short length probably makes up for it.
Overall what are the big difference between it and the 2012 Sliciness of the bow profile, hull speed/ stiffness and stern retentiveness