Jackson Kayak Fun Runner Review with Colin Kemp

When Jackson Kayak announced that they were going to release a new river running boat, we were all ears. Through the years, the incredibly popular Fun had managed to morph into a boat that looked more like a freestyle kayak, than it did river runner…For that reason alone, it is great that Jackson has a true river running play boat in their line up. The Jackson Kayak Fun Runner is the type of boat that can give a beginning paddler the confidence that he or she needs to make it through a rapid up right. It will also be a blast for advanced paddlers to charge down high water runs. JK Team Member Colin Kemp was instrumental in designing this boat. Here’s a recap of what we learned after talking with him:

Jackson color options for 2012

Check out the detailed specs in the slide show:

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Key Points:

  • The Fun Runner is a brand new boat altogether. The concept for the boat was taken out of the Hero and Fun. The Hero was a great river runner, but lacked some “playability” because of the volume distribution in the bow and stern. The Fun, could also run rivers, but needed some additional volume and length for instructional fleets, beginning kayakers, and also for advanced paddlers who wanted a to take their paddling to the next level.
  • Colin Kemp has a background in teaching kayaking. JK was really lucky to have someone like Colin aid in designing this boat. He had the ability to test prototype models on his students, and receive first hand feedback as to what worked, and what didn’t. The overwhelming consensus was that the Fun Runner was a great boat, and really fun to paddle. One thing that was particularly interesting, was that Colin noticed that The Fun Runner allowed beginners to see if they wanted to be playboaters, river runners or creekers…Because the boat surfs, has a bow and stern that initiates vertically, but also has enough volume to boof and run rivers, a beginning or intermediate paddler will be able to experiment with different types of boating styles.
  • The Fun Runner was designed by JK design master David Knight.
  • If you live near the ocean, and want to kayak surf, THIS IS THE BOAT FOR YOU.After interviewing Colin, it became apparent, that his genuine enthusiasm after a few surf sessions was enormous. The Fun Runner was fast enough to actually accelerate down the face of the wave, as opposed to many playboats, that are too short to actually surf the wave. Paddling out is also a blast, nothing feels better then throwing a huge wave wheel (or kick flip) on a 6 foot tall wave,  in an 8 Foot plus play boat.

    The Fun Runner hull can generate enough speed to carve down the face of ocean waves.

    Wave wheels and kick flips in the ocean are way too fun.

    Blasting the Fun Runner in the surf.

    Fun Runner ocean surfing! from Colin Kemp on Vimeo.

  • The drop chine is very similar to the Fun. If you like the way the fun carved, then you will like the Fun Runner too.

    Even surfing smaller waves are fun when you have a long fast boat.

  • The rocker profile, and bow shape on the Fun Runner is different than the Fun. At times, the Fun would perl when surfing (bow would dip into the water). This issue has been eliminated in the Fun Runner.
  • The Fun Runner can run the s#@t. So far this thing has been paddled on the North Fork of The Payette, Tallulah and The North Fork of The Feather. Here at CKS, were pretty pumped on paddling it on high water Arkansas runs. Big water play.
  • The knee area sits a little lower on the deck in front of the paddler, and is also a little bit flared. What does this mean? The Fun Runner is very quick edge to edge, and is also very easy for smaller paddlers to get their hands out over the boat, when setting up for a roll. Essentially, the boat has a snugger deck. The reason for all of these tweaks, is a result of beta testing with students, beginning paddlers and consumers. Jackson wanted to make sure that this boat was as easy to learn to roll in as possible.
  • The Fun Runner throws down. Often times hucking ends in an 8 foot long play boat, can be more gratifying than in a sub 6 foot spud boat. Old school play boaters will have loads of fun in the Fun Runner. Newer playboaters will have a tougher time sinking the ends (compared to a Rock Star or Fun), but will also like the slower, more fluid motion that the boat makes while cartwheeling, squirting and getting vertical. It is easier to learn proper body positioning when the boat moves around a little bit slower.

    Cartwheeling the Fun Runner at Rock Island

    Setting up for something fun at Chili Bar on The American River

We are pretty excited to paddle the Fun Runner here in Colorado. Our rivers are very dynamic and continuous. The water can get extremely high,and play spots can grow to epic proportions. Imagine paddling The Fun Runner on a run like Gore Canyon in the am, and then surfing it at Big Sur or Glenwood later the same day. Personally, I think that the Fun Runner would make a solid boat for our back yard run; the mighty Arkansas. When the water gets high, it is good for us mere mortals to be in a boat that has a little bit of volume and hull speed,  but also is a blast to surf and get vertical in when the time is right. Spring can’t come soon enough!

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