Jackson Kayak Karma Review

By Sir Kyle Smith

The Jackson Kayak Karma Medium
There are multiple sizes of The Jackson Kayak Karma. Usually I would shoot for the larger of any given companies creek line. Jackson’s Large is touted at 103 gallons. I am 165 lbs, 5’ 9” and enjoy maintaining a glimmer of hope when it comes to staying attached to my shoulder sockets during a hole ride, so give me a break.
I think that we can all agree, this is the dark horse of the creek boating world right now. And it seems to be coming out of the shadows with every Grand Prix or downriver podium place. I, along with many others, excluding Jackson paddlers, have been a staunch sh*t talker when it comes to Jackson creek boats ever since I set eyes on the hero. I am a Jackson playboat advocate, but I have been adamant that superior creek boats were on the market. I will be the first to admit that Jackson has created a non-playboat that is in the same ranks as todays high performance creek/river runners. I would even go as far to say that…it was one of my favorites.

Jackson_Kayak_Karma_Review_Edge

The three tiered chine of the Jackson Kayak Karma is apparent on the left.

Jackson_Kayak_Karma_Review_Edge_side_view

Another shot of the Karma’s edges. They are there when you need to use them, and carve a turn, or surf, but are out of the water and a non issue when you are in boily current, etc…

Hull Design:
Jackson has taken the medium Karma’s 86 gallons and stretched it out into a semi-planing/semi-displacement hulled boat. It has some decent bow rocker that allows it to maintain speed through holes and waves, as well as launch off of boofs. It has a three tiered chine that allows it to grab water and track well in boils. It seems to do just about everything well. The edges are soft as the chines roll up to the top-deck, which allows the Jackson Kayak Karma to displace water easily when boofing big or make sharp turns when tearng into eddies. The chines are reminiscent of the stomper, if only Shane Benedict didn’t seem to have such distaste for sharp things. Like the Burn, the glutious maximus of the Jackson Kayak Karma is transom like, allowing water to press against the butt as the boat moves downstream, giving it that little extra push= faster acceleration.

One design technique that Jackson continues to employ in all of their boats, is the low deck. Where most other boats allow ones knees to rest fairly high in a crouched-puma-primed-to-strike position, the Karma lowers the knees and stretches the legs into a straighter posture. Personally, I prefer the puma like approach. Ready to rip the jugular out of any drop I see fit.

Jackson_Kayak_Karma_Hard_Stuff_II

The Jackson Kayak Karma runs the hard stuff with the best of them.

Jackson_Kayak_Karma_Hard_Stuff

More gratuitous pics of the Jackson Kayak Karma crushing demanding vertical drops.

When paddling the Poudre river at 5ft on the gauge in this boat, I found every reasonable pour-over to launch off of, wave to surf and straight away to sprint in when I wasn’t simply fighting for my life amongst the narrows. I also paid the consequences a couple of times with rowdy side surfs in deep pits, however, the hull of the Karma was forgiving when it came to hydraulic induced window-shades and creek-boat-loops. The buoyancy kept me on top while I sat in the pit getting rallied, and the soft rails kept undercurrents from violently window-shading me. Thanks Karma.

Outfitting:
This has always been a point of contention when it comes to Jackson vs. other models on the market. Jackson minimally uses over engineered outfitting. They staple two cleats into the cockpit rim to adjust the backband via pulling two chords taught. This allows the paddler to simply and quickly adjust the tension of the back-band. This same technique is used for adjusting the bulkhead. A cleat rests on the front pillar which bites into a chord attached to a sliding bulkhead. This makes the Jackson creekers by far the easiest to adjust quickly and eliminates all the fiddling with nuts, bolts, allen wrenches and phillips screw drivers. The bulkhead also floats with a little bit of give since it isn’t bolted into a static flank. When pressing hard on one foot or the other while engaging a turn, the bulkhead moves with you. When shouldering the boat, there is a designated flat webbing-grab loop to assist in carrying.

Does the cordage and cleatage really hold up to the metal rails and ratchets of other models on the market? Can I rely on the chord to hold strong as I am dropping into the Poudre Narrows? Do I need to worry about the cleat blowing out as I take that last stoke into Rodeo Hole on the Payette? I can probably rely on them just as much as I can rely on plastic mechanical ratchets and back bands. I’m currently having my backband-breaking-buddy, Mike Bond, test this hypothesis for me.

Pros:
Jackson kayaks are by far the driest boats on the market. They are able to hold their own against Soviet subs when it comes to reducing leakages by reducing the number of holes which are typically used to attach common outfitting. Other manufacturers- one/two bulk head nuts, one/two nuts for the thigh-hooks and ratchet attachments. Jackson-0 holes. This thing is sealed up tighter than a porpoises… well you get it.

Cons:

  • The plastic of the outfitting seems flimsy. The comfort level when compared with other boats, doesn’t quite match up. The straight-legged posture which the Jackson boats force a paddler into, seems to promote the “my legs asleep again” scenario for me. Maybe it’s just me. A paddler needs to be vigilant of the cord fraying out. This is when I have had problems with my Jackson playboats cleats losing purchase and slipping. The metal “grab-loop” on the front gives nothing to grab and is to small to fit cam buckles through when strapping the Karma.
  • Makes me eat my words that “Jackson should just stick to playboats.

Jackson_Kayak_Karma_Easy_Stuff.jpg

The Karma’s not only great at being a class IV/V steep creeker, it also is forgiving enough to run mellow whitewater. It is a blast on class II and III as well.

Overall:
Jackson has made leaps and bounds with their creekboat designs. The Jackson Kayak Karma is a high performance river runner/ creeking kayak. It can do it all. It’s forgiving, fast, stable and easy for any outfitting lament, like me, to manage. I can barely figure out where my hips pads go. After spending some more time in the Karma, I’m sure I would come to feel just at home with it as I am in any other boat.
It was only a matter of time before Jackson nailed it through the level of paddlers which feedback constructive criticism to the boys and girls in the C.A.D-program-cave.

What do you think? Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Featured products

...
Pyranha Ripper KayakPyranha Ripper Kayak
Pyranha Ripper Kayak
$1,429
5 reviews
In stock