Jackson Kayak Villain Review with Tim Kelton

To preface everything, I just finished my fourth run with the new regular Villain I picked up yesterday, so I’ve only ran the Embudo a few times. Since this is a new boat, I thought that my initial impressions might be helpful to some people out there. First off I’m 5’11 and 165lbs without gear. I could have gone with either the Villain S or regular, and ended going up a size (to the regular). Part of the reason for this decision, was because I creek in moon boot type canyoneering shoes, and there just wasn’t enough foot room. I also enjoy doing a lot of multi day trips and often have another 20-30lbs of gear in the boat.
Coming from regular displacement hull boats, I immediately noticed how quickly the Villain turned and could be maneuvered around. While this threw me off lines a few times initially, once you get used to it, it is very nice for pivot turns on the tops of waves, on boofs, or quick last second line corrections. Speaking of boofs, the new Villain really excelled at those. This is partially due to the quick hull speed, and me being on the lighter end of the weight range. For such a long boat (8’8″), I was surprised at how well I could lift the bow up coming off drops. While the Embudo at 3.5′ is not a place I usually try to punch holes, on the few holes that I did punch,I noticed that the slightly less rockered bow seemed to really penetrate through the hole and resurface smoothly.

Pros:

  • Very maneuverable for a 8’8″ boat
  • Lots of storage
  • Back deck of the stern deals well with cross current coming off drops
  • Soft edge can be good for ferries and driving hard to make moves
  • Displacement hull is very stable
  • Has very good speed
  • “Soft” edge and a good mix between tracking and keeping the boat on line and something that won’t catch on slides and rock.

Cons:

  • Can be harder to keep on line when compared to some displacements hull boats
  • 2 sizes can leave some people out
  • Very, very large cockpit requires a XL/XXL skirt

As someone who tried both the Hero and Rocker but never quite got used to them, I was pleasantly surprised by the Villain. It’s a little narrower than previous Jackson boats which helps it means that it is very fast, while still being maneuverable. This helps it do well in a wide range of conditions for those that like semi-planing hull kayaks.

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