A review of the Jackson Kayak 2010 Star Series playboats from Rapid magazine.
In the 2004 Formula One auto racing season, Team Ferrari won 15 of 18 races, earning Ferrari the coveted Constructors’ Crown—an award given to the auto manufacturer with the most season wins. It’s rare that a single vehicle so completely dominates an international competition, but it’s not just Italian automakers that have pulled off this coup. At the 2009 World Freestyle Championships, Jackson Kayak’s redesigned 2010 Star series was the chassis to beat—and not many did.
There’s no doubt that Jackson Kayak founder Eric “EJ” Jackson’s policy of sponsoring a large, talented, highly motivated international team played a factor in the Star series’ dominance at the Worlds. The championship’s top three senior men, Nick Troutman, EJ and Stephen Wright, were all members of Team Jackson, as was fifth place finisher Joel Kowalski. But perhaps more tellingly, many competitors without affiliations to Jackson Kayak also chose to paddle Stars.
The senior men’s fourth place finisher, Jules Gallais of France, switched from a composite kayak into an All-Star on the first day of competition when he saw how it performed so strongly in the hands of his competitors.
“There are so many stories like Gallais’ where people jumped in the boat for the first time at the World Championships and felt immediately better and more competitive,” says Jackson.
Gallais can be forgiven for wanting a boat that made every trick look easy. After all, every aspiring and advanced playboater wants the same. And making freestyle tricks as effortless as possible is exactly what Jackson and long-time design partner David Knight had in mind when they sat down to redesign the three-year-old 2007 Star series.
Jackson and Knight started with the existing All-Star, tweaked the rocker and chines, added volume in the ends, narrowed and increased height in the knee area and shaved four inches off the overall length and three pounds off the weight.
“We spent most of the design process just figuring out ways to do the impossible—make the boat much shorter, but still faster,” says Jackson. “We don’t make prototypes so there is never any testing; just do a good job on the design, make the molds and cross your fingers!”
The changes didn’t go unnoticed. The new Star’s light weight, small stature and paradoxical speed made it a top choice for female competitors. On the Canadian women’s senior and junior teams, all six ladies paddled 2010 Stars. Canadian team paddler Annie-Pier Marchand explains, “It is the best freestyle boat for women. The shorter length makes it easier to throw around, spin, blunt, backblunt and stick moves.” Marchand adds that her Star launches off the water without too much effort and the hull speed makes it more retentive on a small, flushy feature like the Worlds wave.
With the broadest range of sizes in the playboat market, Jackson offers a fit for just about anyone. From the tiny Shooting Star—the only boat in the series to remain unchanged for 2010—to the brand new Mon-Star—the first XXL playboat for paddlers up to 300 pounds—a total of five sizes are available.
The new Stars’ proven track record makes them a clear choice for paddlers wanting Ferrari performance from their playboats. While the Star series is user friendly for a freestyle design, Jackson cautions that it isn’t as easy to master as the Fun—Jackson’s river play series—and says it is better suited to “paddlers who are comfortable flipping more often, or who are intermediates.”
Perhaps the similar trajectories of Ferrari and Jackson Kayak are not surprising, given the parallels between Ferrari’s (and Formula One’s) winningest driver, seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, and four-time Freestyle World Champion Eric Jackson. Schumacher and the Ferrari crew likely never admitted to crossing their fingers in the pits, but Jackson’s designs are no less sporty or innovative. Somebody, hand this boat the checkered flag.
JACKSON STAR / ALL-STAR / SUPER-STAR / MON-STAR SPECS
LENGTH: 5’6” / 5’10” / 6’2” / 6’5”
WIDTH: 24” / 26” / 27” / 28”
VOLUME: 46.8 / 55.5 / 64 / 72.8 U.S. GAL
PADDLER WEIGHT: 90–160 / 130–200 / 160–230 / 210–300 LBS
MSRP: $1,199 US