As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Fortunately designers follow another approach, which leads us to Jackson Kayak’s latest improvement on a good idea, the Villain. Introduced in April 2010, the Villain replaces Jackson’s first creek boat series, the Rockers, and complements the recently revamped river-running Hero series.

Jackson Villain S / Villain Specs
Length: 8’2” / 8’8”
Width: 25.5” / 27”
Volume: 79.5 / 92.5 U.S. gal
Weight: 46 / 56 lbs
Paddler weight: 100–180 / 155‑230+ lbs
Max capacity: 225 / 300 lbs
MSRP:  $1,049 USD / ELITE $1,195 USD

A Jackson Villain is born

After three years of paddling the Rocker, and thorough testing of the updated design features on the Hero series, Eric Jackson and design partner David Knight had a clear vision of how the new creek boat should look and perform.

“[The Villain] is a mix of the best of the Hero and the best of the Rocker,” Jackson summarizes. “Instead of reinventing the wheel, we went for the magic combination of top-rated features and qualities.”

[ Paddling Buyer’s Guide: See All Creeking Kayaks ]

Performance and handling

The designers gathered input from steep-creekers, expedition boaters and river runners of all skill levels and came up with a few crucial performance requirements: fast hull speed, easy boofs and stays on-line and on the surface in messy water. Three generations of prototype testing later, the Villain S emerged.

The smaller of two available sizes, the Villain S has dimensions and overall shape similar to the Rocker, but does away with its predecessor’s featureless displacement hull, replacing it with a hint of the Hero’s edges and planing hull.

Jackson describes the Villain’s semi-planing hull as “slightly crowned”; a shape that affords easier last-minute corrections and pivot turns on the tops of waves than a regular displacement hull, without sacrificing too much speed. The soft edges slip smoothly over rocks and slides but are assertive enough that you can hold your course and carve in and out of eddies like a getaway driver.

The Villain feels narrow and round, with lightning quick transitions and infinite degrees of edging, but it’s not the greased log Rocker paddlers are used to. We found the rocker profile strikes a nice balance between boofing the long waterline and punching holes. Well-proportioned volume in the ends keep the bow and stern clear of boils and cross currents.

The Villain provides comfort and safety

Outfitting is comfortable, especially in the Elite version (moulded from heavy-duty, crosslink plastic), which includes a plush Sweet Cheeks inflatable, beanbag seat cushion. Non-slip padding is glued throughout the knee and thigh area to give you better control when edging and rolling. A step-out pillar, hull stiffeners, three-inch-thick foam foot blocks and Jackson’s Uni-shock bulkhead round out a bevy of safety features aimed at serious creek boaters.

The Villain offers a great overall package for intermediate paddlers who enjoy running rivers fast and are looking to step up to steep-creeking. If surfing on your way downriver is more of a priority, stick with the Hero.

Is this the Villain you deserve?

For experienced creekers, the Jackson Kayak Villain is a confidence-inspiring ride that begs to rip on the steeps. And if you’re still hanging on to your old creek boat (it ain’t broke…) remember that buying a new kayak isn’t just fun, it’s the progression of our sport.

This article was first published in the Summer/Fall 2010 issue of Rapid Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.


0/5 (0 Reviews)


  1. I’m a solid class III paddler with some experience on class IV. I find that the Villain L is not good for anything above class III rapids. It DOESN”T handle well. The stern, once the kayak is turned in the slightest, makes it very hard to correct course. It takes a backstroke on the opposite side or a sweep stroke on the same side to right it. I’ve found it difficult, often impossible, to control the craft in more technical runs of class III+ and IV nature because of the former. While I can attribute this to some of my own faults as a paddler, the fact that the tail spins out (right at the top of the entrance to tougher rapids) is not just an annoyance, it makes the boat difficult to bring into class IV territory. I’ve found myself running rapids backwards due to the stern issue and often flipping.


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