October 8, 2019

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux

Please read this informative, insightful column about ADEM, Tyson, & our Locust Fork River that appeared in The Blount Countian last week.

“L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
By Roger Thorne © 2019
by permission of The Blount Countian
“What’s essential is invisible to the eye,” is the English translation from the famed French children’s book. It is also said to have been one of Fred Rogers favorite quotations. Yes, I mean that Fred Rogers, the one from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
It is usually at my own peril when I differ with Mr. Rogers, but I don’t do so entirely in this case. I only slightly disagree. Not all that is essential is invisible if you consider beauty to be essential. I do.
The Locust Fork River is both beautiful and essential. It is hard to view any part of the river and not be amazed by its natural splendor. It is also the main artery for so much life. Flora and fauna both depend on its clean water. The diversity of fish, amphibians, insects, birds, microorganisms, and mammals sustained by the river is staggering. The same is true of the plants and trees growing along its banks. Each is a piece in a large ecosystem and each piece is necessary for the survival of all.
There are invisible things, stuff not everyone sees, that flow because of the Locust Fork. One is money from tourism, eco-tourism specifically. It benefits the whole county. People travel here to kayak, canoe, fish, birdwatch, or just to enjoy the cool waters on a hot day. They spend dollars at local businesses and some of those dollars translate into taxes collected by local governments. The county commission recognized that when it built the King’s Bend Scenic Overlook in Cleveland.
Of course, many Blount Countians enjoy the river in the same way. Some fish or hunt along its banks. Others may just go sit and listen to the peaceful sounds of nature to relax. The laugher of kids and grandkids splashing in the water is priceless and creates joyful memories that endure for a lifetime. Another memory held by more than a few in this county is being baptized in the Locust Fork.
All this and much more is only possible because of a viable and living river. This ecosystem, a delicate dance of nature, can be threatened. It can be harmed, devastatingly so, if we are not good stewards. Members of the Friends of the Locust Fork River organization know that. They volunteer their time to preserve the river’s viability. But you do not have to be a member of FLFR to be a friend to the river. As its friend, there is something you can do now that is concrete and will help protect it.
Tyson Foods, Inc. applied for a permit some time ago for the Blountsville processing plant to change its treated waste water discharge point from Graves Creek to directly into the Locust Fork, about a mile and a half upstream from the scenic overlook. In June a company official told FLFR and commission chairman Chris Green the company was abandoning that plan. Tyson sent a letter to that effect. The application also seeks to increase the amount of discharge, but Tyson’s letter made no mention of giving up on that. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has continued with the application process. That process will soon come to a head at a public hearing that has yet to be scheduled.
Tyson’s last stated position is not to discharge directly into the river, however, if the application permit is approved as is, at some point in the future, the company could change direction again. It could also increase its discharge rate.
That possibility should be concerning to anyone who considers themselves a friend to the river. FLFR members are asking people to come to the public hearing to show support, calling folks to Rally for the River. They are asking for personal letters outlining why you might think the proposal is bad for the river and the community. It can be technical, but not necessarily. You can also state how you and the county benefit from the river. If you have photographs of the river, the plants and wildlife that flourish there, or just you enjoying good times there, send those as well to Maria Brindle at info@flfral.com. They all will be compiled and submitted at the hearing.
Mr. Rogers might agree, at least in this instance, that some essentials can be both seen and unseen.
Tyson’s application can be viewed on ADEM’s website at
(http://www.adem.state.al.us/newsEven…/notices/…/6npdes2.html). Public comments can still be made through this site until the day of the hearing.

October 4, 2019

Run Wild Run Free

Run Wild Run Free: 50 years of Wild and Scenic Rivers :

Run Wild Run Free: 50 years of Wild and Scenic Rivers : FULL FILM from Pacific Rivers on Vimeo.

Fun Stuff 2019

Jan 1 Mulberry Upper and Lower.  LL Stomper 80.  BCC Feast On The Beach.  Air and water temps mild. Much nicer conditions than last year.   Level on Streambeam was 4.5 but bridge gauge was 3.5 feet.  I have a new resolution for 2019: no more dry hair days!  Rolling practice mandatory!
Folks at BCC Feast On The Beach 2019

Jan 2 Upper and Lower Mulberry.  LL Stomper 80. Trip report I posted that evening:  "Mulberry was a nice float today, raining, streambeam gauge was 3.2, gauge on the old bridge was just under 3, and new painted gauge on the newer bridge was 2.5. 
It was a bit higher than I prefer, as most of the features I goof around in were either not in at all, or munchier than I wanted to mess with.
There was nothing at Glen Clark Memorial, no wave at Training Wheels, Lunchstop was pretty big and dynamic, and 5-0 was a green wave and hard to catch.

There is a tree with branches hanging down on the river right side of the surf wave on the other side of the island from Glen Clark. Andy Lee and Lynn had cut out some of the branches last year, and the ones there now may not be in play at lower levels. At the level today, they made it impossible to get in the only surfing spot.
A blue Perception Blast sit-in rec kayak is river left on the shore below Lunchstop. We had seen it pinned in some trees there a couple days ago at the level of 4.5 on the streambeam gauge. It was mostly submerged in the eddy when we arrived, and Joel pulled it out of the water and drained it. We stashed it where it *might* not get taken downstream again unless there's another flood stage. It has a big hole in the side and a small hole in the hull; it could be repaired."
Jan 3 Ridgewalk above Skyline. 
Jan 5 Upper and Lower Mulberry. 
A blue Perception Blast sit-in rec kayak is river left on the shore below Lunchstop. We had seen it pinned in some trees there a couple days ago at the level of 4.5 on the streambeam gauge. It was mostly submerged in the eddy when we arrived, and Joel pulled it out of the water and drained it. We stashed it where it *might* not get taken downstream again unless there's another flood stage. It has a big hole in the side and a small hole in the hull; it could be repaired."
Jan 3 Ridgewalk above Skyline.  With Dave H., his daughter Shay, and her boyfriend Kristopher.   Mild temps, very productive ridgewalk, several great leads!  Then a visit to Unclaimed Baggage where I miraculously didn't buy anything (too tired to shop).
Jan 5 Upper and Lower Mulberry. 
LL Stomper 80.Level was just under 4ft. on the old bridge gauge, which I believe was accurate for the conditions observed.  Warm day, mild water temps, 22 people in our group and there was another group meeting a hour later! Unfortunately a car was broken into at the Upper Mulberry putin (CR 10).  My car was at the BCC beach parking and was spared.
Jan 6 Cahaba Lovick. LL Stomper 80.   Warm day in low 60's, bright blue skies.  Water temps brisk.  With Vander H., Joseph and Emma W., and Kent M.  Level approx. 875.  Class II, no wood, all drops went without bony spots.  Trip took us approx. 3 hours, perhaps less.  And that was with a lot of lazy flatwater paddling.
Jan 12 Mulberry.  LL Stomper 80.  1.5 on gauges.  Warm, wonderful day soul surfing.  Joel and Janice, Kent, OC1-Kanubi and his friend visiting, Riley in the triple X.
Jan 19 Mulberry.  LL Stomper 80.   Warm day, around 60.  1.5 on gauges.  Tomorrow supposed to be very cold.  With Andy and Lynn, Joel and Janice, Riley, and Bill.
Jan 24 High Museum Atlanta, Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors Exhibit.   With Josh, Li, and Donna.  Photos here.
Jan 27 Archery.  At Hoover tactical, with my new bow,  with James and Shahn. 
James made a string and silencers for me

Feb 2 Stephen's Gap. Several friends celebrating February birthdays together.  I got to visit with Joy C. as well.  Pics here.

Feb 3 Tellico 1.8.  In the LL Stomper 80.  Weather temps mild; water temps cold!  With Steve I. and Wendy A.  Turkey Creek to Pylon.  There is a tree blocking the bridge rapid putin.
Feb 4 Walls of Jericho ridgewalk.  With Dave H.  We found some interesting leads, including a sink with two leads that I checked online later to find they were already reported on the survey.
Feb 15-17 Grotto Getaway.    At Camp Maranatha.  Ridgewalk on Saturday was the least productive I've ever been on.   Not a lead, sink, doline, or IKF.   Well, now we know.
Feb 23 Ridgewalk.  With David H. and Matthew K.   We dug open a blowing lead I found the previous year, but no luck.  Had some fun in briars and brambles afterwards.
Feb 23 Kelly Creek.  In the LL Stomper 80.  One lap with Ming, Lynn, and Barry.  Level 2.5.
March 2-3 Mulberry Fork Canoe and Kayak Races.  I was the Gate Judge coordinator for the second year.   We had a mud waller... level Saturday was in the 3.5 foot range and Sunday 3 foot.
March 9  Greenbriar 1.4.  With The Lost Tribe.  In the LL Stomper 80.   We drove there from a cabin in Tellico Plains, with the belief that 1.5 was the minimum, but it was 1.4 when we got there.  We went anyway.  Great time in one of my favorite runs.  No flips on my part but a few of the canoeists had some swims.  I agree that 1.5 is a minimum.  Pics HERE.
This weekend is Ain't Louie Fest but unlike past years I only got to paddle one day. Tellico is blown out 4 + feet, Whites was 5.5 ft. this morning.
March 23 Tellico 1.8 ft.  In the Jackson Nirvana.  I demoed this 9 ft. creeker and found it much different than any other boat I have ever paddled.  So... I bought it.

March 30 Locust Fork.  2.2 ft.  In the ProjectX 56.  With James H., Peggy R., Vander H. and Ming S.   Low but very pleasant, water temps mild and weather around 70F.  We took out at Swann.
March 31 Tumbling Rock Cave Preserve. 
With Dave H., Matthew K., Jeff H., Tawnya and Lee.  To the Christmas Tree.
April 6 - 7 Locust Fork Canoe and Kayak Races.  I was a spectator.

My beautiful new RivrStyx paddle, and Necky Chronic playboat, photo cred Peggy Robertson

April 13 Mulberry Fork.   Level 1.3.  In the Necky Chronic.  Excellent surfing day.  With Joel and Janice, Peggy, Joseph, Emma, Wendy and Russell.

Peggy Robertson's great shot showing the joy of paddling, as a bunch of us try to surf a wave together

April 14 Locust Fork.  Level 2.7 climbing to 3.06.  In the Necky Chronic.  Warm weather and water, windy.  With Hayward, Rebecca, Carin, others.

April 20 Calvert Prong.  In the Jackson Nirvana M. 
Warm weather, kinda high level (I forgot to make note of USGS Locust level).  With Joel and Janice, Andy and Lynn, Mark E.

April 27 Mulberry and Locust-to-Swann.  In the yellow Necky Chronic.   Mulberry was 1.18, Locust was 2.9.   Great day, lots of surfing.  Too low for 5-0 but Training Wheels and Lunchstop were sweet. With Joel and Janice; when we got to the Locust we met up with Russell B., Hayward and Rebecca.  

April 28 Mulberry.   In the yellow Necky Chronic.  Level was .88 on the Streambeam gauge.  With Andy and Lynn, Russell B.  Training Wheels and Lunchstop still good, nothing at 5-0 to surf but the little ledge below was surprisingly good.   I keep forgetting to bring a camera.

May 3-5 SERA 2019.  With the Birmingham Grotto.  At the Lazy G Wedding Chapel in Union Grove.  Pics here.

May 11 Paddling 101 class.  At Oak Mtn. Swimming Lake.  9 students.  cloudy but didn't rain on us.  Nice day.

May 12 Locust to Swann... then Calvert Prong.  In the Jackson Nirvana M.  Locust was approx. 4 ft, Calvert was up a bit more than preferable for surfing.  On Locust there is a sweet wave that forms river right downstream of Whoop-te-do/Riley's Rapid.  With Joel and Janice, Vander, Peggy.  Awesome day.

May 18 Paint Rock River Float With the Birmingham Grotto.  Level was low, but floatable; in a couple of spots we had to drag boats, and Moe's sit-on-top kayak was cracked so we had to stop periodically and dump the water from inside the hull.  Lovely, long day.   From Estill Fork church putin to County Road 507 crossing.  We went under two bridges, after the second bridge the run was slackwater and a bit of a chore.  Pics here.

May 25 Hiwassee.   With the TVCC.  In the yellow Necky Chronic.  Said Hello to the Hiwassee on it's first official release date of the season.  Sunday I went on a hike from Thunder Rock to the Whitewater center with Kathy K.

May 27 Memorial Day West Blocton Coke Ovens and Cahaba Lilies.   With Susan and Donna.  Pics here.

June 1 Ocoee.  In the Jackson Nirvana M.  With members of the Lost Tribe.  Great day.

TVCC paddle school auction and party that night at AU.  I camped near Pat C.'s family.  

June 2 Ocoee.  In the Jackson Nirvana M.  With Mary Mills.  Had two moments of carnage, took out at Go Forth.  A very different experience from the day before, I must admit.

June 9 Mulberry.  In the blue Wave Sport EZG - 50, my latest addition to the $100-$250 slicy boat fleet.   Summer rainstorms brought up the Mulberry and it was 1 foot on the bridge, but at the playspots the level seemed more like 6 inches.  Displacement from all the plants in the river?  With Tim R., Carin B, Hayward W. and Chuck N.  The EZG-50 is a really fun design.

June 17 - 22 NSS Convention.  In Cookeville, Tn.  Photos Here:

June 29 - July 4 Week of Rivers 2019.  At Smoky Mtn. Meadows campground in Bryson City, N.C.  With the Carolina Canoe Club.  Amazingly no rain on the campground!  Photos Here:

Sunday June 30Lower Nolichucky, class II with one -III.  In the Wave Sport EZG-50. My first descent.  Scenic, peaceful paddle.  With Lisa H. as trip leader, Linda D. in her open boat, many others.
Monday July 1Nantahala.  In the Jackson Nirvana.  I thought I would be bored in the big boat, but my hip tendonitis was bugging me from being in the playboat, so I chose the Nirvana.  Good choice - it boofs like crazy!  With Joan S., Tim R. and Chuck N., others.

My big BOOF on the Nanty in the Jackson Nirvana.  Photo credit Chuck Neese

Tuesday July 2:  Tuckaseegee.  In the Wave Sport EZG-50.  Nice day but my hip bugged me again.  Getting old ain't for sissies.  
Team "J" members Judy Joan and Jade
This photo captures how much fun kayaking is!  Spin spot on the Nanty, left of Pyramid Rock.  Photo by Chuck Neese.
Wednesday July 3:  Nantahala.  In the Jackson Antix.  Demoed it, bought it.  lol

I didn't go to the river again until August 3rd and 4th.   My sister Kathy is very ill and I am her primary caregiver.
I did go on a couple of mushroom forays with the Alabama Mushroom Society.  We went a few miles north of B'ham, in Remlap and then another time in Cleveland Al.  Its pretty dry so we didn't find much,  but we had a nice day hike each time.

August 3rd  Hiwassee.  In the Bell Ocoee Canoe.  At Adult Canoe School with The Lost Tribe.  Wonderful day.  

Me on the Hiwassee in the Bell Ocoee.  Photo by Neil Garland Stanton.
August 4th  Ocoee.   In the Jackson Antix M.   With Andy and Lynn, and new friend James.  I took out at GoForth.   What a great day!  I am smitten with The Antix.  If there is  better boat design for the Ocoee, I haven't paddled it.

August 11 Mushroom Foray.  At Buck Island, TVA property on Lake Guntersville. With members of the Alabama Mushroom Society.  We found some oysters and a few other things.  My feet are covered in chigger bites.  Yay me.  

August 17-18 Hiwassee.  In the Jackson Antix M.  With the B'ham Canoe Club, annual Old Timers trip.  We stayed at Reliance Fly n Tackle and had their excellent bbq ribs for dinner.  Great weekend.  Pics here.

August 31-Sept 1 Hiwassee.  Saturday in the Jackson Antix M, Sunday in Emma W.'s Zen S., great weekend, photos here.

Sept- 13-14 Ocoee River Championships.  I did not paddle; I was a gate judge volunteer.

Sept 27-29 GAF.  Friday the lower Nanty with Janice, Joel, many others, in the Jackson Nirvana M.  Great day. Dinner at the Italian place in Bryson City, then back to camp with the B'ham Canoe Club at Turkey Creek Campground.

Saturday Upper Nanty in the Jackson Nirvana M.  With Hayward W. Not so great day, I swam Troll Hole then was in a pin in Mank.  Switched to the Antix for the lower and promptly flipped in the curler at Patton's and swam again.  I had a newbie flanking me on my right side, in a perfect position to feed me into the curler, and I watched a canoe flip in front of me prior to my own adventure.  I add those details so I remember it years later; I own the swim, I should have rolled.  Decided my mind wasn't in the game so I took out at Surfer's.
Sunday went to roll practice with Mary Mills at the Ocoee take-out, she said I had no flex in my back whatsoever.  Decided not to paddle.  My back had been out for a couple of weeks but I had taken Aleve and said F-it.  Stupid move.  I did stretches on hardwood floors when I got home and my back was immediately improved.  I started a 20 push up and 1 minute plank challenge on Oct 1 and made it a thread on a whitewater ladies fb forum so I have accountability partners.

October 5 Hiwassee.  In the Jackson Antix M.  With new boaters Fergus T. and Stacy W., along with Peggy R., Deborah W, others.  Back still tweaky but seemed better.

October 6 Ocoee roll practice.   In the WS EZG-50 at the takeout.  Not feeling it.

October 12 Coosa.  In the Jackson Antix M.  With Heyward W., Tim R., others.  My back hurt the entire time.  Wtf.  It usually doesn't hurt when I'm seated in the boat.  A few hip snaps confirmed for me that this was just going to be one of those days.  Was nice to visit with Lonnie and Karen at COC.

October 1, 2019

Some advice for new paddlers

...This is what I had to learn myself, and what I tell new paddlers now; if they listen to me then they'll find plenty of people to boat with:
Don't try to come off as an expert.  Especially because you're not one and it is quite obvious to more experienced paddlers.  Be a student; a lifelong learner.  Respect other people's experiences. That old codger that can't do class 3 anymore might have pioneered some of the hardest runs in the Southeast. I actually have someone who comes to mind when I write that.  Listen to their stories; learn all you can.  Some people are walking history books in regards to paddle sports - which is still a young sport especially in the US.  Impress others by the style and grace of your paddling, not your words.  Again - run things with style and grace, make the hard lines look easy, and you're doing the thing - you've got the magic.  That magic - it is the best feeling in the world!

Don't get caught up in the progression ladder - it's a trap.  Hey, I get it.  I'm a "Look at me" person, hell I am a rock musician. Here's why I'm saying it is a trap. The progression ladder, doing harder and harder runs for bragging rights, is a trap because it has no end.  There is no tip-top.  There will always be a harder run than the one you just did.  There is no king/queen of the mountain, unless you're thinking of elite, pro boaters, who happen to be some of the most humble people you'll meet.  They don't brag and they don't have to.  Remember - style and grace. Mere mortals seeking bragging rights will find a rung on the progression ladder that they cannot climb - and may well lose their lives trying to climb it anyway.  It's not a way to gain respect. Gain respect by styling the runs you do.  If you belong on a run, there will be no question, it will be obvious.  One of the best compliments anyone can give you is, "You are a much better boater than you claim to be".  And besides, do you really need to risk your life to impress your office mates?  Your office mates think we are ridiculous anyway.  Boaters in gear look ridiculous not cool, especially in our spray skirts.  No really, we do.
Help other new boaters as you gain experience, and realize that what brings people to the river can be really complex, heavy stuff.  I really do think that, I've witnessed it.  People come to the river, maybe without realizing that what they are seeking can be found there, because they didn't know they were looking for it.  Things like confronting chaos and fear in other parts of their lives, manifested as whitewater.  Maybe they have dragons to slay.  

Try to be a nice person to everyone, now I am sure some people who know me are going to laugh at me saying that, because I can be a curmudgeon.  I'm a combination of a stage performer and an introvert and it gets hard for me to be friendly sometimes.  But try. If I can try, you can try.
Get your crew and run stuff, support each other, have great adventures, and know that they are precious people in a limited time span in your life.  I say that because your crew will change; people leave the sport for many reasons, and you may well lose a friend to the river; I've had friends who have died on the river. 
There are people I miss paddling with very much, but their lives changed, their interests changed or they moved away, they had kids, they got married, divorced, whatever.  So cherish your time with them.  It's always shorter than you think it will be.

That's all for now and I hope this helps someone, somewhere... 


Jackson Nirvana review July 2019

Some thoughts on the Jackson Nirvana M. I've only paddled it a few times thus far. It's a very fast, very stable boat in the primaries. I still haven't tested its secondary stability. It has surprised me a couple of times. Once by flipping me in Entrance on the Ocoee for the first time in my life, second by getting me stuck in a pourover hole below Broken Nose river left, also a first for me in that spot. But - for various reasons, I was not paddling well that day and I don't - can't - blame the boat. I think the Nirvana is less forgiving of a slack paddling style than my Stomper, but part of that may be familiarity. The wide flat stern area is designed (I think) to propel the boat forward when landing on a boof. This is a creek race boat design after all. Well, the stern can load up whether you want it to or not. This requires adaptation because I think it is inherent to the design. 
That being said, I believe a key to doing well in this boat is to keep good posture and a cinched up backband. With so much rocker, it's easy to slouch and end up with the bow very raised. While that's a comfy position it can make for unpredictable moments. I do have the seat all the way forwards, and haven't tried any other seat positions. On bigger waves like Double Trouble and Tablesaw, the Nirvana feels like it is at home. This is kind of surprising for a boat designed to run creeks. When I've taken other creek boats down the New and lower Gauley for instance, the boats turn so easily that sometimes it can be a bit to handle in bigger wave trains or lots of crosscurrents. I suspect the Nirvana has an advantage, because it tracks well. How did they do that and put so much rocker on the boat as well? Magic I suppose!   It also rolls really easily. 
I took it down the Nantahala to give my hip tendonitis a break from the slicey boats, and debated whether it was going to be boring or not, and it actually was a lot of fun. The Nirvana makes catching eddies very gracefully an easy thing to do if that makes sense. With all of that rocker the boat boofs really easily too, evidenced by the boof in the photo below. At the Nanty Falls I caught some eddies and took the wildwater/racers line and it was so simple, again because the boat is fast and has so much primary stability.  (It was a fun day, but for class II and III I am going to grab the Antix every time.  The Antix is so much easier to transport, and is a better surfer, and has that playful stern too.) But on a creek, I can't really say how it will do yet. I have only taken it down the middle Tellico which was fine, but not on anything steeper or creekier. The last creek I ran was Greenbriar in my Stomper, and I am not sure anything could suit me better on such a run. But I look forward to finding out.
My stats: 5'6", 165 lbs, 32 inseam.  Previous creekboats:  Prijon Embudo, Riot Magnum 72, Liquid Logic Stomper 80.  My level of paddling tops out at easy class IV creeks such as South Sauty, Greenbriar, Lower Big Creek et al. and classic IV big water such as Lower Gauley, New, Ottawa Middle Channel.  20 years paddling.

My Boof on the Nantahala in the Jackson Nirvana.  
At 8' 11.5" and 86 gallons, the Medium Nirvana is a big beastie
Jackson Kayak Nirvana promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQBzL7CKHm4 

Some reviewers are saying the max paddler weight for the Medium Nirvana is around 190 lbs.  Some feel that the planing hull will mean the boat's hull lifespan will be lessened vs. a traditional displacement hull creeker.  Some are also questioning the secondary stability and suitability for beginners. Do a youtube search for Nirvana reviews and you'll see several different opinions.  YMMV.

Update Oct 2019:  The Nirvana and me are just not gelling. 

The Nirvana is really long, with a very wide flat stern. In big waves etc. it is so stable it feels like you could just close your eyes and let it do its thing. Huge primary stability. And when you start driving it hard, it flies -very fast and fun feeling, like carving skis down a fresh hill. Also it boofs really easily, it has tons of rocker. I have seen many beginners in Nirvanas and I understand why. The stability is amazing.

But I am shopping for a creeker, and the creeks around here are bony with small eddies. I tend to not to want to go very fast on creeks. I am going to keep creeking in my Liquid Logic Stomper 80 until the Jackson Zen3 comes out, and then I'll take a hard look at the Zen3.
There's nothing wrong with my Stomper, I bought it new in 2013 and I may keep on with it. I just thought something different would be fun; also the one thing I would change about the Stomper is I would add some stern volume. It definitely doesn't track as well as the Nirvana, and it is slower, but I find these things can be assets on a little creek.
The Nirvana is also really light despite being a big honking boat, and I am now spoiled by the light Jackson hulls. The Stomper is heavy as @#$%, but I think it is about the same weight as a Newmad, and definitely lighter than the Recon. I really liked the Recon but couldn't get past the weight.
I haven't been a fan of Jackson in the past because I didn't like the string outfitting, it seemed cheap to me. I also demoed a 2010 Fun and a Fun Runner and found them both to be meh. But I got an Antix this summer and it has become my favorite boat. I think the newer Jackson designs are really unique, and if the Zen3 has any of the Antix magic in it then it is going to be sweet.
Also I made my peace with the Jackson outfitting, and see the benefits; it is adjustable on the fly and it is light. The big thing is the thigh hooks/pockets fit my legs; that's the gotcha for me with the Pyranha outfitting.
It seems like the Machno is a brilliant design and I hope some of the other companies are inspired by it. 
I am going to demo a M Newmad next.  I did not like the Mamba even after an extended 'demo' of it on the Rogue at high water, so we shall see.  

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday!