July 27, 2019

So there was this monolith, this giant wave of confusion and discourdant  sounds, that would follow me as I ran up the beach, only this race would last my entire life.  And chasing as every despair and failure I could conjure, all I could do was run, silly red queen running faster than the truth.

July 25, 2019

Information on raft and paddlecat materials by Ben Robinson

My friend Ben Robinson shared his families' findings on raft and paddlecat construction and materials:   "We researched for rafts and here’s the quick and dirty I learned. Keep in mind that all the common rafts and cats are over-built as they are designed for commercial use. The four main inflatable boat materials are PVC, Urethane, Hypalon, and Neoprene, the first two being plastics and the second two being rubber based. Only the Shredder cats use Neoprene to my knowledge and I don’t know much about it. The other three materials are all applied to a center layer of strong woven nylon or similar fabric. Hypalon is a trade name for a rubber-based coating and it is grippy, rolls up very small, and is the easiest to glue on accessories or patches to in case of emergency. Being rubber based, all the seams are glued, not welded. Over time the glue can break down but it takes many years for this to happen. Like 20+ years. It is expensive as far as materials go. It’s probably the material to choose if you pack it up often due to its foldability. It also makes for a soft ride. PVC is stiffer, can have welded seams instead of glued seams, but it doesn’t pack as tightly. It’s super tough and slips over rocks easier than rubber and it can offer a “sportier” ride due to its rigidity. Pump it up tight and you’ve got a flipping machine! PVC is less expensive than rubber but the labor to weld the seams washes out any savings. The only drawback I could tell was that over time PVC can develop tiny pin holes, or so I read. Again I am talking many years down the road, and that’s what pumps are for. Finally, urethane is also very stiff, is very slippery (I have learned this is both good and bad), but rolls up about like a refrigerator does. Urethane is a different type of plastic than PVC, I think it’s maybe a composite rubber plastic blend or something. It can also be welded so the delamination of seams in the future is a non-issue. It supposedly holds air the best and it can be easily glued just like rubber so long as you don’t ever apply 303 Protectant. It is the most expensive material so it is not used very often. At the end of the day they each have their advantages so I would say choose the boat design and company/warranty over the materials used as they are all good. Also check out which ones are made in the USA because sending one to Mexico or China for a major repair would suck. "

July 7, 2019

Jackson Nirvana review

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.  

Jackson Antix Review

I demoed the Jackson Antix on the Nantahala July 3rd. I was interested in a boat I could have on the roof racks, suitable for whatever whitewater came up to paddle. Yes I have a lot of boats right now, but they are all pretty specific to either a creek or a playboat day. I had no "river runner". The Nirvana, which I am learning to like more, (and more about that boat coming soon in another review) is a 9 ft., highly rockered, fast creek boat and not something I would enjoy on the class II Mulberry Fork here in Alabama. It's also a big boat for me to load on the roof racks. I know some of you will roll your eyes about that comment but for shorter people like me the amount of PITA loading a boat will influence my choice. The slicy boats I have are fun but I wouldn't feel comfortable in them on a creek run.  I needed that river runner I could depend on for any day.  I put on the Nantahala in the medium Antix, with Joan S and Amanda F.  and immediately it just felt like the right size boat for me. It is surprisingly light. I was able to muscle it around, and the stern allows for slicing into eddies and fast ferries. I didn't stern squirt it yet. 

The seat was all the way forwards, so the seat pan was on the edge of uncomfortable. I was hesitant to change this at first as I didnt want to get backendered. But I decided to move it one notch back and it was fine. I may try one more notch back next. The stern never grabbed, but I was also being mindful of my posture. I'm sure putting the seat all the way back would make stern squirts easier. *stern squirt = standing your boat on the stern end on purpose.  *backender = standing your boat on the stern end by mistake...
I didn't boof it as it wasn't my boat (yet), but I will be boofing it a bunch in the future. I did catch some dynamic eddies including the left eddy at Patton's Run, and Root Canal. I also did some rock spins and hole spins and surfing.
I also caught eddies at Nantahala Falls; Billboard, tried for Rock Block, some river right eddies and then ran the Wildwater/Racer's line.  What a fun run!
I've griped about Jackson Kayak outfitting before.  Well I have changed my mind about it.  While I am still annoyed at times with the loose feel of the bulkhead, it is countered by the ease of being able to release the bulkhead tension to relax my legs, then tighten the tension back to run rapids.  I also thought the molded in thigh hooks would be less effective than they actually are; though they are not adjustable, they are comfortable for me as is.  The backband is effective and doesn't ride down.   Wave Sport remains my favorite outfitting but on the other hand the more elaborate outfitting WS and Dagger have means more weight overall.  I like Liquid Logic Bad-Ass outfitting as well, except for the backband sliding down.  My least favorite outfitting remains Pyranha, specifically the angle of the thigh hooks, but some people prefer them so a lot of this is simply body shape and leg position preference.


It rolls super easy; the boat being so light helps with rolling as well. I was worried that the Antix would feel wide like the Dagger Axiom does (to me), but it does not!  Again the medium Antix feels like it was made for someone my size, which is 5'6", 165 lbs, 32 inseam. 
I have only paddled the Antix once, and only on the familiar and friendly Nantahala, but so far I do not have a single negative comment about the boat. It may very well be my favorite design ever. Time will tell. I didn't really expect to like it THAT much, but for today at least I am smitten... my one regret is that I waited this long to try it!   This design came out in winter of 2016.  


Now, like I said earlier I don't have any negatives to report about the design but it is a lightweight hull, 36 lbs.  Let's see how it holds up to my tender mercies on rockier runs like Greenbriar. The light hull is something new for me; I've been driving tanks.
My first boat 20 years ago was a Dagger RPM; while they look similar superficially the Antix is quite different. The Antix is not as narrow, it has a higher leg position, and the hull is not as round - it is a full-on planing hull.

Here's a commercial Jackson Kayak made about the Antix: https://youtu.be/OdiYUvWNNb4
I had to laugh when I saw this video, because a lot of what they are talking about relates exactly to someone like me.  "If you're not 100% comfortable on a run in a playboat, but bored on the run in a creekboat" - yep this is what I was looking for and I believe it will fit that niche perfectly.