October 1, 2019

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.  

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