There has been a lot of hype recently about the three newest boats released by Jackson Kayak, with a huge emphasis on fun and ease of paddling. The two throw-back designs: the Antix and the MixMaster, are designed to make the river a playground and make river play more accessible for every paddler. The 9-foot Nirvana was released as the next best thing in creeking; fast, forgiving, and maneuverable. This is all well and good for the top tier paddlers out there, but do these boats really have anything to offer to the paddler or soon to be paddler who is just starting out? The short answer: Absolutely!
The long answer: Each of these boats has something unique to offer to beginner paddlers, or even the intermediate paddler who doesn’t see themselves throwing freewheels off of Gorilla in the near future.
The Nirvana briefing: The main features that make this boat desirable for expert level paddlers are some of the same features that make it beginner friendly as well. The length and hull speed of the boat means that newer paddlers will be able to easily complete river maneuvers like peel-outs, eddy-turns, and ferries. However, the boat has well defined edges and parting lines that don’t take away the learning experience of getting a feel for the edges. Beginners will still feel like they’re paddling a kayak, and not a cork that bobs over everything. If you’re an intermediate paddler, the Nirvana will take your paddling to the next level, too. The biggest asset to the intermediate paddler will be the speed, which will allow you to make those difficult attainments in class II+/III water, while the aggressive rocker will allow you to run the bigger stuff with confidence and control.
The MixMaster lowdown: The first question you might have when you look at the MixMaster is: How am I going to fit in that? The good news is, unless you have giant sized proportions, you can fit in the MixMaster and have fun! The beginner paddler is going to feel the sharp learning curve of the MixMaster, but will be a healthy challenge and nothing impossible. The first boat that I paddled was super slicey like the MixMaster, and it definitely challenged me, but once I got a feel for it, it was rewarding in the long run. The MixMaster will be exceptionally easy to roll due to the low side-wall and low volume, which is a helpful feature for the newer paddler. The intermediate paddler however, is who this boat was designed for! If you’re looking to break into the realm of the increasingly popular discipline of river play, the MixMaster is perfect for you. Every eddy line becomes and opportunity to sink the stern or the bow, and you will soon be addicted to the play boater lifestyle.
The Antix inside scoop: The Antix is another throwback design, with a twist. The low volume stern pays homage to boats of whitewater’s past, while the bow rocker and higher volume bow make this boat more forgiving on those higher grade runs. Beginner paddlers will find this boat to be in the sweet spot of challenging and forgiving, and will make learning river maneuvers way easier. Intermediate paddlers are already calling the Antix their favorite all around boat. You get the benefit of getting to play the river, while not feeling like you have to sacrifice the stability and comfort that you tend to lose a bit of in a full of playboat or creekboat.
If you’ve been doubting how the newest Jackson lineup will fit into your kayaking, I can assure you that there is a spot for each of these boats that will improve your paddling. Or, if you’re looking to introduce someone to the sport, any of these boats are a worthwhile option for getting them stoked about kayaking.