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I’m a new boater. My first hard-shell kayak experience was in January 2008. For the record, I’m 43 years old, 6’1”, and 195 lbs. Since January, I’ve demoed 14 different boats, trying to find one I really liked and wanted to purchase. After much anticipation, I finally got to paddle a Super Hero. My testing ground was the BZ Corner to Husom Falls section of the White Salmon River in Washington. This is a Class III stretch that features one waterfall.

It almost seems redundant to discuss my impression of the fit and comfort of the Super Hero because Jackson kayaks are so well known for this. Nevertheless, this feature is so significant, that it bears repeating. As a 43 year old adrenaline junkie, I’m quite familiar with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium, if you know what I mean. Stuffing my hip joints into kayaks can sometimes be painful. In one boat I demoed, I had to stop four times one day to flex my hips because of the poor fit. In another, one of my legs went to sleep. But the Super Hero fit “Jackson Sweet!” I’ve never been in a boat that I instantly felt so comfortable in, and I felt just as good at the end of the run as I did in the beginning. There was plenty of room for my feet with booties on over my dry suit. In most boats, my ankles have to contort to the sides and my toes have to curl backwards to fit. The knee braces and the inside wall of the kayak is covered with foam which kept my knees comfortable and warm from the cold boat hull. I can’t even begin to describe the comfort of the Happy Seat. –Nothing compares. Of course, the classic Jackson adjustment system is easy to use, infinitely adjustable, and can be done on the fly while in the boat. I really like being able to pull the bulkhead up to my feet after I’m already in the boat. This helps me get a tighter fit with my knees to the thigh braces. All of this, combined with the ergonomics of the large knee wells, made sitting in the boat for hours a very pleasant experience. It also translated into being able to “feel” the boat better. Whenever the boat moved while going over features, I immediately felt what was happening, and my body corrected with a brace or a paddle stroke. That may be natural for seasoned paddlers, but for me, this was the first time I’ve ever felt like the boat was an extension of my body. This translates into fewer rolls and fewer swims!

As a beginner, I also really enjoyed the incredible stability that the Super Hero gave me. I didn’t have to stress out about the boat suddenly getting out from under me. I quickly became able to predict this boat’s handling on the water. And, as stated earlier, the great fit allowed me to feel what the boat was doing and quickly react to it.

When I started paddling hard-shell kayaks, my initial downfall was always eddy lines, not the rapids. I’ve rolled over more times crossing eddy lines than everything else combined on the river. The Super Hero just cruises over eddy lines. I don’t understand how it can have good edge control for ferrying across current, but not catch edges when crossing eddies. I don’t understand it, but I’m really thankful for it! I’ve played around zigzagging from one side of the river to the other. This boat holds its’ edge, moves quickly, and catches every eddy I want. My paddling mentor keeps telling me that “boat control” is the skill that will help me progress on rivers. The Super Hero is the only boat I’ve paddled that has really opened this up to me.
My first time in the Super Hero didn’t go as great as I’d hoped. (As it turns out, I had the seat too far back, and the boat wasn’t very well balanced for me. This was quickly and easily corrected, and I took the boat out again with dramatic differences.) I did an “endo” after hitting a huge wave. Of course, I was very surprised. I didn’t know what I had hit, and I thought for sure I was going to go around and around in some giant keeper. I immediately reached for my spray skirt with my right hand. (I told you I was a newbie.) But, before I was able to pull the skirt off, I noticed the water had smoothed out. I thought, “What the heck, let’s see if this thing will roll.” I quickly re-grabbed my paddle with my right hand without any care about proper positioning. Without even much of a set-up, I tried rolling. The Super Hero snapped up so quickly and effortlessly, I couldn’t believe it! I’ve since practiced rolling the boat, and I can easily roll the boat every time, first time, on either side. MAN, THIS SPORT IS SOOOO MUCH MORE FUN WHEN YOU DON’T SWIM!!!

In other boats, I’ve sometimes shied away from big holes and waves. I don’t do that in the Super Hero. This is the only kayak I’ve been in where I really loved going through the bigger (and BIGGER) wave trains. What a riot! I can’t quit smiling. The Super Hero stays on the top of the water, rides over or punches through waves, and surfs right out of holes. Boils, which have also been major flippers for me in other boats, have not been a problem in this boat. The stern stays afloat, and doesn’t get sucked down and squirted out. I’ve only been able to run one waterfall, up to this point, in the Super Hero. It kept its’ line, much better than I planned for it to, all the way. I had a big boof off a flake I never thought I’d be able to hit. I landed softly, and up-right, out past the turbulence at the base of the falls. I was in such disbelief at the line I just ran, and how I flew through the air (“with the greatest of ease”), that I forgot to take a paddle stroke. I sat there, in shock, until I rolled over. One quick snap, and I was upright again and paddling back down the river.

Surf City! Oh this boat is fun! I’ve caught little waves and BIG waves. I’ve already surfed things I never thought I could. I’m anxious to plan a trip to a river just to surf, and I never thought I’d say that. I’ve still got a lot to learn about how to catch waves, but in this boat I’ve never feared my failures because I’ve always been able to roll it back up so quickly and predictably.

Bottom line: I am so pleased with this boat, that even after this long report I cannot begin to describe how happy I am with it. It’s only mid-April, and I’ve got my summer planned already with rivers and multi-day trips I’m going to take. My next step is a Sidekick for my daughter’s 12th birthday. She’s really, really excited, but her 43 year-old father can’t begin to contain his glee! EJ, Thank You for that.