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By Ben Stookesberry

Tezpur, India

After 11 months, 150 class V days, and my most significant year of
whitewater ever; I present my 2008 Super Hero review.

First Impressions: On February 9th, 2008 Jesse Coombs arrived with a couple of the first Super Heroes
out of the Molds in Central Brazil. At first glance it struck me like the
sleekest new ride at a car show: Smooth clean symmetrical lines over the
deck and a high performance hull underneath. A quick hop in confirmed the
JK brand wide attributes of comfort and ease of fit, but the generously
proportioned 87 gallons of volume and the uni-shock bulkhead system take
both the comfort and ease of fit to a new level: 5 minutes of shims and
adjustments later, the Super Hero felt like it was made specifically for me.

The following day, a couple more snuggings from the revolutionary back-band
system and bulkhead, transferred hip tilt, to boat tilt, into an incredible
carving sensation across a rain swollen high volume Brazilian roller coaster
of a river. Ferries were crucial that day, and the Super Hero made them as
if surfing across a perfectly green wave. As I engaged the edge a bit more,
I was ripping at high speeds into a must make eddy… This boat Rocks!

Big Water: By Definition a River Running kayak should be at home in High
Volume rivers defined by strong ocean like currents and waves. From my
first experience in Brazil I felt the boats potential in big water and
really saw that potential come to fruition in Gore Canyon on the Colorado
river above 5000 cfs. Jesse Coombs and I tipped
toed into the Canyon on a late May afternoon and came out ecstatic about the
performance of the boat in truly big water. Although compact in length, the
boat punched ledge holes and wave holes alike due to the smooth hydrodynamic
shape. In the high volume torrent, we often needed to surf a huge wave or
hole to cross the river and the high performance hull provided the
maneuverability of a play boat, while the volume maintains an incredible
sense of stability through deep boils and eddy lines off the backside of the
massive features.

To further strengthen my perception of the Super Hero as a Big Water (IE
river running) Juggernaut was my recent experience on the roiling 15,000 to
20,000 cfs on the Rondu
gorge of the Indus in Pakistan
. Must make river crossings, ledge
holes, and mandatory hole rides were the name of the game and the Super Hero
was the right tool for the Job. While Chris Korbulic and I ran our Super Heroes, Darin
and Phil
the the Hero with equal success and confidence.

Look for both models of the Hero ripping up the high volume rivers from the
huge 2008 runoff of the Colorado Rockies to the mighty rivers of the
Himalaya in this years release of Hotel Charley Vol. 4.

Steep Creeking and Waterfalls: From my high volume experiences it was
obvious that this boat was a high performance, big water river runner but
how would it handle in the Steep stuff? For the rest of the Brazil
Expedition I stuck with my tried and true Rocker for
the really big stuff eventually stepping up to 100 plus foot high volume
falls famously showcased in the Hotel
Charley Vol 3
, but
I kept hopping in the Super Hero in between the huge stuff; each time more
and more impressed with it’s abilities.

By early June of 2008 I was able to really focus on putting the Super Hero
through it’s paces. Over the next month and a half Darin McQuoid and I ran our Hero and Super Hero through
one of the most spectacular string of descents ever achieved in a single
California season. Dubbed the 8th River Expedition , our Heroes were put to the test through
tens of thousands of vertical feet of technical mank, huge slides, and falls
up to 75 feet.

The aforementioned voluminous proportions in concert with the smooth lines
to a peaked deck made resurfacing quick and stable. Tight moves, in the
super steep low volume water, were made enjoyable with the compact length on
top of the quick acceleration and agility of the high performance hull.

After that month and a half, in some of the world’s most demanding creeking
situations, I am ready to claim this River Runner as one of the top Creek
Boats on the market!

Expedition and Overnight: In the context of having everything that you need
to survive for several days at a time stowed in your kayak, the rules of the
game change on a multi-day trip. Storage features and capacity, weighted
down performance, and safety features become paramount. In this context
Chris Korbulic and I just put the
Super Hero through the Ultimate Test. 11 days ago we left a put-in at 8000
feet in the Indian Himalaya with two weeks worth of food and gear. At the
put-in our fully loaded Super Heroes weighed in at near 100 pounds yet all
the gear and food was easily accommodated in the generous rear compartments
with some heavier items stashed in front of the Bulkhead. Despite all this
gear and food, I had room to spare. With numerous attachment points, all
this stuffed was secured to the boat in case of a jarring portage or swim.

Although the river dropped a blistering 4000 feet in the first 30 miles
through a boulder strewn river bed, the the Super Hero seemed to handle
heavy loads better than any boat I have ever paddled. I think the compact
high volume nature puts all 87 gallons of volume where it counts and keeps
the boat floating high. This maintains agility and low exposure in shallow
fast current. In addition, the large cockpit opening allows easy entrance
and exists on and off of steep slippery river banks even while stashing my
precious video camera encased in a Watershed Bag between my legs.

In all we spent 9 days negotiating over 7000 vertical feet of extremely
demanding water with a river growing in size from 1200 cfs to over 8000cfs.
As is often the case, we were forced to portage some insane sections of the
river, and it is here where the compact size and outfitting of the Super
Hero really shines. A shorter boat is simply easier to carry and the Super
Hero makes long technical portages easier and safer with an adjustable hip
pad for your shoulder and the standard carrying strap on the front pillar.
This boat was made for multiday-expeditions!

Final Thought: Just check out one of the latest Super Hero converts Devin
on the front page of
the JK Web-site nearly flying off the page in
the Super Hero… this boat is really incredible. Take one for a test
flight yourself and you will be a believer too!


Ben Stookesberry