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By Darin McQuoid

For me the transition from the Rocker to the Hero was a game of compromise. Each boat had its strong suits and trade offs. I loved the speed and easy boof-ability of the Rocker, but I liked the edges and cross current abilities of the Hero. It took me a while to decide which would be "my" boat to paddle all the time (I don’t like switching around in creekboats). The edge and planning hull of the Hero made it worth the trade offs, and it has become my favorite boat. I did miss the easy boofs, resurfacing and flat out speed of the Rocker. Even without those the Hero was "my boat". Until yesterday, when everything changed.

There has been an evolution in the Jackson creek boats. I’ve found each new model progressively easier to steer and keep pointed downstream. After three years of putting the Hero through some serious paddling, I got a chance to test out the Villain yesterday, and was ready to dislike it because I love the Hero so much. How could the new boat surpass the Hero without losing what I love about it (nimble, agile).

On the water: 49 to Bridgeport, a classic California class IV-V run with lots of boofs and some big hydraulics. Floating at put-in a few things were instantly apparent: The Villain is narrower than the Hero, it doesn’t get in the way of paddle strokes. I personally put two 100 bean Happy Cheeks in the Hero to make me sit taller and make the boat feel narrower. No need in the Villain with the linear outfitting, I was sitting plenty high, and the cockpit was the most unobtrusive I’ve ever been in.

Stability: The Rocker had the most secondary stability I’ve ever seen, the boat could be braced up from 90% of the way over. The Hero traded this for initial stability, but it was a little tougher to brace up from most of the way over, often it was quicker just to switch to a quick rodeo roll. The Villain hits a nice mix between the two. More primary stability than the Rocker, less than the Hero, but my goodness, it has the secondary stability of the Rocker, easy to brace up from waaaay over.

Out of the eddy and into the first rapid, I instantly noticed the bow is less prone to deflection by waves and holes, making it easier to stay on line with less correction strokes. Floating through the first few rapids, it’s apparent the Villain sits higher in the water than the Hero, it’s riding on top and feels great. It’s a lot less work on cross current, side to side moves than the Rocker. The SF Yuba is boof after boof for the first 1/4 mile, and the Villain is back in Rocker territory for amazingly easy boofs, but is easier to keep on line after boofs; it’s not as prone to spinning out.

The South Yuba has some nice big holes, and I can honestly say the Villain is the best boat I have paddled for punching holes. If you drive it deep the boat maintains nice steady forward momentum and resurfaces bow first, not in a "red October" rush to the surface but a nice, controlled forward moving resurface, very nice. This boat is a resurfacing champion, something that goes hand in hand with punching big holes. A lot of boats with this much rocker are prone to resurfacing backwards, but (I think) the edges and smaller bow profile keep it moving downstream.

Basically it’s exactly what I prayed it would be, everything that I liked about the Rocker (speed, boofing, secondary stability) combined the best Hero attributes (some edge for big water moves, nimble/agile and less prone to spinning out).

I would always say the Rocker was the best boat to be in if you were offline. It would just take care of you in tough situations. The Hero was not as good offline, but easier to keep online. The Villain combines all this into one sweet package, a boat that is easy to keep online, but will still take care of you if you get offline.

Normally it takes me a few days, even weeks to get a new boat dialed in. After a quarter of the run I was asking Stephen if I could just keep the proto. I already consider the Villain "my" boat and am in love, eagerly awaiting mine in March. It’s far and away the best creeker I’ve been in.