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With just one year of river runner kayaking under my belt the following review of the 2011 Jackson Hero was written by, and specifically for, boaters with “regular Joe” type skills.

If you consider yourself to be ninja-like on the water, or you are a professional or expert boater, you probably will not find any new information here. Instead, this review is specifically for people who have recently entered the exciting world of whitewater kayaking or those whose skills range from novice through the intermediate level and who normally paddle nothing higher than Class III rivers.

Let me start from the very beginning: the overall weight of the 2011 Hero, 39 pounds, made it relatively easy to carry to the put-in. I found the outfitting in the Hero to be much more comfortable than the outfitting in my eighteen month old Jackson Punk Rocker. Even though the seats were the same Sweet Cheeks 100, the Hero seat felt significantly fuller. At 5’2’’ and 130 pounds, I was told that I might want to use a seat pad in the Hero for additional lift. I found that was not necessary. The Hero cockpit is 35” x 20.5”, and my large keyhole skirt had such a snug fit that it required the help of a fellow paddler to get it on. I’m not the strongest female in the bunch so it might have just been me.

From the first splash of the seal launch into the 4.16 foot water level of Northeast Georgia’s Broad River, the Hero proved itself to be much more stable than my beloved Punk Rocker. I immediately felt the difference: no wobbling or feeling out of control in any way upon entry into the water. So far, so good. The Hero’s width added to its stability and I felt confident, safe, and secure from the first moment the boat hit the water.

With about half of mile of flat water to paddle before reaching the first rapid, I was able to check out the Hero’s ability to hold a straight line in slow current. It was great! I had no trouble at all with paddling straight with minimal effort. Many times, I could use my body weight to help with the tracking, shifting slightly left or right, thereby correctly the boat’s natural tendency to want to turn in flat water.

Once past the flat water, the Hero handled like a champ in rapids. In the Broad River’s highest rated rapid, a class II+, the Hero was super easy to maneuver, seeming to turn on a dime when asked to do so. The 76.5 gallons of volume kept the boat on the surface and it punched through everything with ease whenever needed. Catching an eddy was easier than in any other boat that I have paddled. At 4.16 feet, the Broad can be a technical challenge through some of it’s shoals. The Hero’s maneuverability made these areas of the river a breeze to paddle.

The overall design of the Hero made it very forgiving. Eddy lines that had given me trouble in the past were a non-issue in the Hero. Judging from the way it responded to everything I tried, even if you have beginner level skills, it seems like the Hero would react positively to paddler error and keep you upright on the river. Staying upright is always my goal and I felt like the Hero would be the best boat to paddle to help make that happen. Truly, it felt that stable in the water.

I am in love with the 2011 Jackson Hero! If you are looking for a safe, stable boat that will take you from beginner to more advanced levels and everything in between, the 2011 Hero is it. The wide design makes it stable and the planning hull and edges make it super fun to paddle. The 2011 Hero carves turns, spins on a dime, catches eddies, and handles rapids without problems. Overall, it has a safe design that is easy to roll and friendly for novice paddlers. It has become my favorite boat and if I could choose only one kayak to paddle, the new Hero would be it. It is definitely the most fun, all-around boat that I have ever paddled.

Submitted by:
Shirley Dehm Tharp
March 1, 2011