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Jackson Rock Star Review

Posted on 13th May 2011 @ 9:00 AM

Playing with the Rock Star: spring 2011 playboat review

By John O’Neill

Let’s get one thing straight: The new Jackson Rock Star playboat is not merely a kayak; rather, it’s a toy that doubles as a kayak. Being that the purpose of toys and playboats is to play, the Rock Star plays like a dream giving that paddler the happy-go-lucky feeling of a kid on Christmas morning.

Straight away, let’s take the elephant out of the room. It seems like year after year Jackson Kayak puts out a new product for the hole riders or wave surfers that is head and shoulders above the rest. And while I can’t say that I’ve tried every manufacturers 2011 playboat, I can say that I have tried the 2011 Jackson Rock Star and it will be a hard boat to beat.

When I got word that Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards got their shipment of the Rock Stars, it was an easy decision to give up a day of spring skiing to get in the river and try out the new product.

Being 6’3” and only 155 pounds I’ve usually been stranded to the larger of the playboats, struggling to deal with the extra volume for the added length. It was a nice surprise to see that I could fit into this year’s medium Rock Star, albeit it’s length of only 5’9”. Coming in at a volume of 58 gallons, my shoulders were already excited to get in a boat proper for my weight.

An added benefit: packing for the day was no hassle, at only 5’9” the Rock Star slid into the back of the car no problem.

But we don’t buy our playboats based on the ability to load them—we buy them to shred a day of whitewater boat riding. Drive over and dressed for success (or warmth being that it is still April), we pushed off and headed down stream,

Now, the Shoshone stretch of Glenwood Canyon (for those that don’t know) is only a mile, but I felt like I could play that mile all day in the Rock Star. Flat water loops and cartwheels to warm up were almost too easy. I could think “bow stall” and it would happen.

Getting into the features Shoshone has to offer, if the Rock Star were playing the master’s, it would be well under par. If it were a marathoner, it would be well ahead of the field. In short, the Rock Star dominated.

Every hole that was dropped into was looped, cart wheeled and played to the point of exhaustion. Every rock, for the sake of the old school, was splatted. My only regret was the low early spring flows leading to a lack of waves. Sitting here in this coffee shop and writing this review, I shiver with the thought of how big this boat will go when the Glenwood wave rises from the river bottom: it will be epic.

While clearly my opinion on the boat is one of positivity, it does come with one caveat: for running rivers, the Rock Star is squirrely. It gets hung up on eddy lines and pushed around in bigger white water. But, like a toy isn’t made for typing out finance reports, the Rock Star serves its purpose of being a playboat. It’s designed to play and play it does. Well.

Methodically working our way down Shoshone, careful to not let a single feature slip by, the two other boaters I was with grew increasingly impatient with my ability to stick every trick and ride every hole to it’s potential.

Truly, I’m not one to brag. I don’t McNasty or phoenix monkey well. In a play park where the feature is perfect, I can sometimes snap the boat around to make it look like I know what I’m doing. But on this day, in the Rock Star, you’d easily mistake me for a Teva Games freestyle finalist. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that good, but in the Rock Star I did stick a few McNastys in natural features that I had never before. The Rock Star actually made me a better boater.

I don’t know what our final time was for the mile section, but it was slow. I played and played and played some more. Like a kid on Christmas, I was disappointed to see the day end. But my saving grace is that while Christmas comes only once a year, I can take the Rock Star out anytime, and you’d better expect that I’ll be a regular RockStar.

The Rock Star is available for both demo and purchase at Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards. Call them at 970.926.3867 for more information.


Rock Star S:

Length: 5”5” long
Width: 25” wide
Height: 13.4” tall
Volume: 49 Gallons
Weight: 27 Pounds SL, 27 Pounds Elite
Target Weight: 90-160 pounds
Max inseam/Foot size: 31-10

Cockpit: 19″ x 32-1/2″

Rock Star M:

Length: 5’9” long
Width: 26” Wide
Height: 14.25” tall
Volume: 58 gallons
Weight: 29 pounds SL, 29 Pounds Elite
Target weight: 140-200
Max inseam/footsize: 34-12

Cockpit: 20-1/4″ x 34-1/2″

Rock Star L:

Length: 6’-0” long
Width: 27.5” wide
Height: 14.9” tall
Volume: 67 Gallons
Weight: 33 pounds SL, 33 Pounds Elite
Target weight: 160-260
Max inseam/footsize: 36-13

Cockpit: 21″ x 36″