Select Page



I have heard quite a few comments about boat manufacturers going backwards in design and pushing the “river-runner” line of boats as the new trend. While there will always be a niche for the two extremes of boating—playboating and creeking—there never was a time when “river-running” went out of style, although it did kind of get lost in the flash and hype of the usually more visible other style of boats.

Enter the Zen for JK, which blends the pure joy of old school boating with the modern evolution of boats in terms of comfort, performance and ease of use.
There has been enough written about how fun the Zen is to paddle so I won’t go into how much I absolutely love this boat. Instead, let me make a few comments about some of the little known features inside the boat.

Typical of all JK boats, the Zen is good to go right off the shelf in terms of adjustment. The seat is on a track and can be moved while sitting in the boat by unscrewing one wing-nut in front of the seat and moving the seat either forward an inch or back an inch. It is really easy to get trimmed in the boat within the first few minutes of paddling.

The seat is a fairly dense foam and pretty comfortable but if you have had another JK boat with a Sweet Cheeks seat, you may want to add one on top of the stock pad for even more cushioning. The hip pads are the standard envelope style and it is simple to add as much padding as you need. It comes with 4 additional pads and that should be plenty for most people. If you are really small, ask your dealer for a couple spare foam pieces.

The only thing you need to spend a little time with is the foot system. It is a bulkhead system that incorporates a shock absorbing foam pad on a solid platform sitting on an infinitely adjustable track. There are 3 sizes of plates and the first boats to ship came with the small foot plate which is probably good for 85% of the people out there. If you are a small person or have shorter legs, you may want to ask your dealer or JK to get you the medium or large foot plate which attaches to the small one with two locking screw nuts. Basically, you want the foot plate itself to be nearly touching the hull of the boat when your legs and feet are in a comfortable position. I say nearly because if you have long legs and the large plate is installed you will push into the hull of the boat and cause a pressure point from contact. If you can’t get the plate pushed as far forward as you like with the 3 inch foam on the plate, make sure you have the small or medium plate on the track before you use the boat—see the two photos of the small, medium, and large foot plates.

The foam piece that is bungied to the plate is a critical part of the boat in terms of safety so don’t be tempted to leave it out. It provides a shock -absorbing layer if you hit hard in a piton but more importantly, prevents your foot from being able to get past the foot plate by completely blocking the front of the boat. It also provides quite a bit of hull strength in the foot area. Don’t use the boat without the foam piece installed. Most likely you will need to trim the large chunk of foam a bit. I took off my large adapter plate and used it as a template for cutting my foam and it worked perfectly when I put the foam over the small plate. Once you get a good fit, I would glue the foam to the plate instead of relying on the cord and cordlock.

Speaking of the foot track, this is another very cool feature of the hardier JK boats (Villain, Hero, Zen). The foot plate actually detaches from the track making it super easy to stuff overnight gear in the nose or even add flotation to the front. You get the plate off by pulling the foot plates towards the cockpit with the rope in the center pillar and then tug the plates towards the back of the boat off the track. Taking the plates off also helps to do what I consider the final task to outfit the boat—gluing the chunk of foam to the foot plate. You can use the bungy cord/ lock provided but if you want solid, go for gluing the foam to the plate.

JK has taken a lot of time and put a lot of effort into making these boats as safe as possible but it is up to you to tweak the foot system to make it optimal for your dimensions. If you have any questions, post and JK will get back to you with help.

Hilde Team JK