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In November, Ben Stookesberry and I had the opportunity to paddle the new Jackson Kayak Karma. With low water and short days of winter we still wanted to paddle, and Bald Rock Canyon on the Middle Fork Feather still had enough water to be fun. We loaded up our Karma’s with overnight gear and set down into the classic canyon with our first strokes in the Karma.

My initial impression, in the large size, was a ton of stability and speed, seemingly unhindered by the weight of overnight gear. Once into the whitewater I could really feel the stability and realized that the edges won’t catch on funky currents and push you around. You have to mindfully get up on edge and use them to move around. Right away, being able to carve the boat all over the place without tripping up on the edges was my favorite thing about the Karma.

Bald Rock is typically a summer run, when flows are a little higher, so there were more rocks than usual.  I was impressed that the Karma dealt with rocks so well, never really tripping over edges and always floating high enough to slide easily over rocks. The occasional weird bounce off a rock is unavoidable though, but the big flat hull corrects with lightning speed and ease that surprised me at first.

Topping the positives of the boat for me so far are carving on the long edges, acceleration out the bottom of a rapid or falls, and staying on the surface so well. There is always a balance though and the size that makes the Karma awesome to paddle also makes it a little tougher to carry, as I found out on the hike-out from Lake Oroville at the end of Bald Rock. Bumping into a few more trees while walking is far outweighed by the positives of paddling the Karma, and I can’t wait to charge into some big whitewater with this boat!

Chris Korbulic