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It was a bright and gusty day when I first met Rogue. My first date with Jackson Kayak’s crossover kayak was both tempestuous and sweet. I’d had relationships with other crossovers, all of which were attractive in some ways, but not in all of the well put-together ways I’ve uncovered in the Rogue. Normally when one demos a kayak for the first time you’d like placid water and a chance to try out many different moves and strokes to see how she handles and how she fits out on the water. So, I headed out from Colorado Kayak Supply up-country to a high-mountain lake with visions of gentle breezes promised by the local morning weather ladies on the TV: Clear, warm, no clouds, and hardly any wind. Optimistic I was and excited to try out the Rogue to see how she stacked up against the other crossovers.

I’d spent enough time on dry land checking out the Rogue’s super comfortable Jackson outfitting with its backband that adjusts more ways than any other, seat pan cushion, footpegs, general overall roominess, yet snug outfitting to “marry” your bod to your boat for better comfort and easier paddling. Everyone should sit in a boat for a while first to be sure you like how it feels, then take it out for a demo where it belongs, on the water. The Rogue felt mighty fine when she easily loaded on my truck (it’s pretty light for a 10-ft., rugged kayak) pointed East and started climbing uphill to Clear Lake, Colorado.

Unloading at the put-in was easy for this old geezer (looking down the barrel at 80 and not real strong like the old days) because the Rogue is so light for a well-rounded crossover and has places to grab that’re real handy. I’d heard how the Rogue was fast enough on flatwater which is what I wanted because my wife and I do a lot of flatwater touring on rivers and lakes big and small and sometimes I don’t want to take my touring boat. But I also wanted the same boat to cradle me down easy whitewater runs that I also enjoy (Class I and II with an occasional Class III- wake-up call), and had enjoyed my Jackson Karma in those conditions. However, I was also looking for a boat that could do it all within reasonable limits. The other crossovers I’d owned were OK in their own narrow bands of delight, but each had foibles that were less than loveable, so I divorced them after a few months. One was nervous as a hyper-kitty and required you pay attention at all times, the kind you need to always keep an eye on. Great if your an experienced, and somewhat jocky paddler, but I’m not. I had a few exciting times in that boat but it just wasn’t the all-around, comfortable partner I wanted.

Boat #2 was the same 10-ft. length but wider and more stable at rest than #1, nowhere near as nervous. It had OK outfitting, but not the comfort this creaky bod was looking for. With some foam and other gizmos I managed to make it tolerable in short spurts, so I eagerly put-on for my first whitewater voyage in a kayak (Class I and II). Class I was OK, but when the Class II spots required some exact positioning to get and hold a line, it was like dancing in molasses. It felt porky and was a chore to draw or sweep the bow exactly as fast and precise as I wanted, and I’d been complimented on my stroking by people who know. A younger, stronger paddler would have probably enjoyed the matronly way #2 reacted, but not me.

Then one day I had it out in a squall on a very high mountain lake and it was a huge handful, plus it leaked like an alley dog, even after previously doing all the requisite inspection and maintenance to prep it for the predicted squall. Also, I found its skeg control not as intuitive or adjustable as I’d like, so I went looking for another partner a little more nimble and friendlier to the body. The divorce was quick and painless thanks to Colorado Kayak Supply and Eric Jackson who at the CKS 2012 Paddlefest cajoled me into the boat that was now atop my truck.

I was stoked because the weather was perfect, the Rogue was comfy, the skeg worked just right, there was tons of room around and in front of the footpegs to wiggle the feet and relax during breaks, and on the deck were places to park the stuff I carry in case of an unexpected swim as I didn’t have roll. Really cool was the Rogue had the most convenient paddle park, super easy to reach, right in front of you, the most convenient place to park a paddle of any of the many kayaks I’ve paddled. That can be super important to beginning kayakers.

The Rogue easily and eagerly plopped in the water and we headed out around Coot’s Corner toward the center of the lake. After laying rubber forward and backward to see how fast she’d step out, sweeps to see how fast she’d spin forward and backward, some bow and stern draw strokes to see how she’d respond (whoopee-well!), some sculling to see how fast I could get it to go sideways (very fast, very easy… very handy when you want to parallel park along a shore, log, or somebody else). I was soon smitten. This was one very cool, little thing to be messing about with. Then, as they say in the mountains, good things may come to an end.

Down the canyon roared a wicked growler. One minute flat water, the next whitecaps growing whiter and frothier by the minute. Not really what I wanted on a first date. Not at all, as I still had some secondary stability and edging discovery to learn about the Rogue. However, I was able to learn real fast because the Rogue is so stable when it gets snotty. I mean reassuringly stable. The wind and waves rocked her briskly side to side and I didn’t have to try save it from going bottoms up,. She held right on. So I started playing a little to see what it took to tip over in those conditions.

Any boat has a capsize point, but the Rogue has one that’s so far over, it’s supportive, comforting and it’ll give you plenty of warning. That’s secondary stability and the Rogue has a lot of it…just what you want as a new or recreational kayaker. It didn’t take long for me to learn that the Rogue is a real cradle. By now the waves were pushing two foot+++ meanies, steep, getting steeper, and very close together. Snotty and snottier. Home base at the launch spot was a long way away and dead upwind. Slogging uphill to get home was not an option. Even though the Rogue punched the wind and waves impressively well, I would have been royally pooped, soaked and probably totally wasted before even going a hundred yards. Not something you relish while your wife looks on.

Fortunately, I’ve messed about in all kinds of boats, big and tiny, most my life so knew not to fool with Mother Nature. You never win at that game. I picked out a spot on the leeward shore to “coast” downwind toward, then did what in sailing we call “heaving-to”, whereby you place the boat broad-side to wind and waves, and let her have her head. In other words, you don’t fight the conditions, you embrace them as best you can. In a kayak that means do as little as possible with your body and paddle, which in those conditions becomes a huge, wind-sock drag (or you can use it as a sail, if you enjoy that). The Rogue will point a little up into the wind (weathercock), and then fall off the wind and point a little downwind (leecock). And repeat this contentedly. This is not the place to get dweeby about hull design and how Jackson’s designers have made her so shapely she responds well in these conditions. But it’s not dweeby to say the designers made her very comforting when conditions get ugly. After a few moments of seeing what she actually would do in the snot slot, the glee factor rose because, unlike my other crossovers in similar conditions, I could relax, sit back, munch some homemade bread, and enjoy the ride, communing with nature. The Rogue is that kind of boat. It has more kinds of more types of sweet spots than I have room to describe. The next ½ hour was a hoot, bobbing up and down, coasting with the breeze, watching the fishing families on shore scrambling to pack up and high-tail it outta there.

As you’ve probably heard, if you don’t like the weather in the high country then, hang on and it’ll change pretty quickly, unless of course the sky gets real black, which it didn’t, thankfully, on that first date. By the time I finished lunch, the breeze was friendlier and we headed back to the launch point, where my wife stared in bemusement when I disembarked and promptly kissed not only the shore but all parts of the Rogue. This lady was no tramp; she was a canary that sang like an angel and danced like a tango-twirler on the TV. I was in love–serious lust this time. My wife knows I’m crazy and fortunately puts up with pointy little, other women in our life.

I waited for months to let it all sink in. I played with my Karma and touring kayaks a lot, Then I committed to getting a boat I could use to demonstrate just how easy it is to gain important mental and physical health benefits, no matter where you paddle via GrayBlades, a consortium of 55+ folks thinking better, feeling better, and having more fun in life by kayaking (as opposed to Bridge, Scrabble, Bingo, or the PGA), and certainly better for you than grunting in some sweaty spa, watching talking heads and eyeballing all the buffness around you.

So I popped the question, opened my wallet and went down the altar with a Rogue 10 in special livery, signed by all the Jackson employees as I wanted everyone to know what a super kayak this is because of who builds it. It is a boat you can be happy with under any kind of general paddling you choose (even ocean surf—up to a point). For the average paddler she’s not a Class IV-V hipster hussy and she’s not Hurricane Harriet swirling through rock gardens in +5 waves. What she is is a kayak that you can take anywhere the “average” paddler wants to go.

Do yourself a favor, if you’re thinking about getting into kayaking. Don’t shop the mall for the brightest, cheapest, sexiest looking thing you see. I’ll bet quality Champagne that if you want to really enjoy everything kayaking can bring you, a box-store boat won’t cut it. Because in my experience with several, they’re mostly not real comfortable, they don’t hold up under the rigors of car-topping, shore launching, and getting you home no matter what Mother Nature hands you–let alone pleasing you all the ways kayaking can. There are some OK box-store boats, and I’ve owned some on the quest to learn about kayaking, but each eventually proved to be a waste of money. Yes, they may do for tossing on the porch at the cottage a couple of weekends a summer, or for a short afternoon at the lake. But if you really want to get the health, adventure, and sheer fun kayaking can bring you, head for a specialty kayak store like the Jackson Dealers listed above at the top of this web page under “Dealers”.

Get a real kayak store to demonstrate and let you sample, thoroughly and without haste, the sitting comfort and other features of a kayak, then take the feel-goods out on a water demo, Better yet rent a kayak, or several. Spend significant time with them before you shell out. A kayak should be an investment in you, your health, your pleasure. I guarantee the rest of the champagne bottle that if you take your time and be thorough, your return on investment will please you over and over.

Do this and chances are the Rogue will pay off in spades. Like a good partner she’ll stand by you over the long haul. She’s fast enough on flatwater lakes, trustworthy on gusty waters, a plush, comfy cruiser on downriver floats and steadfast in Class II-III water. She’ll hold a kitchen full of supplies for short or long camping trips (more about that in a moment). She’s one of the most stable, trustworthy companions I’ve paddled in my boataholic time as a geezer kayaker, or back in the day in canoes or Adirondack Guide Boats. And to boot, she’s got a thick skin. Here’s an extreme example of just how that thick skin makes her as reliable and durable as she is.

Out here in the cold, winters of the western Rockies lurks cabin fever which no amount of powder hounding can alleviate. So for an excuse to get away from the hearth and have some fun, I’ll join some amigos and frolic in freezing lake water with its rough, flat-ice. That’s how “BoofSliding” was born. In the ever-challenging search for adventure in windy, winter lake paddling, it happened one day that I found myself beached on thick ice that’s edge was invisible under the waves. Paddles don’t do very well when the ice is hundreds of feet wide and you’ve managed to strand yourself yards from the water’s edge. But Twerking and Rhumba work well and eventually you slide back into liquid.

So, let the games begin. Back off a ways, then paddle like hell to where you “think” the ice starts (remember it’s beneath waves), boof the best you can and see how far you can slither without touching paddle or hands to the ice. Rules state that you must remain upright using just the body parts beneath the skirt (penalties for using anything else).

That’s BoofSliding and its a game with stakes. First, you need to pick ice where you won’t break through because that can be untidy. You also try to avoid deductions for faceplants on the ice or in the freezing water. Also at stake are free après-yak soaks in the local hot springs, followed by hearty corned-beef hash that’s to die for. Or, if we’re feeling pudgy that day, pigging out on Ceviche and Cerveza at Luis’ Costa Rica Cantina, just down the road. A great way to spend a winter’s day when the slopes are too crowded or far away, NASCAR is sleeping, and you’re bored with the stuff in the barn.

Sandpaper Ice Proves Rogue is Rugged (Pic BC paddles)


So how does this prove Rogue’s durability and reliability? By not tipping over easily for starters (stability with its comfort), plus lake ice is like sandpaper, slippery, but very rough. That’s an extreme test of the durability of the Rogue’s bottom.

If you kayak anywhere there’s maybe one whole grain of sand in the entire county, and you therefore must launch from pebbly, cobbly, even rocky spots, the Rogue is the ticket. Jackson’s plastic can handle it. Don’t forget, too, that roads fling sand, rocks, gunge, and other uglies on the freeway ride back and forth to the water. Not to worry though, if you have a Rogue, a little sponge stroking takes care of all that. I’m in love. This gal, Rachael by name, dances sweet, cradles me in her lap, has great hygiene, will probably outlive me, and even better, can handle not only my baggage, but also the stuff you need to camp out in comfort.

Relaxing with Rachael

Rogues swallow more than a supermodel in a shoe store. Look at the picture below. This was taken by my friend Peter Holcombe who just spent 2+ weeks on a totally self-supported trip in the Grand Canyon. Yes, other crossovers have done this, but Peter is a world-class , commercial photographer, so he not only packed the requisite food, water, pooping, shelter, cooking, hygiene, rescue, survival, reading, writing, and technical climbing gear, he also, carried a photo store PLUS an electronics store to support his photography. Peter knew exactly how he wanted to capture one of the planet’s treasures and what it would take to do it. And he wanted no rafts or dories to act as Sherpas. Stay tuned for his inspiring views of this incredible place that may be changing for the worse due to the water wars out here.

The kitchen sink is under the foredeck, behind the groover. (PH pic)

Not only did he pack it all in his Rogue, he even managed to score rad moves in that 300 or so pounds of boat, body and baggage, a testament to the Rogue’s design and build. Keep an eye peeled for his full report which among other things may reveal just how well the Rogue danced with a sudden, deep whirlpool which appeared out of nowhere, launched him and all that cargo toward the moon, spun him 360 degrees, then tossed him back down at the Kenmore edge of that beast, at which point the Rogue motored sedately on. That’s comfort! Trustworthy? Yep! Peter didn’t have much say in the matter.

Here’s a shot Peter took of fellow-traveler Pat Brown in a “Rogue 10 heavy” (as the airline folks say) going wheels-up in Hermit Canyon on the Grand. He wasn’t lightly loaded either.

Pat Brown lifting off in a “Rogue 10 heavy” in Hermit Rapid, Grand Canyon, AZ

Us mortal paddlers out for a summer paddle-picnic, lazy-dazy drift among the moose, beaver, deer, Osprey and whatever (including urban landscapes), or overnight camping while fishing, drifting,or whitewatering, can do it in luxury. My Rogue holds more than my expedition backpack, for example. And you can do all this without breaking your wallet. Comfort, stability, multi-use with safety, sea-kindly, cargo-packability, durability, reliability. For all they offer, you owe it to yourself to get out and demo a Rogue, either the Rogue 9, if you’re smaller and lighter than me (5’6”, 28” inseam, 185 lbs. chubby), or the Rogue 10, like in all these pictures.

Yes this is a rosy report, but not because I get paid to put the rouge on the Rogue. I don’t. I have to pay the same price anybody else does, but this Rogue has given me more pleasure, paid me more dividends, given me more smiles and warm fuzzies than the all the other brides put together. I’m already pretty gray, but plan to get grayer with Rachael. The Rogue is sweetness and a true keeper.

By Butler Cox, with photography by Cecily Anne, Peter Holcombe, and Pat Brown