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When I read Steve Fischer proclaim that if he could choose only one boat it would be his new Jackson Kayak Karma Unlimited, I figured he was just kissing up to his new corporate sponsor. I’ve been paddling the Karma RG version for the last several weeks and now believe he may not have been stretching the truth.   While the elite paddler may use, if not race this boat down class V+, at 11′-10″ long, this boat will not be my go to for the steepest of creeks or exploring new to me class V runs, but once I learned how to turn this boat, I am able to catch very small eddies; it just takes more planning to do so.  Exaggerating the motions of both leaning forward and putting the boat way up on edge really allows it to snap into eddies that you wouldn’t believe. The speed it carries or lack of drag on this long skinny hull allows me to attain an eddy as long as I turn up anywhere near the bottom of it. It can coast or hover in eddy water that a traditional creek or play boat would get blown out the back of.




Paddling this boat was at first something I did for the challenge, but I now find it truly enjoyable. I’ve paddled it through Boulder canyon a dozen times, from high water to low, punching holes and catching eddies in tight steep rapids. Where this boat really excels is it’s speed and it’s ability to ferry.

I ran it a couple times down the Black Rock section of Clear Creek as well as the Arkansas river from the tighter rapids of the Numbers to the bigger features in the Royal Gorge. The Gorge  was my favorite run so far for this boat. It can maneuver around or through the biggest waves and holes the Gorge had to offer, but where it really excelled was in eddy hopping and the fast river wide ferries through the middle of the biggest drops like Sunshine, sledgehammer and the narrows.  The eddies and ferries in the screaming quarter mile of Clear Creek were another highlight for me. The hole known as the hand, in the Narrows was my low point with the ensuing thousand CFS swim being among the worst I’ve personally experienced in 20 years of boating. While I cannot blame the boat, I think I can say it probably would not have happened if I was paddling my Karma Large that day. I did  not let that swim deter me from paddling the same boat down the same run to redeem myself the following day.

I have yet to load this boat down and self support out of it, but those who have were quite impressed both with the amount of gear it can swallow as well as how little the boat was affected by the weight in it once you drop it in the water. Carrying it fully loaded is another matter entirely. I look forward to luxury camping out of this boat soon.

I’ve always encouraged people to push themselves by catching smaller and harder eddies and said that doing so opens doors to improved techniques as well as the ability to run harder water safely. Knowing what eddies one can catch allows one to paddle harder whitewater and be able to scout rapids easier, whether from the safety of shore or the comfort of your boat, as well as to portage where necessary or prudent.

I am enjoying my own advice as I push my limits in this boat.



Eddy hopping through Pineview Falls on the Cache la Poudre River, CO