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Unlimited Power!! Sorry that’s the first thing that goes through my head every time I think of JK’s new river racing long boat, the Karma Unlimited (UL). However you do feel pretty unlimited when you stomp a good boof in it!

Photo by Jamison Evans @ Tanner’s Boof

Over the past three years I have been fortunate enough to own 3 different long boats in my kayak quiver for river racing and attainment fun! I first purchased a new Stinger from Liquid Logic in 2011 and paddled it for about 9 months. Then I decided to purchase a new Green Boat in 2012 from my local Mahoney’s Outfitters. I paddled the Green boat for a little over a year. Last year in 2013 I heard through the grape vine that JK was coming out with a new long boat in 2014 and needless to say I was a quite excited upon hearing the news, b/c I have been asking for a long boat from JK for many years! I got to try out a UL proto at GAF last year and was impressed from the moment I sat in it. Then I got to pick up my own UL at the end of March this year at the JK Team Summit and have enjoyed paddling it for the past 5 months!

Photo by Cheryl Killman @ Nantahala Falls

I have paddled each of these long boats on the same runs for good comparison: Watauga River Gorge, Cheoah River and Nolichucky River Gorge. My specs are 6’-4” in height and 230lbs with size 12 shoes and a 36” inseam.

Photo by Cheryl Killman @ Bear Creek Falls

Here’s how the specs line up on each boat from their respective manufacture’s website:

Karma UL Green Boat Stinger
Weight: 56 lbs Weight: 55 lbs Weight: 55 lbs
Length: 11′-10” Length: 11′-9” Length: 12′-5”
Width: 25” Width: 24.25” Width: 24.25”
Height: 14.75” Height: 14.5” Height: NA
Volume: 94 gal Volume: 95 gal Volume: 100 gal

The trick to paddling any of these long boats is you’ve got to be a little more stubborn than they tend to be… Lines must me set earlier in making moves, angles must be more precise and when in doubt keep it straight and paddle harder! You’ll be amazed at what these boats can plow through when you pull harder on that paddle!!

I will use a 5 star rating system to compare each kayak in the 7 categories listed below with explanation.

Comfort & Ergonomics

Karma UL – 4 Stars
Stinger – 3 Stars
Green Boat – 2 Stars

These are very important factors to me in choosing any boat I paddle due to my XL size. I can fit into all three of these boats, but the fit was quite different for each boat. The Karma UL is by far the most comfortable for me, but the cockpit size of the UL is still a little snug for my wider hips. I fixed that problem with a little hip pad customization (Click here for details). The Stinger was the next best fitting boat for me and the Green Boat was very snug on me. I had to take breaks about every 30 minutes in the Green Boat to keep my legs from going to sleep.

The Karma UL really seems to balance well on the shoulder when being carried. I experience the same thing for the Stinger also. The Green Boat seemed a little heavy on the front end when I carried it on my shoulder. The carry strap in the UL makes turning corner and hoping over trees, roots and rocks a lot easier. I also prefer the feel of grab handles on the outside of the UL compared to the skinny metal bars on both the Green Boat and Stinger.

Photo by Jamison Evans @ Tallulah put-in

Float and Trim

Karma UL – 4 Stars
Green Boat – 3 Stars
Stinger – 1 Star

The UL floats me best with the Green Boat closely behind. I do not feel like I am sitting too low in the water in either of those boats. The Stinger was completely another story! Any time my boy would go under water. It took a long time for it to resurface which made for some out of control moments.

Photo by Cheryl Killman @ Lower Nolichucky Hometown Thorowdown Boatercross Race (1st Place win for me in this event!)


Karma UL – 5 Stars
Green Boat – 4 Stars
Stinger – 3 Stars

The UL gets the performance edge primarily due the planning hull shape compared to the semi-displacement hulls of the Green Boat and Stinger. The UL tracks better and reacts quicker to turns, ferries, peel-outs, etc… with the hull design. However, with this performance edge of the UL I have noticed you have to be very mindful and precise when setting and holding your angels for moves (like attainments), because once you let your bow fade much from the intended angel it is difficult to correct. This rings true for any long boat. However, the Green Boat did seem to have a bit of a forgiveness factor to it. The Green Boat also had an edge for me in performance over the Stinger, but I think that was largely in part to the float and trim issues I had with the Stinger at my size.


Stinger – 5 Stars
Karma UL – 4 Stars
Green Boat – 4 Stars

So this is what long boats are all about! All 3 of these long boats are super fun to paddle fast! In flat water I think the Stinger has a bit of an edge over the UL and Green Boat. The Stinger is the longest of the three boats, so it makes since that it should tend to be the fastest. However at my size in whitewater the Green Boat and UL really were faster. I think the UL seems the quickest in low volume technical runs and the Green Boat seemed to be quick in higher volume wave type runs.

Safety Features

Karma UL – 5 Stars
Green Boat – 2 Stars
Stinger – 2 Stars

The UL wins in this category by a lot! The Uni-Shock bulkhead system of the UL is far superior compared to the foot plate systems of the Green boat and Stinger for safety. The UL also has a larger cockpit than the Green Boat and Stinger, which makes escape a bit easier if you were to pin the boat (which is more common in long boating).

I got to test out the UL’s Uni-Shock at Bear Creek Falls this spring while trying the left to center line… I was quite happy to paddle away from the crash OK.

Coming in off line

Crash and vertically pinning on rock for several seconds

Wiggling free from piton pin and sliding forward off rock

Paddling away unharmed and upright, but I gave my friends a good scare!
Photos by Cheryl Killman @ Bear Creek Falls

Stability & Rolling

Karma UL – 4 Stars
Green Boat – 3 Stars
Stinger – 3 Stars

The UL also wins with its stability, because it is a bit wider than the other two long boats which naturally makes it more stable. Its primary and secondary stability is quite more noticeable than the Green Boat and Stinger. The Stinger had good primary stability, but had very little secondary stability. The Green Boat had no primary stability for me, but was OK in the secondary.

The UL is also the easiest of the 3 long boats to roll. The Green Boat was not far behind the UL in the rolling arena. The Stinger was not hard to roll, but the flatter deck did make for more work to initiate the roll.

I was quite thankful for the ease of rolling of the UL at the end of the Watauga Race this year. I was quite tired coming into the finish line at Stateline Falls and flipped at the bottom after letting my bow drop too deep into the drop. The bottom of Stateline is a very aerated place, so it makes for a tough combat roll. I did not have much energy left when I flipped, so I was glad the boat was easy to roll up, so I did not have to swim at the finish line!

Photos by William Mauney @ Stateline Falls during the 2014 Watauga Gorge Race

Dry Ride

Karma UL – 5 Stars
Stinger – 3 Stars
Green Boat – 2 Stars

One of my pet peeves is having to dump water out of a kayak that I did not swim out of it! I’m probably spoiled, because I’ve had JK boats since 2004… Since the name Jackson Kayak is on the side of the UL you know it’s going to be a dry ride with a good spray skirt and your drain plug screwed in (Watch out for your friends in races)! Both the Stinger and the Green Boat would get some water in them when I paddled them in whitewater. The Green Boat seemed to be a bit leakier than the Stinger.

Totals (35 Stars being the perfect boat for me)

Karma UL – 31 Stars
Green Boat – 20 Stars
Stinger – 20 Stars

I am a little surprised by the totals between the Green Boat and Stinger… Because overall I liked the Green Boat better than the Stinger. However, I am not surprised at all with the Karma UL being my #1 long boat! 😉

I have also found that my UL is great for my shoulder physical therapy by flat water paddling while recovering from an AC shoulder separation injury…