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It had been about three years since I last paddled the Ocoee, and what better way to celebrate my return to the southeastern classic than in the new Jackson Kayak MixMaster. I had taken the MixMaster for a little surf at Rock Island, but had yet to catch a full, proper lap in one. To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised. My crew put on around noon; the water levels were slightly higher than usual, due to all the rain. Being a smaller guy (5’6” and about 135lbs), I paddled the MixMaster 7.0, and with foam foot inserts, I fit the boat perfectly. Right as my boat slid into the water, I could feel the hull’s edges catch and respond to the subtle currents of the eddy. I hit a quick warm-up roll with ease– the boat felt just like an extension of my lower body. Even easier, I whipped into a bow stall, held it for a few seconds, and threw my weight into a clean flatwater cartwheel. I’m no serious playboater, but the MixMaster’s ends were just the right volume and length to enable almost effortless play in that little put-in eddy.

As I peeled out into the first rapid, I discovered that the MixMaster handled pretty well as a river runner. Although not as powerful as a full-on creek boat, the MixMaster carried decent speed and responded well to catching seams and running clean lines. Ultimately, however, the MixMaster will be a playboat for most paddlers. The boat’s strong edges and loose ride sometimes worked against me when I tried to punch the meatier holes. However, those same edges worked to a greater, positive effect when I came back up the eddy to properly surf those meaty waves and holes. The MixMaster rode very well in play features, and I was linking solid cartwheels and pirouettes in the (in)famous Hell Hole. The MixMaster was strongest on down-river play: splats, rock spins, wave wheels, huge squirts– you name an old-school trick and the MixMaster could do it! Speaking generally, I would recommend the MixMaster to anybody looking to style up their ride. It’s a great boat for beginner-level playboaters, and will inspire confidence, creativity, and solid technique that can be applied to any style and difficulty of kayaking.

The very next day I was creek boating: bombing laps on the lower Cheoah. Playing around with the MixMaster’s edges gave me confidence to lean harder into my boofs and snap in and out of ferries and eddies. I’m certainly excited to paddle the MixMaster more and discover all it has to offer!

Jake “The Intern” Skardon