Select Page

I have the same Jackson Kayak Nirvana as I purchased in 2017. No hull replacements. SAME ONE. Simply put, I love this kayak! It has provided me the confidence needed to paddle challenging rivers, the safety to withstand a lot of rock contact over the years, and the trustworthiness to help me execute rolls when I need to, carry the safety gear needed to keep my paddling friends safe, and run some really smooth lines on technical rapids. The medium size also feels tailor-made for my body type (6’0’’ and 190 lbs) and paddling style.

Let’s dig into the details a bit more. Being my size, I often find myself split between medium and large size kayaks. At times, this is a bit frustrating as some kayaks feel too big and some feel too small (the Goldilocks situation). I loved the way the medium size Karma paddled, but my body weight and safety gear weighed it down a bit too much. I loved how powerful the large size Zen 2 felt when punching holes and running big rapids, but the width made it hard for me to maintain hip contact without significant outfitting adjustments. When I hopped into the medium size Nirvana, it was a different story. It was narrow enough to instantly provide me with hip control. It was versatile enough to paddle technical rapids in the southeast U.S. (where I lived previously) and pacific northwest (where I live now). Oh yeah, and it is REALLY fast when I enter into paddling races.

I find the Nirvana to be a great kayak when I’m teaching kayaking lessons. Demonstrating skills is so easy in the Nirvana, as it tracks well during forward strokes, turns on a dime, rolls with ease, can store a bunch of safety gear, is super easy to Hand-of-God rescue, and performs really well in deep water rescues (both as the rescuer and victim). The ability to execute rescues is an underrated feature of this kayak. Seriously, when an incident happens, I want to be in a kayak that provides confidence in situations where I am rescuing someone or being rescued.

I really like the Nirvana in the pacific northwest. The paddling style out here feels quite different from the southeast paddling I was used to. Often, I’m paddling higher volume rivers when compared to what I often paddled in the southeast. The Nirvana excels at staying on line in these environments without getting spun out by swirling and boiling eddy lines. This is especially important during races where you’re trying to avoid the dreaded spin out, costing valuable seconds. But, if I need to make adjustments to my line, the Nirvana is quite responsive. I’m not worried about plowing through a stiff eddy line to catch an eddy to boat scout the next drop. I attribute this to the playful nature found in all Jackson Kayaks.

In those rocky rivers, I really appreciate how well the Nirvana’s high bow rocker keeps the bow up over waves and holes. There are a lot of features in the pacific northwest where if you don’t keep your bow up, you’re going to go for a nasty ride in a hydraulic. And that’s usually just the boogie water. Boof over a hole, then boof over another one, and then another one. I really appreciate how the outfitting it set up to help with this, as I can drive my knees/thighs up and do a bit of an ab crunch to lift that bow a bit higher over drops.

Learning to kayak in the southeast, I appreciate a fair bit of rock contact. I am able to accelerate quickly and nail some great boofs because of the Nirvana’s design. I’m not sure what it is about the design, but I really love that it responds well to advanced maneuvers. It took a little bit of figuring out at first, but this is probably my favorite feature of the kayak. I really enjoy experimenting with bow rudders and bow draws. In some of the kayaks I’ve paddled in years past, I felt like I quickly outgrew them in skill. The more I push the Nirvana, the more it responds. It becomes faster. It becomes more stable. And it stays forgiving! I would say this is equally an effective kayak for experts and beginners.

In conclusion, the Jackson Kayak Nirvana is simply the best creek boat for me. It’s fast, goes over waves and holes with ease, rolls better than any creek boat I’ve ever paddled, and keeps me safe. It fits like it was tailor made for me and has provided me with happy days while on the river. I also appreciate how comfortable it is to load on my shoulder and carry on the longer hikes to and from a river. I recommend you hop in one, if you haven’t had the chance already.