By Eric Jackson
October 23, 2017
The evolution of the river runner and creek boat over the years has been a slower evolution than freestyle kayaks, but an evolution all of the same. Fast and user friendly have been considered by most designers to be mutually exclusive and therefore creek boats weren’t designed with both speed and user friendliness in mind in most cases.
Things are changing and you can have your cake and eat it too with our newest creek boat, the Nirvana. This kayak’s primary goal when we started working on it, was to make it super fast. The first prototype was just that, super fast, but only in certain circumstances. The harder the whitewater, the slower it got. It was just not easy enough to paddle. Prototype #2, we focused more on user friendliness and we got it. However, like a dog discovering a stash of bones and taking one, we wanted more of that user friendliness, and the speed that came from it in the hardest whitewater. Prototype #3 was created, and it was a linear progression from 1-3, maintaining most of what made it fast in flatwater, but adding what made it easy to paddle and fast in whitewater in increasing doses. At this stage, all desires for trading ANY user friendliness for flatwater speed were gone, as it was clear that we were not losing flatwater speed anyhow, but gaining whitewater speed and the boat was simply getting more fun to paddle.
Prototype #4 was not a linear progression, but a double jump in that progression, making it the equivalent of prototype #5. We want past any boat we have ever made for user friendliness, including the Karma, and it was an instant hit with everyone. Suddenly we had the right boat to win any race, but at the same time we had the right boat to run any river, any drop, and any creek.
While we typically get early buy-in from our team on a new design, this one was immediately sought after and those on our team, and those not on our team. We paddled the prototypes for months before the production mold was ready, only a few days before GoPro Games in Vail, Colorado. It was an amazing scene as Fed-Ex delivered 12 Nirvanas to the Sitzmark Hotel there on Monday, and all 12 boats were snagged as well as the prototypes.
Yes, it won men’s and women’s for the steep creek race on Homestake, and I made finals in it with two good runs, and was so fired up to race our new creekboat.
We had a ton on input from our team, with Dane leading the charge, with a constant focus on this boat, and uncountable conversations with me about it. Most of the team provided input to some level, all of it was listened to, the end result was affected to some degree by everyone. David Knight saw all kinds of different ideas coming in the form of strong opinions on how to make a better boat. Filtering it all and deciding exactly what to do with the boat is what we do best, I think, and in this case it took us a long time to get the formula just right. The Nirvana is the end result and we are fired up on it.
We are now making 2 sizes of it- Medium and Large. Both sizes have a large range of paddlers that can put it to use. The medium is the new favorite for Nouria Newman at 5’3” to Alec Vorhees at 6’3” and 200+ pounds.
The racing credentials of this boat are incredible with wins at GoPro Games, Sweeping the North Fork Championships, Voss Extreme Week, and many more. No kayak has dominated in racing like the Nirvana in its debut. Unlike many dedicated racing boats, the Nirvana is the first choice when not racing for our team as well. The biggest, hardest rapids are easier in the Nirvana. This is what makes it the right boat for Jackson Kayak, and the boat that everyone should try if they want to pursue harder water, or make the water they are already paddling easier and more fun.
Yes, the Nirvana has a planing hull. This makes surfing a wave or hole much easier and more fun as well. Crossing the river on a wave, or using a hole to get across the river is much easier than a round, narrow hull. Check it out at a store near you and see what you think!
Here is a 3 minute video by Rush that shows our team using and talking about this boat….