2008 was a challenging, successful, and very busy year for the Jackson family, and the entire Jackson Kayak factory team. It started off with our “Quality First” program which was a huge effort by the entire company to improve quality in every area of our business. The kayaks saw a jump up in every way from molding, trimming, assembly, and what we would accept for a 1st quality boat. We have dealers across the USA and Canada telling me that they don’t understand what makes for the demo boats as they can’t find anything wrong with them. Well, our quality control people are the final line of defense against a less than 1st quality boat going out the door and they treat their job seriously. We managed to not only produce quality boats, but enough quantity to just keep up with demand. It was hand to mouth for most of the season, with John Ratliff, Brad Cisco, John Shepherd, Tony Lee, Leif Koehler, Dave Olson, Carman Ratliff, Jane Bouldin, Lorraine Valet, Jase Bouldin, and the entire assembly team working an incredible schedule to make sure that we got the boats molded and built on time, properly, and shipped out. We launched the new Heroes in the spring of 2008 which are quickly becoming the staple river runner boats of choice.
Going into the 2009 season we are making HUGE changes that follow suit with our Quality First Program, as well as bringing you the Dynamic Duo, the Little Hero, the All-Water, and the Journey kayaks!
1. We now have our own ovens! While the trend in the industry is still consolidation and turning kayaking into a commodity, with some manufactures going as far as to get their boats made in China, Jackson Kayak is moving more towards controlling our own destiny even more. We have just purchased two ovens that will make twice as many boats as we need to make in 2009 assuring that we can get the job done. We have the “Dream Team” of rotomolding with Leif Koehler, John Shepherd, Tony Lee, and more. I can’t say enough about these guys. Their past record speaks for themselves. John took Wilderness Systems production from its first oven to 30 ovens molding Wavesport, Mad River Canoe, Wilderness, etc. and was the man to get the job done. Leif was there molding boats 10 years ago and molded almost every one of our boats in 2008. Tony Lee was the Dagger R+D manager back when Dagger was in Harriman, TN and an independent company. His experience and knowledge comes from a different company with different processes and creates an awesome balance and breadth to our production team.
2. We have our core team of assemblers, some have been here since 2004, like Adam Kemptner, who are like the encyclopedias for JK boats. They are so good at what they do, that their titles of “master boat builders” are barely sufficient. This season they are starting with even better hulls, and better parts, and a better process for putting boats together. Look for your boats’ builder on a little white hang tag on the front of the cockpit rim. Look for Dr. G, Richie, Adam, Windy, Richie, Steve, Dustin, Uncle Steve, Sydney, Brad, and Jase. Say hi to them on the river, too!
1. Dynamic Duo – I can’t tell you how cool it is going to be to take my friends and family paddling with me! So many people aren’t confident enough to try it on their own. Now, I can take them down fun rivers with me in the stern and them having a great time at the bow experiencing kayaking for the first, second, and third times until they are ready for their own solo boat!
2. Little Hero- So you are too big for the Side Kick (kids Hero) and too small for the Hero? Yes, I have heard that before, and Voila! Now we have completed the most up to date, fun to paddle, easy to roll, comfortable, and versatile river runner lineup yet! Side Kick, Little Hero, Hero, and Super Hero- take one of those, and a Star series kayak and you have a quiver that will create envy among your friends, and make you smile every time you think of them or paddle them! (I know that I do!)
3. All-Water- We are nearing completion of this “Hybrid” design that will retail for $849, and be a whitewater paddlers boat for camping out with the family on easy water, extended trips, or the flatwater paddler’s entrance into whitewater, while still being able to paddle the open waters well. A drop skeg, hatch, and Jackson Kayak design qualities, you’ll find this to be a great boat for All Water conditions.
4. Journey- This is not a whitewater kayak, but a touring boat for day touring. When you want to paddle the ocean, bays, lakes, and make ground, carry gear, and go fast, this is your boat. I personally don’t have a lot of experience with this type of boat, but I am quite excited to change that. Kristine and the kids will love to go camping or just tour the waterways as a family.
5. Riviera – Sit-On-Top- jump on, fall off, jump back on, surf, and play with the non-sinkable boat that needs no emptying. An ocean toy, or extra kayak for taking out friends on easy water or the lake and not stressing about tipping over. Yes, fishing, of course, hang your legs over into the water and drop a line. Due out in late spring.
2009 Fun Tour
We’ll be switching up some locations next year. You’ll find us in Boise, Idaho at Alpenglow Mountain Sports, for example, one of our Super Stores. We’ll be up in New England at some point doing a tour, including Stillwater Outfitters, another of our Super Stores. The World Championships will be in Thun, Switzerland in August, so look for us there in full force too! We hope to paddle with you somewhere, next season, and hope we got to meet up this year with a lot of you!
There is so much more, but I wanted to give you the meat of what you can expect from Jackson Kayak in 2009!
See you on the water!