Christmas came early this year!

“All I want for Christmas is to get more air, to get more air, to get more air, All I want for Christmas is to get more air, So I can Fly….  ”  (sing along song)

While David Knight and I spent countless hours working on our latest toy for playing the river,  and I knew it was coming,  actually getting it built, outfitted, and in the back of my truck felt like Christmas when I was a kid.   I think I had the nervous shakes on my first seal launch into the river here at Rock Island as I was so excited about putting all of the theory into practice for the first time.

My first experience with the Rock Star was alone.   Nick and Dane and Clay went to run Greeter falls in the new 2011 Hero (that is another story), while Emily came to take photos and watch me try out the Rock Star M (medium).

Sitting up 1.5″ higher in the boat than I do in the All-Star (it is designed to do that) I felt up and over my boat sitting high up on the rock.    I noticed that it was much easier to tip the bow down to get the boat to leave the rock, just by leaning forward.    Hmmm… cool.    I went for the pogo flip, but didn’t get vertical enough (I am 50/50 on that move from 20 feet up).    My first strokes woke me up quick- Wow, the bow stays out better than I am used to, and backpaddle…. Stern stays out better too!   1″ shorter, same amount of rocker, but sweet!

I felt tall sitting up high and a little tippy at first and remembered that I should keep my weight over the boat and it felt stable again.   The boat is .5″ wider for extra stability, which also keeps the ends out of the water better.

I couldn’t wait to get to the top wave!   Emily announced that my CF card wasn’t working so no photos, just paddling it for my own pleasure…

Top wave- caught it and the stern didn’t sink at all when I backed into it.  The extra 2 gallons in the stern was already working for me!   Holding my breath- I went to the flatter green part of the wave to test the speed as I have about a zillion hours of experience with that wave and each boat I have paddled here at Rock Island since 1996….  ZIP, ZIP, ZOOM!   Wow,  FAST, FASTER!   It zipped right out running way further up and to the side of the wave than I have been able to do before!

Spin….   David and I spent many a conversation discussing how to make it way looser, but also carve across when we want…..   Spin, clean spin- Ball bearing feel!!!   Grind sideways on the flat part of the wave???? Oh yea!!!  My new favorite thing.   I am still annoying Dane by saying “Watch this!” and grinding the green wave sideways and looking at him as if I just did the biggest move of all time!   FUN!  A boat this loose and fast is just crazy fun to surf around!     If I never did a trick on the wave, I would be having a blast.

Backwards…. Here I was super nervous because one of the features I wanted in this boat was for it to “Reel up” backwards bigger than ever before.   Initially I was considering increasing the bow rocker, which would have guaranteed that it was slower backwards.    However we simply tweaked the rocker profile about 1/3 of the way towards the bow and shortened the bow by .75″ (1.8cm)  and the theory was that it would not only reel up better/higher/easier, but be faster backwards too… “YES!!!”    It worked!   Whew!!!  I was running it  through the paces, with Emily far away on the shore asking me how it was with hand signals.  I was still 2 thumbs up!

Getting air- seriously, I would die  if I couldn’t go bigger than before, as that was one of the major goals.   I want to get the “huge bonus” on all competitions from now on, and easier than before.     The top wave at Rock Island is not beginner friendly for getting air and sticking moves.  Beginners love surfing it, and occaisonally spin on it, but doing blunts, etc. takes a great take off, snappy move and clean landing.   I started with a lefty blunt and “pop”!   I went aerial and made that cool landing sound that a blind person can hear and know you got air when the hull slaps down.     I didn’t wait for emily to ask me, I gave her the Thumbs up.    Flip turn, back blunt, back pan am, clean blunt,  wave monkey (to flush) and I am heading down to the hole….

OK-does it reel up backwards big in a hole???    Entry move (extra surface area on hull makes it hit hard and slows your downstream momentum into the hole, awesome!!!!) .       Got in the “Center Stage” hole (yes- finally have a pet name for some of Rock Island’s features-   Center Stage and Backstage (Rock Star 🙂 )  ha…. A little preview when we named Backstage.

I lost my balance and had to brace when first hit the hole.   I am still not used to sitting up higher and am throwing my body around too much.    Less lean does more when sitting up high.    I have to get used to this still.    Same lean does more, and you can lean more!  Body weight has more effect on throwing the boat around.

Got backwards and stood it up on the bow so high I was almost vertical.  I didn’t throw anything out of it, but the potential was there.    Oh yea!!!   The big moves, like McNasty, Phonix, etc.. Would now be able to go bigger!  This will be key at the World Championships, I think.

Headed down to Backstage but it was way too high (3,200 cfs) and it really is too high at 2800 cfs and is ideal (like the level we had the carbon all star in it) at 1500-2000 cfs.  Still a good range for a hand made hole.

I did a couple of spins on the little wave and WOW, so loose.  One big loop out of the hole (more of a flushy little wave) and I was done.   Still didn’t know how it looped yet…

Fast forward to a week in the boat, with Dane, Nick, Stephen, Clay, Emily all padding it too….

Here is the deal….

Length- 5’9″ (1″ shorter than the All-Star)

Volume: 58 gallons (3 Gallons MORE than the All-Star-  2 gallons in the stern, 1 in the bow)

Width- .5″ wider

So is it bigger then?  Ha- trick question….  Yes more volume, BUT…

It cartwheels easier!! Easier to get vertical on the bow, and easier to link ends!  The stern is “harder” to pull through, but it was SO easy before that the harder makes it still super easy, but allows the bow to go through way easier!   I can Super clean cartwheel in flatwater much easier and smoother.  Why?

  • Because the bow goes down easier (higher seating position and slicier shape counter acts the 1 gallon)
  • Because when you are vertical on the stern it holds your body up higher out of the water (2 more gallons) and when you go to push the bow down again you are up high and the bow volume doesn’t have to lift you up- taking much less energy.

Result? SMOOTH cartwheels that are easier!  Sweet!  Add three gallons for big air, get easier to cartwheel kayak!!   Have some cake and eat it too!

Loops-   Clearly WAY bigger backloops.   Front loops- the biggest looping kayak of All-time the All-Star, would be hard to beat.  My first experience in looping it felt exactly like the All-Star.  I had some small loops, medium loops, and big loops.    Then I started experimenting with how to plug in…

Go flatter in!   Then it jumped higher right away and flipped in the air and landed more securely with the extra stern volume.   Hard to flush!!!  Sweet!    Loops bigger forwards too!   That extra gallon is where it is, but the bow shape and 1″ shorter was potentially going to work against us.   Nope!  Just plug in a little flatter…  could be because of sitting higher and the body weight being over the bow more when you lean forward.

Got some good time in the main hole.     Huge clean back stabs, Awesome Mystery Flips, McNasty, Lunar Orbits (the stern volume is awesome for that!) etc…    Sold….  Sold…. And SOLD!

Now Christmas is in two days.  Dane and Emily just got their prototype Rock Star S (small) and it looks awesome on them!     Emily is more retentive, smoother, and going bigger (she has only paddled it once!)  Dane is giddy with the performance (he couldn’t wait so he has paddled the large for a week at only 115 pounds).     Check out the video….   This isn’t from a season of best moves.   This is from a single trip to the Dries, and two filming sessions at Rock Island, at non-ideal levels at Backstage.   We can’t wait to get sweet Backstage levels, and some more big waves surfing too.

Where can you find Rock Stars?   You can find them on “Center Stage” first, and then can hang with them “Backstage” before they head home.      The production molds for these boats will be ready next month for Medium, and early February for Small, and Large.

What else have we improved?

Finished production weight…  29 pounds for Medium, compared to 31.5 for our medium playboat over the past 2 years.

Cockpit rim is our best ever- BONE DRY!!!  Get a great skirt and dry top, or better yet a dry deck and you’ll be paddling bone dry!       We also created a new “exit spot” for the backband rope that creates a super smooth adjustment action, and new kiss off shape on the rim that is much stronger.

Each boat will ship with Sweet Cheeks 200 instead of 100, raising you up in the boat more.   I paddle this boat with a Sweet Cheeks 200 and a Sweet cheeks 100 in it.     This puts me 1.5″ (4.3cm) higher than I paddle in the All-Star.   The Knee/thigh areas of the cockpit were designed to be this much higher.

2011 World Championships are 6 months away.    Team JK now has a brand new ride for it!   The only advice I can think of for competing in this event comes from the “Untouchables” where Sean Connery says…. ” don’t bring a knife to a gunfight!” (paraphrased).

My Summary:

The Rock Star changes the game for playboating once again.. Making anyone go bigger, faster, and do things easier.   Playboating just got more fun, once again, and freestyle scores just got bigger, once again!

It will be available in the USA/Canada/Asia/Australia/Central and South America in three configurations:

Super Linear



In Europe

Hybrid (Super Linear Hull and Elite Outfitting)


Available in three sizes :

Rock Star S

Rock Star M

Rock Star L

Emily, Dane, Nick, Clay, Stephen, and EJ are all paddling prototypes of the final design made from a composite mold and super linear plastic.   The aluminum mold will arrive soon and we’ll have the production boats then, with the new Rock Star logo on it, and a sweet smooth finish!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!