OK, so, the people spoke (loudly, forcefully, and convincingly… 🙂 ) and we listened. When we announced the new 2015 Fun series in two sizes- the Fun and 4 Fun, we had an enormous response, and it is awesome seeing people getting back into the lightweight, playable, river runner again. We had some strong sentiment, however, that we were not taking care of business and leaving a critical user group high and dry, the 2 Fun sized folks. Many women, smaller men that wanted it to be more playable, and many of the Fun paddlers who have had kids and those kids are now in the 2 Fun size were sending private messages, emails, phone calls, and posting publicly in some cases… “We need a 2 Fun!!”
Abby Holcombe will need a 2 Fun after she outgrows here Fun 1.5…
My partner, Tony, who understands just how awesome it is to have the new 4 Fun in his quiver, lead the charge and said… “Hey, Guys, let’s make the 2 Fun after all, the people need it, we need to offer that.” Music to everyone’s ears, as it was a hard decision to go without that size on the front end, a decision based on having the cash to make another mold (we made more than 10 molds this year, and that is a LOT of cash!) Check out Tony’s Custom 4 Fun, thanks to our awesome team at Jackson Kayak that made this masterpiece..
If you were verbally, or secretly wanting the 2 Fun to be launching in our new, awesome, comfortable, easy to paddle, fun to play design, then it is now being worked on and we’ll have it for the beginning of 2015 and you can pre-order from your dealers today. We just told the dealers last week that we are adding it, so some of them may still be surprised if they didn’t get the memo. Just smile and say- “I heard it directly from EJ, and I want to put my deposit on the first one to come into your shop, OK?” They will, most likely, accommodate your request.
I wrote something called the ” brief history of the kayak” on Boatertalk 11 years ago, after recently designing the EZ series and then the first Fun series, which was the new version of the EZ under the Jackson Kayak banner. It is worth a read, as it talks about kayak designs and why the Fun design is such an important part of anyone’s quiver, and if you were to have one boat, this is, perhaps, your best choice.
(Written in 2004 on Boatertalk) —
The Evolution of the Whitewater Kayak
Conception to Present
In the beginning, there were no whitewater kayaks. All kayaks were made for the ocean and bay and were used by the Eskimos. Those unsinkable, rollable craft were discovered and used in Europe, North America and eventually everywhere. Eventually, somebody got the bright idea that they could run rapids in them. Of course, it was more of a necessity of transportation than recreation at the time. These ocean-going kayaks found themselves landlocked in many parts of the world. As with any species, it began to evolve to better survive in its new environment. The first evolution of the landlocked kayak (whitewater kayak) was to lose much of its keel to make it turn easier. Then it began to get shorter. In getting shorter it became both easier to maneuver and run rivers. Another interesting phenomenon occurred, it became primarily used for recreation. Recreation means fun. Racing is fun, and the drivers of the kayaking revolution became slalom and downriver racers. In fact the first slalom World Championships was in 1949 (compared to the first rodeo worlds in 1991) Kayaks again got shorter for slalom racing. Rules for racing kayaks were set in the early days, which mandated a minimum length, which was 4 meters long (13�-2�). Slalom racing became very popular. Almost all advancements in the sport came from the racers and coaches. In fact, all recreational kayaks were now slalom kayaks. They were all 4 meters long and very similar to slalom kayaks if not actually slalom kayaks. Where were the playboaters? That is like asking the Wooly Mammoth where the African Elephant is. They don�t exist yet. Most of the skilled kayakers were, in fact, slalom racers. They were the best kayakers of any continent. If a slalom racer couldn�t do it, it couldn�t be done. Then in the late seventies out of a need to evolve again, kayakers began pushing the limits of the sport by running harder rivers. They discovered that by making the boats shorter they were easier to control and easier to get down the river. The evolution was on again. Kayakers began to design boats that were too short to slalom race in. A crazy thing happened. These boaters discovered that the new shorter boats not only ran the river better, but surfed waves, endered, even cartwheeled easier. Fun, fun, fun. In 1984, a man named Jan Kelner, from Augsburg, Germany approached me in Germany about playboating. He had heard of it and new that I was in fact more of a playboater than a slalom racer. I got in his kayak at the big hole there and did enders, pirouettes, hand surfing, etc.. He was very impressed and decided this was the kind of kayaking for him. 13 years later he won the first world rodeo championships in England. By the late eighties, the term playboat became a reality. Certainly, slalom was still a dominant force, and �rodeo boaters� were a thing of the future. However, the powers to be who were designing boats had the idea that fun can be improved by making a boat that played better and river ran better, instead of being faster on a slalom course. Most of the playboating evolution took place in one decade. The 1990�s saw boats drop to nearly half the length. By getting shorter, of course, they ran rivers much better, and played better. Rodeo kayaking overtook slalom kayaking on the rivers of North America by 1995, and Europe by 1997. In 1998, the X was put on the market. This boat was the Pinnacle of the river running, playboating evolution. The X and Z represented the last step in 80 year long revolution of whitewater kayaks that improved the river running and playing qualities of a kayak. The next generation of kayaks took a detour. They became better playboats, but not as good for river running. They were specialty boats. The momentum of kayakers was to keep improving their playboating so these new �slicey boats� were the most popular. People were willing to give up some river running ability for the play ability. This kind of kayak, the �slicey boats�, is still the most popular today. However, a new kind of kayak is bringing the river running back to the best playboats. We call them �bobby� boats for lack of a better term. A short bulbous kayak that is the best choice for either getting down a river on line and right side up, or tearing up a local playspot. Why paddle a boat that is not as good for getting down a river, or playing? Every step of the way, the evolution of the kayak has increased the fun factor, and except for the short period between 1999-2000 increased the river running factors as well.
We now have the Fun family. The boats on the market in 2004 that are designed to be the best river running and best overall play boats. This is the future, today. The next step in the evolution. Everyone should be in a boat that gives them the maximum potential for enjoyment. Your boat should also allow you to paddle at your potential and enjoy the steepest possible learning curve. That is the second part of this story.
What specific design qualities determine your potential for fun, your ability to learn more quickly, and to get down rivers with ease?
This is not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. However, when asked, most kayakers, and kayak designers will tell you it is a very personal thing and that there is no right answer. That belief is what keeps kayaks from advancing more quickly than they are now, and more importantly, it keeps kayakers everywhere from enjoying each outing to its fullest.
Looking to play on the river? Of course you are. Are you just a river runner? No way, no such thing.
Myth- There are people out there who just enjoy river running, they aren�t playboaters.
Reality- Front surfing a wave is playboating. Know anybody who doesn�t try to front surf? No. How does front surfing qualify somebody as a playboater? Generally, the kayakers who are only front surfing are in displacement-hulled kayaks or longer creeky style boats. What other playboating tricks can these boaters do with their boats? Enders, surf holes, maybe squirts. So basically, when you see somebody front surfing a wave in a displacement hulled kayak, they are maxxing out the playboating capabilities of that kayak. Would somebody who front surfs like backsurfing? Of course. Will they ever backsurf? No, not until they buy a boat that spins so they can turn around on the wave and back surf.
What about cartwheels? Well, big boats need big holes to cartwheel. Most people don�t find big holes on their river, and when they do, they avoid them. So getting vertical is something that is only usually enjoyed by people in smaller rodeo boats.
Why doesn�t everyone own the best playboat today? Simply because of lack of information. Just about everyone owns a rodeo boat. Paddle an RPM? That boat was the cutting edge rodeo boat for the bigger paddler in 1996. It was never our river runner. It is just an outdated rodeo boat.
Specific design criteria that translates to fun, learning, and instant success:
#1 Vertical Ability- Your boat must be able to go vertical easily in flatwater at your weight. The easier the better. This is the first most important criterion when choosing a kayak. If you can�t get it vertical easily, than you won�t be getting it vertical very often. The more often you get vertical the more experience you have and skill comes from experience. Have you never done a flatwater cartwheel? That means experience is zero and your skill is nil. How can you expect to know what to do when you get backendered during a river run if you are never in that position? Certainly, if you have never done a flatwater cartwheel or vertical squirts, you will flop upside down and roll back up. With a little experience you will begin to bring your boat down from vertical right side up. Can�t cartwheel in a hole? If you can�t flatwater cartwheel you can expect a long slow learning curve for cartwheeling in a hole. In short, if your boat allows you to get vertical in flatwater easily, you will be able to get vertical anywhere, any time, and your learning curve will be much steeper.
#2 Spin Ability- How loose is your boat? The looser a boat is the less skill it requires and the less ideal wave you need to spin it. Why spin? A boat that doesn�t spin is stuck in a front surf. A boat that spins easily will allow you to turn backwards easily and back surf. Of course from there you have blunts, grinds, and much more enjoyable front surfs available too. Hole surfing is much easier with a planning hulled kayak. The foam pile holds the boat out in front of the hole better creating a much smoother and easier to control ride.
#3 River Running ability- it is not difficult to make a boat that river runs well. As long as the boat is not edgy, doesn�t pearl when paddling forward, is stable and easy to roll, short and maneuverable, than you have a great river runner. The old myth is that forward speed and tracking is a good quality in a river runner. Well, that is like saying a dragster makes for a good road vehicle, or long skis are easier to ride than short ones. It makes zero sense and has never been true. Slalom racers spend their lives in quest for speed. They feel inept in a shorter slower boat and they generally prefer to paddle their composite 4-meter kayaks. Since slalom racers have had such an impact on the market for so long, it makes sense that this myth came from that influence.
#4 Comfort- The comfort levels of kayaks took a dive for a period after 1998 and had been getting worse each year. Lower volume bows took much of the foot room out of boats causing even the smaller kayakers to begin growing weird bumps on their feet and eliminating proper footwear from even fitting in the kayaks. Boats like the Fun improves access in and out as well as comfort.
So it goes today… while in the past 11 years, since I wrote this, we are seeing lots of people get a full on playboat or a creek boat. If a full on playboat isn’t for you, because you are not trying win a freestyle event, and don’t want to give up the river running ability, then the Fun series is your best option. You don’t have to paddle a heavy creek boat if you don’t want to. You can surf, and play as much or little as you want, while having an awesome downriver boat that is comfortable, rolls like a dream, and makes each run and day more Fun.
Bring on the 2 Fun, the Fun, and the 4 Fun…
Where is the Super Fun? that is a good question! The 4 Fun has more volume and longer than in year’s past, we think it will suffice for 80% of the boaters who once used the Super Fun… you be the judge of that! If you think we need a Super Fun, please sit in, and paddle the 4 Fun before passing judgment, OK?
p.s. here is the video walkthrough of the boat… 🙂