The 2015 Zen was a dream boat to design with David Knight and the Team.     With input from customers, schools, dealers, our staff and management, our team, and of course my family, we didn’t have to narrow the input down too much.   Most of the input was very much in line with the design we have created and the boat that we are now, finally, making in three sizes.

The input was something like this:

We want:

  • a river runner that is more creekable than the last Zen.  (almost everyone)
  • The easiest boat to paddle downriver.  (staff and dealers)
  • a fast boat for racing  (team)
  • a fun boat for surfing (everyone)
  • a comfortable boat that is easy to take good forward strokes without hitting the deck
  • super easy to roll  (team and customers)
  • lightweight  (customers and dealers)
  • easy to control when you come out of drops (hmm… sounds like a one of my family members :))
  • Carries speed out of drops (another one of my family members)
  • Carves Turns by dropping an edge (team members)
  • Bow stays up over waves, holes, and on boofs(  everyone who wanted a dry ride, or who races, or who is running creeks in it)

The results were something like this:

The new Zen is a little heavier than the last one  because it has more plastic in it, the deck and sidewalls are fuller/bigger, and it is a little longer, but it is still the lightest full length river runner on the market by far.   It is extremely easy to control, due to the wide stable stance of the hull  and how nicely it sits on top of the water with very little drag to slow down your maneuvering.     The longer length and well thought out hull shape make for a very fast boat in flatwater and particularly in whitewater.      The new bow rocker and deck shape makes it easy to keep your bow up and over the waves/holes, and on landings of drops making it super fast, but also dry.   Anyone who races knows that “Keeping your bow dry” is one of the key factors in being fast.


Learning to roll in a Zen is the way to go if you are learning in a full length river runner (learning to roll in the Fun is the way to go for a shorter boat).    We don’t put the Jackson Kayak logo on the size of a boat if it doesn’t roll super easy.    The Zen is the best of the longer JK boats for rolling.

Surfing is a dream!   River runners are typically tough to surf as the hulls are not fully planing.    JK boats are no different… until the Zen.    The 100% planing hull from bow to stern is fast, the bow stays up nicely, and the boat is easy to steer on the wave.   The difference in energy it takes to keep a boat straight on a wave that is displacement hull, or only a partially planning hull (like the Karma and almost every other river running or creek boat) and the Zen with a full planing hull is about 3 times the force to make corrections or “cut-backs”.     You can also spin the Zen on a wave, side surf a wave, and spinning in a hole is much easier and more stable.


Check out the Zen “Walk-Through” video Nick just finished editing (Dane got it started before he went to Mexico).