By Eric Jackson

Detonator wave, downtown Alma, Northern Quebec, Canada

We just LAUNCHED our newest whitewater creation- the 2016 Rockstar this week… The first question should be “Why?”.

We have made quite a few playboats over the past 11 years, each one better than the last in some way, most in all ways. I have wanted to make this particular boat for a long time and figured the timing was right with worlds being on a wave again, and people enjoying slicey playboats again as well.

This new design is going to make a lot of people really happy on the water. I’ll try to summarize what it is like and then give you some details:

It is a slicey’r boat, with sharper bow and stern edges that cartwheel easier and less volume in the tips. It feels smooth and effortless to cartwheel, squirt, and bow or stern stall this boat compared to past designs.

It is a super wave machine with a narrower hull, looser hull, and faster hull than any boat we have made before it. There has been a group of 2010 All-Star hold-outs that preferred the narrow hull on that boat to the wider one we put on the 2012 Rock Star, the 2013 All-Star, and the 2014 Rock Star. The 2016 Rock Star is easier to carve, blunt, spin, etc… and as the moves get harder, the boat gets even easier than boats before it.

It fits the body better than any that we have done, also. The knee pockets, foot pockets, and seating area are all improved noticeably. You’ll find a very secure feeling in the legs and feet and a little more room than in the past generations, but it doesn’t feel bigger when you sit in it, just more comfortable. (it is actually almost 3 gallons smaller, and about the same volume as the 2010 All-Star)

What you get when you get the new 2016 Rock Star: You get a boat that is easier to learn new moves in, and more fun to goof around in flatwater, small holes, waves, and on eddy lines. You also get a competition machine that it better for getting big air on waves, rotates faster, and releases easier than anything ever made. In holes it also rewards those trying to learn new moves with a lower skill level required to do the moves than before. The hardest moves like the McNasty, Lunar Orbit, Phonix, and Tricky Woo just got easier and smoother, too.


Some Details:

The 3 gallon difference in volume from the last rock star is spread out between the ends of the boat and also the .5″ lower deck in the middle. This changes how it loops slightly and if you are not hitting bottom, in order to loop as big you need to make sure to use a Happy Seat/Thruster Combo and move the seat back 1 notch to loop exactly as high. Few people realize that 1 notch on the seat position changes bow volume quite a bit. This model has 1 seat notch less volume in the bow. So, for example- I used to sit all of the way forward in the 2014 Rock Star and now sit one notch back to give myself the same bow volume for the same size loops. If that isn’t my focus, I may go forward for the easiest possible bow initiation for McNasty and Phonix for example when I am competing in Colorado.

The Hull for Waves is faster forwards and the same backwards.

* I recommend you keep the seat in the same position you have paddled past JK playboats in, and if you are new to Jackson Kayak playboats, put the seat in the middle position if you are medium leg length, a little back if you have really long legs, and a little forward if you have short legs. The further back you sit the easier it is to reel the bow up for front moves and the harder for back moves. Many people think that sitting back in a boat slows it down, but this is rarely true. If your boat is on plane you are fast unless you use big body movements on the top of the wave to kill the planing.

* Also- a little known fact, if you are falling off the back of a wave, lean back HARD AND FAST, stomping your feet down and paddling forward. This drops the bow down and is like taking off the hand brakes on a car and suddenly speeding up. Most people lean forward hard and fast, which is lifting up the knees and “hitting the brakes”.

* This hull is flatter and looser than past generations, making spinning flat or spinning into moves much easier, faster, and smoother. We have been perfecting the hull shapes of our playboats for many years. While the rocker profile is constantly evolving, so is the chine height, shape, and side to side curves that affect performance dramatically. Manufacturing the shape of the design is another challenge in of itself. Their are some challenges to molding a boat, such as the cockpit rim holding the boat to the deck of the mold while it cools and shrinks, changing the hull shape from the intended shape. We have used years of experience and incremental improvements (more new models than any brand 3X over) to make the actual shape and the intended shape be one and the same. This is our best duplication of the intended design we have made yet and WOW…. you have to try it! It is really an improvement.

* Edge to Edge transfers for aerial moves take less energy and you can put more energy into the rotation, getting air, and landing the moves. The narrower hull with our already super easy to paddle, take-off, and land hull design and the improved rocker/chine height, give this boat a big advantage on waves. This was the intended peformance goal for the World Championships on Garburator this summer, but equally important is the increased fun factor on any wave.

Hole Moves take less energy and are more consistent with the slicey shape

* lower volume, lower water resistant tips in the same length boat go through the water easier… that is what we have here. This makes spinning in a hole easier, stern doesn’t catch as easy when spinning into back moves (bow doesn’t float up as easy and bow rocker keeps stern up better).

* when vertical the balance is better as the boat is slightly flatter than before- so it likes to stay on that edge, more of an knife edge shape, versus roundy shape of previous models.

* Linking moves- the lower energy required to get the ends under the water make linking easier as it is typically being a little off angle, or a little late, or out of stroke the prevents being able to get the next move right after the previous one. A boat that goes through easier, is also easier to link assuming it is easy to balance as well (which this new model is more stable on end).

* Loop Moves- All Loops work awesome in this new boat- as stated above- move seat back 1 notch to get same size front loops/space Godzillas as previous model. Back loops are easier to pull the bow through and very similar stern volume makes it feel similar.


River Running

This boat has the high and swooping parting line like the 2014 Rock Star which improved river running over the past generations of playboats we made dramatically. If you are on the top end of the weight of this boat, you may notice that the edges are in play more (Parting line) but it is still much easier than the 2010 All-Star for example, or the 2012 Rock Star.

Next up for this boat?

Colorado Tour- BV Pro Rodeo, Animas River Days, Lyons Outdoor Games, GoPro Games, USA Team Trials (Glenwood Wave), FIBARK… The biggest event of the year for this boat will be the 2015 World Freestyle Championships on Garberator Wave in Canada. This wave is tough and this boat was designed knowing full well what challenges it would face at this World Championships. Meanwhile- Nick, Dane, and Matthieu had it on some of the biggest, best waves already for Stakeout. I am sure you have seen some of the photos Nick sent us. I can’t wait to see some of Dane and Matt as well!

I am always excited for the new designs. David Knight and I have worked hard over the past 23 years of designing together to get to where we are today. We speak our own special language together, and know what we mean when we say things. It is a very tedious job of designing whitewater kayaks. The nuances of a playboat in particular get lost in translation more often than not if you haven’t done enough of them.

Standard or Competition Version?


Some people don’t even know we make two versions of outfitting for our playboats. If that was you, then now you know! We have the standard version, which is about 30 pounds for a medium, and a “competition” version which is about 27 pounds for medium. The competition version also has a carbon “innegra” foam-core hull support that we make at the factory as well as a lighter hull and lighter seat. Team Jackson Kayak factory team paddles competition Rock Stars, Zens, and some of use even use the Karma in competition outfitting. There is a reason for that. It is lighter, stiff, and makes paddling just that much more fun. While it is more expensive at $1399 instead of $1199 for the standard version, this is not much extra money for the extra performance in the lighter weight.

The standard version is also awesome, as we have two fiberglass beams that are molded into the plastic hull support for rigidity. The competition version is quite clean and neat looking and certainly lighter and higher performance.

Buy now at your local dealer!

See you on the River!!