By Eric Jackson
EJ Blasting Broken Nose in his new MixMaster 7.0…
OK, so I have been paddling slicey boats and designing slicey boats with David Knight since the 90’s. With the creation of the X, XXX, and Forplay designs we created a trend that was followed up with some great slicey creations by Dagger, Perception, Prijon, and Riot. That was 20 years ago.
In the past 20 years we have shortened and increased volumes of playboats and created a whole new kind of river machine in the modern freestyle kayak. The way you paddle, the things you can do, and the feeling of paddling a slicey boat and a modern freestyle kayak is like the difference between night and day.
I have a XXX in my yard, and have had this boat since I was on Team Wavesport and we designed it back in 1998. The first prototype was so controversial that David Knight and I had to design and build it in his basement in Vienna, Virginia. We even created the logo there and spray painted it on his basement wall as a reminder of what took place in that basement.
Stephen Wright got to paddle that first XXX prototype on the Potomac River when I first met him. It changed kayaking forever. Women could finally flatwater cartwheel, and so could so many men that were smaller or couldn’t get the larger X under water. Suddenly slicing up the river was possible and the river became a true playground for those wanting to make the most of it. There were many issues with these early playboats, and comfort was one big one. Bunions on your feet were expected, squeezing in the cockpit rims were a challenge, and the boats were a bit too long for most rivers.
The kayaking world has been ready for a modern slicey boat for a long time now. Jackson Kayak has had it on our “to do list” for many years, but we needed the timing to be right. Today, the timing is right.
Most kayakers are ready for something different and to really enjoy a different way to get down their home rivers. Getting vertical can be easy on the bow and stern, staying vertical can be done so much easier than any other type of boat as well. Pirouettes, splats, squirts, plowing enders, bow and stern stalls, mystery moves, and my favorite the “stone cold stutter”. Of course endless cartwheels, splitwheels, and harder moves like the Tricky Woo, and Lunar Orbit are done easier in a MixMaster than any other kayak. There are so many variations of fun things to do that you can’t do in a freestyle kayak easily or it just isn’t the same. (of course there are many things you can do in a freestyle kayak that you can’t do in a MixMaster, too!)
The feeling is that of “smooth”… Smooth like butter the super slicey ends fly through the water. We put just the right amount of volume in the boat, which is a very small amount, to assure that your body is in the water when you are vertical. This makes the boat retentive in holes. If you want to stay in the holes easily, don’t use a Happy Thruster, for example. That sounds like crazy talk, but it works like this:
When you are in a MixMaster, your body and lifejacket are in the foam when you are vertical and the surface area of your body is what keeps you in the hole. If you add some volume, it will float your body just above the foam pile and only your boat’s surface area against the foam is holding you in. Yes, I am more retentive in the MixMaster 7.0 than I am in the 7.5! There are a few situations where that isn’t the case, but only in a flushy wave/hole.
Nick, Dane, and I picked up our MixMasters at the factory, and it took only a couple of minutes to have them ready to paddle!
Our Day on the water in our new MixMasters…
OK, so the day was rainy, and Dane, Nick, and I arrived at the Ocoee to find that the water was not on. We went to eat some chili at the Ocoee restaurant and waited for it to turn on at 1pm.
Dane got his pink MixMaster, and I got my new “Sunrise” MixMaster. Nick was in the Abyss. We all paddled the 7.0 size (smaller of the two).
Grumpy’s provided the first action and slicing up Grumpy’s hole was Dane’s first dance with the river. Whirrlybird, or whatever that first pocket hole below the slalom course is called provided some fun action with vertical ends, and some sweet eddy line action. Bow pirouettes to stern pirouettes and back to bow again down the eddy line had us smiling ear to ear.
Each rapid was looked at differently than it has been in a long time by me and differently than Dane or Nick has ever looked at it. We were bow and stern blasting tons little holes (and big ones, like Double Suck), rock spinning, pirouetting in a blast to blast, splat wheels, blast wheels, and generally staying vertical a lot.
Flipper was one i was looking forward to for mystery moves. I got head under almost everytime and got some nice long deep mysteries, popping up into cartwheels and then surfing and blunting the wave. We spent a good amount of time playing at Flipper before heading down.
There is a small hole on the left channel after Double Suck that has been my “secret spot” since the 90’s. There is one slot in that hole where the boat goes through without hitting rocks and most people try that hole once and go down, thinking it is too shallow and not retentive enough. It took all of us a couple of tries to find the sweet spot but then we began to link ends easily, get “kick starts” where you squirt the bow up in a front surf and then slam it down in cartwheels- (kind of like a double pump, but with a squirt stroke to lift the bow, not a sweep).
The water level was 1750 and Hell Hole was kicking and so was the wave above it. We got some nice surfs on the wave, followed by some sweet vertical ends, blunts, etc.. in Hell Hole. Throwing dead vertical ends in Hell Hole in a controlled way with such fast water and a big hole is something I love to do. In 1993 we had the World Championships at Hell Hole and it has been a special place to me since then. Getting the MixMaster into that hole and putting my head down and throwing vertical ends was like a quick trip to the past.
Nick, Dane, and I got off the water before dark and were all smiles…. The Ocoee has been MixMastered… Next?