Photos by Peter Holcombe
There is something special about the MixMaster that puts you in touch with the water at all levels. Our newest play machine provides a unique paddling experience that will improve your overall boating skills, and spice up your local run, or any run.
Many of you have not spent thousands of hours in a low volume, very slicey boat, like the MixMaster, so you will have preconceived ideas. I have so much time in this type of boat, and have designed quite a few of them with David Knight from big ones, to little ones, and then to shorter ones, etc.. over the course of years. (X, Z, XXX, Forplay, Score, EZ, Big EZ, Super EZ, Ace 4.7, Ace 5.1, Ace 2.1 for Dane, the predecessor to the Fun 1) I also competed in, and won dozens of events in this type of boat including a pre-world championships, a World Championships, and numerous national championships… David and I took the big boat and went slicey, very slicey, and it changed kayaking and my paddling forever.
My goal with this article, is to give you the information you need to understand just what to expect, and get the most out of your MixMaster, or help you know what to expect when you demo one for the first time.
How it fits your body and how to customize it to fit very comfortably…
The MixMaster is a low volume kayak. It is designed very much like a squirt boat that has been jacked up in terms of how the feet feet. There isn’t any Extra Room for your legs or feet, so getting the outfitting right is critical!
Foot support: Happy Feet or Foam?
Let’s start with your shoes/booties: The shape of the bow and the footbumps lend itself to flexible, thin, booties, not shoes. Only if you have really little feet can you wear shoes. I wear the Kokatat Seeker booties as they are very low profile and work well in this boat.
Happy Feet: If you are not the tallest person that can fit into the boat, the Happy Feet gives you the most versatility and allows you to adjust it while sitting in the boat for different socks, booties, seat positions, etc..
Steps for Installing Happy Feet:
- Remove front wall (three phillips head screws need removed,
- Pull off “u-channel”
- pull wall out-it should be cut short enough that your heels go past it and touch each other. If not, trim it to allow your heels to pass the wall completely and heels touch.
- Run Happy Feet tubes through hole in wall.
- Put front Wall back into boat with happy Feet positioned properly
- Air bladder for happy feet should be at the very tip of the boat,
- Jackson Kayak Logo on bean bag should be at the top and spread evenly so the bag is equal on left and right side of boat.
- Add U-channel and screw back down.
- Get in with air in happy feet bean bag (blow tube) and use your feet to push the air out and shape the happy feet to match your foot perfectly.
- PUmp up air bladder with pump bulb to tighten up if needed.
- Blow air into bean bag a second or third time to move beans around (while sitting in the boat) and then suck the air out as tight as possible to lock it into position.
Foam Foam: If you are really tall, or think you prefer foam (typically only those who don’t know how to properly use the Happy Feet properly prefer foam, but you have to use what you want) then take the well designed, provided foot foam and trim to size.
- If you are not very tall for the boat, get in with both foam blocks shoved into the bow. They are cut in two pieces a left and right. They are also pre-cut to allow you to simply pull off shims if they are too big. The precut areas are what you put your feet on. It should be pretty obvious.
- If your heels don’t touch- remove the front wall and trim it, or pull it to the side and carefully trim it while it is still in the boat. Use a hack saw blade or butter knife, not a super sharp knife because notching the inside of a plastic boat weakens it and it will break.
- If you are really tall, pull the shims off and try it. If that is still too much, begin trimming further with a sharp knife out of the boat. make small cuts and keep trying it. Make sure you are wearing the same booties you plan on paddling with.
Start with the seat in the middle position: This is a fairly balanced position for most people. You should be able to get the bow and stern down easily. Fine tuning the fit by using the seat:
- From an ergonomic/comfort point of view, the foot bumps are most comfortable if your feet are positioned correctly, using socks or booties, and your seat is in the right position.
- Sit in the boat without anything in the front (no happy feet or foam).
- Move your butt forwards and then backwards and try different positions to see where your feet fit best and feel comfortable. Once you get that position (both where your butt is, but also how you are holding your feet in the bumps) move the seat directly under your butt. It could mean backwards or forwards, depending on your body and foot size/type.
- From a performance point of view you can determine your seat position based on your goals for how the boat will act, but you will have to consider ergonomics in any changes.
- Moving it backwards: This will make squirting easier, stern stalls, and pirouetting on the stern. Blasting holes, keeping the bow up on waves, etc.. are all easier.
- Moving it forward: this will make the bow easier to get down for flatwater cartwheels, bow stalls, pirouettes, and bow blasting. “plowing enders” are also easier.
- Keeping it neutral: overall this gives you the best of all worlds, if you can fit in like that.
Making even Bigger changes in the fit or performance of the MixMaster
Here are a few ways you can customize the MixMaster experience for your tastes or size:
- Adding foot-room- this is an “old school” technique that has not been used much over the past 20 years since this type of boat was not being paddled much.
- Using a Heat Gun, you heat up your bow (foot area) and stuff in a shaped object that is smooth (wood or foam, or metal) to stretch out the plastic in that area and create bigger footbumps. Be careful not to overheat the boat (yes you can melt a hole in it, and no that isn’t covered under warranty) Adding volume will make the boat harder to cartwheel on the bow.
- Reducing Foot-bumps for short, lightweight people: “Smashing the Bow”
- Using a heat gun, heat the bow, especially the deck and add weight to it to lower the volume. Be careful not to turn the foot bumps inside out!
- Adding volume to the overall boat for a floatier ride: If you want easier river running, or just more volume, we designed the deck to easily be puffed up.
- Remove the rear wall and glue foam to the top of it, based on how much volume you want added.
- Heat up the entire rear deck with a heat gun.
- Wet the wall with soapy water to get it in easier.
- Stuff the new, taller wall into the stern while deck is hot.
- Deck should “Pop out” and get convex instead of concave adding lots of volume.
- Remove Front wall and do the same as above.
- If you are using Foot Foam- glue foam on top of it and stuff into bow with heated bow to “Pop out the bow” where it is concave, it will become convex
I hope this gets you started on the road to understanding this amazing new boat and how to assure you are comfortable, etc.! Part 2 will get into choosing your size and why…
See you on the River!!
Here is some MixMaster in Action…with a little more talk about outfitting…