By Eric Jackson
First impressions are critical for a new boat, as they give you insight into what to expect, when you have no feeling for the boat yet. However, first impressions don’t provide the paddler with much of the benefits they will enjoy once they learn how to use the boat in different ways and do things they couldn’t do before…
The Rock Star 4.0 takes a week or so to begin to really take advantage of the performance benefits it offers.
If you have long legs or big feet, or are heavier, you’ll immediately enjoy the extra leg room and volume. In fact, if you currently paddle a MonStar, you may find the new Rock Star 4.0 to be your new best friend!
If you are lighter weight or smaller, you’ll find that the narrower hull makes edge control easier and more fun and adjusting the seat upwards with a Sweet Cheeks 200 and the extra height and leverage you get will allow you to really throw the boat around.
Seat trim on this boat is important, but the position of the seat depends on what you want to accomplish.
Waves: This boat is 1” longer than the previous model. That extra inch is mostly in the bow and many paddlers move as far forward as they can. This boat allows you to move way more forward than in past boats with the high knees and extra bow length. Moving forward lengthens the stern, making forward facing wave moves harder and backwards moves easier.
- Try the seat in the middle for starters and see how blunts, or any forward move feels. Then try backwards moves. If you find one way easier, move the seat to balance them out.
- A common question: “Will forward speed on a wave be affected if I move backwards?” No, it won’t, you’ll be just as fast moving the seat back some and the take offs will be easier. This boat has plenty of volume and length to support you in any seat position.
Holes: How big do you want to go? Or how many ends do you want to throw? Or, do you want to get your first loop?
- Seat should be in the middle for all around paddling. Big loops, balanced cartwheels, etc..
- Seat backwards for biggest loops or your first loops.
- Seat forward for most balanced ends or ease of getting bow down for super cleans in slow holes.
Seat Height Adjustment: This boat is designed to adjust the seat up and down based on your size and desire for extra leverage over the boat. At first, if you are not really tall, you’ll sit in the Rock Star 4.0 and feel like the knees are really high. It is like sitting at a bar, but in a normal kitchen chair. The bar feels high because the chair is too low. This boat is the same way. The really tall people, or those with thick legs, will find the high knees perfect as is. If you are more like me and medium to short in height, you’ll want to add Sweet Cheeks 200 to the boat, or add a second Sweet Cheeks 100. I paddle with a Sweet Cheeks 200 and a Sweet Cheeks 100 in my boat! 300 in total. This raises me up high and the knees feel low! The benefits of it are bigger loops, easier to throw the boat around, and a super solid, super snug fit with a huge bucket seat. The downside of sitting high is less stability. I struggled with that for the first few days because I was leaning to the sides too much (bad habit). A week later and it feels rock solid as I am keeping my weight over the boat better.
Outfitting: Happy Seat/Happy Thruster Combo is a MUST!!! you will also need to add 1.5″ of foam under your happy Seat to lift it up high enough to really be effective due to the high knees. Only if you have really thick (fat) legs will that no be necessary. The control and air you get with these two pieces of outfitting are without question. I almost won’t go paddling if I don’t have them. They are as important to play boating as toe clips and shocks on a mountain bike.
Flatwater moves: If you are lightweight in the boat, the flatwater cartwheels will be more difficult, especially on the bow. however, many people have found that they can loop in flatwater much easier. To make flatwater much easier, move forwards as far as you can in the boat.
Teaching and letting others use the boat: On the Ottawa River I saw Simon, from England, get his first pogo flip in the small Rock Star 4.0 on his first try, after trying for weeks in the old one. He also got some big loops on “joe mamma’s” wave his first day in it and never getting any in the old boat. People found it easier downriver with the extra volume for river running as well as more retentive on waves.
Retentiveness: for play boating or competing, the greatly increased retentiveness is a HUGE Factor.
- Waves: The smallest amount of foam on a wave stops the downstream momentum of this boat due to the massive amount of sidewalls and volume. The extra volume of the stern and bow lift the ends up and tip it back down the wave and push it down the wave, adding speed and more “yo yo” effect.
- Holes: The high volume design floats the boat much higher. Where before you would sink deeper into the green water with less volume in the foam and that would flush you out of the feature. This boat lands and doesn’t sink into the green, or when cartwheeling more boat is in the foam and less in the green to flush you. The extra retentiveness will play a big factor on your freestyle scores throughout the season!
Summary: The boat is the BOMB! Jackson Kayak has the best freestyle kayak for wave or hole events that we have ever had. We now have access to HUGE bonuses with much more frequency and less luck. We can stay in the holes and on the waves with much more dependability. The boat has a huge range of paddler heights and weights allowing people to paddle the size that fits their style more than ever before. I plan on making the USA Freestyle Kayak team in 2019 and compete in Sort, Spain where I won the 2001 World Championships and I am encouraged that I will do well and even have a chance of winning at age 55 and a huge factor is this boat!
Meanwhile, I set up my GoPro on the rocks and filmed my new move off of the rocks that I am calling the “Stunt Double”. It is a backflip to pogo flip combo. You may have seen an earlier shot of it, but this one I took myself and in slow motion at 120 frames/second. This move was not easy (I tried for years), and certainly not with this kind of height in any previous JK boat. It nailed it my second try both times I have filmed it. I also nailed it my first try with no camera on it.
Uh, yes, downriver moves are also sick in this new boat!! “Macho, Macho, Macho Man… I want to be a Macho man…”
Initial promo video of the Rock Star 4.0 by Nick Troutman