Words By: Tom Stewart
When a new boat is released in the heart of the paddling season it always seems to generate a ton of hype. No boat has been getting more buzz around the internet or the Aquabatics shop than the new Jackson Nirvana. At the hands of Dane Jackson and a stacked Jackson team, this boat has been sweeping podiums at all the major races this season. Rush Sturges has been posting unbelievable videos of this boat blasting down the little white and Cali slides at Mach speeds. The hype is at an all-time high, so much so that two of our staff even purchased the Nirvana before even having a chance to see it in person. So when the boats arrived here at the shop on Tuesday, a day earlier than expected, Eli and I grabbed what we could for gear out of our course fleet and headed for the river as soon as we closed up shop.
Although we have only had one night of paddling in the new Jackson Nirvana so far, we wanted to share our initial impressions. Below is a breakdown of some of the characteristics we discovered right away in Eli’s new boat of choice.
Speed: Everyone’s first question will understandably be “just how fast is it”. Well I would say it is as fast as any other 9ft creek boat out there. The still/slow moving water speed as well as rapid and exit speed is all on par with boats like the 9R, aka very fast!
Stability: This is the one thing about this boat that shocked me the most. This boat has better primary and secondary stability than the majority of creek boats out these days. The stability felt most comparable to me to that of a Dagger Mamba, great when flat but even better on edge. Moving slowly through boils and eddy lines, the stern did tend to get caught up slightly, but this boat is not meant to be paddled slowly!
Tracking and Maneuverability: Nailing down this element of the boats performance is going to take a bit of time to sort out. At times, the boat tracked like a dream and carved a turn as I expected, while other times it felt like a beast with a mind of its own. Once the Nirvana gets off line I struggled to correct and change angles within a rapid. Overall, I feel like the more aggressively you paddle this boat, the more you will be rewarded. However, if you are not on top of it or miss-time a stroke it takes some muscle to get things back on line.
Outfitting: If you are a fan of Jackson’s safe and lightweight outfitting you will not be disappointed. If you are used to a thoroughly wrapped thigh brace you may want to get out the foam and glue.
Overall, we’re super excited to get out I this boat more and see what it can do. Its easy to call a 9ft speed demon a “Race Boat”, but the Nirvana is much more than a podium sweeper. I would have no issue calling this my everyday creeker. Jackson Kayaks has done a great job of building a boat that their team will by psyched to race, but also appeals to the recreational whitewater paddler.