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ROCK STARS ARE ALL ABOUT PUTTING ON A SHOW. Many start their careers with high- energy acts, running around on stage with amps cranked to 11. For some that’s as far as it goes, they hit their peak and decades later we wonder where they went. Other stars though, the fa-

mous, long-lived favorites, ma- ture with age. They tweak and refine their style. This is the path of the Rockstar from Jack- son Kayak, which, with its new design for 2014, proves it is still in its prime. Sitting beside its predeces-

sor, the new Rockstar has only a few visible differences. It’s an inch shorter, has a slicier bow and a smoother, more continu- ous rocker profile. It’s once I’m on a wave that

the Rockstar’s refinements be- come apparent. This kayak’s movement

is predictable. At

the top of a wave it seems to wait for me to decide what to do. While the original Rock- star was twitchy, reacting to extremely subtle inputs, the newer version is more patient and highly controllable. It will give you a good dose of

air on a straight butt bounce or just as easily lay a nice, speedy carve across a wave face. You can quickly transfer one edge to the other and you’ll whip aerial blunts, cleans and pan ams with ease. Less volume in the bow and

stern and more around the pad- dler means I can slice ends into the water for easier cartwheels and still retain lots of pop for loops and similar tricks. With continuous rocker com-

pensating for the boat’s short length, the new Rockstar is as fast as ever on a wave. As with any maturing rock

star, the changes are more than just skin deep—internally, the boat has also evolved. A tighter knee and thigh area keep me in an aggressive, upright paddling position and the back band’s new cut feels secure and moves


when I do. Jackson’s inflatable bean bag

Happy Feet fill the bow, and are removable for traditionalists like me who prefer a foam block. The Sweet Cheeks seat forms to a custom fit. On my first ferry out towards

a wave, I quickly realized that I felt really high—not in the way you might expect a rock star to be, but high out of the water— even with the Sweet Cheeks as low as they go. For begin- ners this extra height may be unnerving, since a higher cen- ter of gravity makes you more prone to tipping. Intermediate to advanced paddlers will enjoy that it allows for better visibility downstream and, more impor- tantly for freestylers, more le- verage for throwing tricks. The Rockstar comes in three

sizes, and if you’ve paddled an older version of this boat you might find yourself switch- ing sizes. At 190 pounds I’m at the high end of the medium size, which fit perfectly in the original design. Being at the top of the weight range makes the boat easy to throw around while playing, but cumbersome for downriver moves—sizing up would easily solve that problem and help make wave and hole moves bigger too. Like a lot of veteran rock

stars, this updated freestyle design from Jackson is a more refined and polished performer. You can still expect high energy and big-air thrills, but now in a more predictable and control- lable package. DAN CALDWELL

Jackson Kayak Rockstar Small/Medium/Large Length: 5’4”/5’9”/5’11” Width: 25”/26.5”/28” Height: 14”/14.5”/15.5” Volume: 48/57/65 GAL Weight: 27/29.5/33 LBS Paddler weight: 115–180/ 150–200/170–250 lbs Cockpit dimensions: 32.5”x19”/34.5”x20”/36”x21” Price: $1,249 | 43


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