Testing the Karma Unlimited/RG prototype

CGI of the Karma RG

Jackson Kayak’s popular Karma creek boat is undergoing two simultaneous evolutions this year: The Karma Unlimited creek racing kayak and the Karma RG ocean play boat and river tourer.

Playing in the ocean is what I am all about whether it is surfing, rock gardening or coastal cruising. I have had the pleasure of testing an early prototype of this new kayak. JK’s design team have worked their magic putting many of the best features of the Karma into a longer (11’ 10”) package. It is rather fortunate that what is needed for a creek racing boat is more or less exactly what we need in a rock garden boat.

Length equals speed and that is what is needed to punch through whitewater whether you are racing down a creek or running a pour-over in the ocean. The long, fast planing surface provides stability and control. The low draft hull will skate over holes and rocks more cleanly than displacement hulled boats. Speed is important too since we often paddle several miles to access the best rock gardens. The ability to accelerate quickly is the key to matching the speed of swell when running pour-overs, or punching out through surf and to catch wave trains in tidal races. The long planing surface also means this boat surfs extremely well and defined chines and release edges allow you to carve a turn with precision. Yet even in the pushiest water this kayak is predictable and forgiving due to the flared sidewalls making it perfect for paddlers of all skills levels.

Hull of prototype. Note that the production version of the RG will have a skeg.

It can be challenging to find the right amount of rocker to give the perfect balance of speed and maneuverability. The Karma RG has significant bow rocker to prevent perling whilst surfing, allowing the bow to rise over waves and pop up after a drop. It also has just the right amount of stern rocker to make the boat playful but still have the ability to track (without always using skeg) when paddling between coastal features or on flat sections of river.

The finals tweaks to the mold are currently underway with full production of the Karma Unlimited expected in March and the RG version in April. The RG will have a skeg, rear hatch and bulkhead and some deck rigging. The exact configuration of the deck of the RG is yet to be determined with consideration being given to function before style and the needs of both the ocean paddler and river tourer – the RG will likely become a self-support Grand Canyon favorite due to its big water performance and carrying capacity.

The RG is not a sea kayak in the traditional sense. It would not be my choice for a long crossing or for cranking out mile after mile of featureless coastline or flat water river. But if you are looking to explore a more intricate coastline and get into every nook and cranny and maximize the opportunity to play along the way then this boat has everything you need for multi-day coastal or big water river exploration. And for day use, this will for sure be my ocean play boat of choice.

Photo Credit: Bob & Mieko Watkins - thanks guys!

I took the opportunity to test the prototype along my local favorite section of California coastline from Rodeo Beach to Point Bonita on the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate. I was spotted by a couple of amateur photographers who tracked me down to share these images with me and you.

Photo Credit: Bob & Mieko Watkins - thanks guys!

I also created a video of the morning’s excursion which I hope gives you a good appreciation of the performance of what is going to be an exceptionally fun kayak.

Still from GoPro video, passing through Bird Rock

 

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