Karma Unlimited – First Impressions = Friendly, Forgiving, Fast and FUN

 

It’s always an exciting time when a new product comes to fruition. All the concepts, planning, hard work and anticipation finally realized in the form of a hunk of plastic, floating down a river. The Karma Unlimited and RG project was multi-faceted, but one everybody here was excited about as we had high hopes for the performance of the Karma in long boat versions, knowing it would be well suited for both river performance and demanding ocean conditions.

But, you never really know how well you hit the mark until those first boats start getting built, you can put them on your shoulder, carry them to the river, and snap your skirt on for the first time. How will it feel? Will it meet expectations? Will it put a smile on your face?

With the Karma Unlimited, I can unequivocally say, YES!

It fits me quite well at around 5′ 10″, 165 lbs, 9.5 shoe. Fit is a little more snug than a Karma Medium would be, but still need a hip pad shim on either side. Transitioning from the regular Karma to the Unlimited was automatic and non-intimidating. Couple warm up strokes and ferry moves, and off we went down the Tellico in the first pre-production models to hit the water. The Tellico is a popular Class III/IV creek in the Southeast, a great option for long boat with a variety of rapid features and good spring flows. I hadn’t run it in over 15 years, last time being in a Stubby (a very short kayak) when I was a Clemson student, so I didn’t remember much of the river.

Maneuvering through rocks and boogie water was automatic. You have to adjust to the added speed a bit as things can come faster than expected, but that’s the point, right!? Boof strokes revealed a stiff, responsive, hull. The bow stayed on the surface well, and transitioning out of boils or slots you could feel the length and volume carry through, almost giving a feeling like being shot out of a nozzle. Baby Falls was a blast, watching that long bow rise out over the falls, and laughing when I landed below.

 

The real thing that stood out the most though was the maneuverability in current and pushy water, something long boats aren’t necessarily known for. Well, the Karma Unlimited is. The photo sequence below exemplifies this perfectly. The sequence shows me entering the bottom drop of Jared’s Knee, the last main rapid on the run, backwards (not recommended). Usually in a long boat, which tend to like to point one way, I’d be resigned to just lining up and running it backwards, as the last thing you want to do is go off the bottom boof ledge sideways and get stuck in the pourover. But it in the Karma Unlimited, amidst weird currents in the heart of the rapid, it was easy and smooth to take a bow sweep stroke, stern sweep stroke into a bow draw, completely spinning 180 degrees. This perfectly lined me up to time the left boof stroke at the bottom, keeping the bow on the surface and carrying through the hole.

So, bottom line on the Karma Unlimited, mission accomplished. Long boats can be friendly, forgiving, fast and fun. Between the two builds of the Karma Unlimited or the Karma RG, there’s a style to suit everybody’s needs, favorite water type, salty shoreline, or river adventure.

Have fun out there.

D

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