Racing the Zen

As I am in the airport and getting ready to fly over to Austria for the Adidas Sickline Race, I am anxious, excited, and ready. Sickline has been on my list for a couple years now, and now I am old enough to race one of the premier events out there. Not only is this my first Sickline, it is also the debut for the 2015 Zen at this event. The Zen has done very well this season at events. 4 out of top 7 at Little White Race.. 6 out of top 12 GoPro Steep Creek.. 5 out of top 10 North Fork Championship just to name a couple of events. Because I have paddled the Zen all season long, and it has done well at many events, I am very excited to see how the two firsts will do at the Adidas Sickline Race for me personally! One question though.. What makes the Zen such a good racing boat?


Smooth is fast. That is a pretty general statement when it comes to racing. You can only be so much faster than the current of the river. It doesn’t really matter how hard you are paddling, if you make mistakes in the current and rapids themselves, then you will most likely not be as fast as someone that had a smoother run, but didn’t paddle quite as hard. Here are the key features that allow the 2015 Zen to be Smooth and fast!

Added bow rocker- The added rocker to the bow is HUGE. Not huge as in the size, but how important it is. This allows the boat to stay on top of the water very well. It is very easy to boof over ledges and holes, not let little waves crash on the deck, and prepare to plane over cross currents. All of those aspects save energy, so you can use that extra energy to pound it out in the flats.


More volume- Again, going back to staying on top of the water. That extra volume in the Zen lets it resurface very quickly off of drops and through holes. Along with the bow rocker, the volume pushes through the feature coming out quick and bow up, ready to paddle.

Maneuverability- This comes from a number of different aspects. The hull of the boat is a big factor. The width allows it to be narrow enough to be fast, and also wide enough to have the stability to not have silly mistakes by catching an edge. Also, the super flat planing hull with edges allows the Zen to glide across contrasting currents.


User friendly- As a whole, the Zen is very forgiving. Forgiving does not take away from high performance though! It is fast, boofs extremely well, skips over holes, ferries awesome, stays on top, and will keep you confident. An easier boat to paddle will conserve the energy you need to race, instead of wasting it on corrective strokes, braces, getting stopped and re accelerating, and moving back on to your line.

In general and not solely with racing the biggest thing to understand with the Zen in my opinion is that it excels when the bow is up and planing! When you are just floating through rapids, it is going to be good, but not really stand out. Once you take a couple strokes and get the Zen up to speed a little, just enough to where you are going faster than the water, you will instantly notice how sporty it is! Just up to speed, drop that edge, and it will do a nice, aggressive but controlled carve. Being able to quickly move laterally across the river is very effective avoiding rocks, holes, eddyines, and the peaks of waves.


These were just a few of my personal thoughts on why I enjoy the Zen for general paddling, and especially racing! I’m looking forward to the high-performance and user friendly features of the Zen during Sickline.

Stay tuned on Jackson Kayak’s Facebook Page and Instagram for coverage of the event coming October 1-3!

Alec Voorhees

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