Ocoee Racing in the JK Karma Unlimited


Kyle Thomas is stoked after a good finish in the Ocoee race this year! Check out his race report and review of the JK Karma UL:

The Ocoee Race. A spectacular event and an excellent introduction to intermediate downriver whitewater racing. I love this event and love how it continues to be more competitive every year (2015 was the biggest year yet). It combines many challenges, from navigating technical rapids to maintaining good form through the flatwater. I have sampled a variety of divisions, from short boat to long boat to duo. I, like so many others, am finding myself obsessed with racing in the long boat division. Problem is, I do not own a long boat…yet.

Thanks to the Jackson Action Wagon (J.A.W.), I was able to demo a Jackson Karma Unlimited! I cannot thank Jackson Kayak and J.A.W. enough for providing this opportunity, as I love the try-before-you-buy method. This would be my first time in a Karma UL, and I felt confident going into the race due to my experience with the Jackson Zen and Jackson Karma. Why would I feel confident in racing a boat I’ve never paddled? Consistency.

One of the elements I love most about Jackson Kayaks is the consistency. The outfitting is consistent. I did not need to re-learn how to use it. The paddling is consistent. Having paddled the Zen and the Karma, I had a pretty good idea as to how I would navigate the Karma UL. Yes, navigating a long boat does require certain technical skills, and yes I had not been paddling a long boat much in 2015, but the Karma UL felt familiar throughout the duration of the Ocoee Race.

I had a wonderful experience racing a Jackson Duo in last year’s duo class. I traveled to Chile and explored the magical waterfalls and super clean whitewater in a Jackson Karma. And recently, I have been enjoying the 2015 Jackson Zen as my primary creeker, taking it on trips all around the southeast and to Colorado. I was ready to test out the Karma UL and compare it to last year’s time in a Dagger Green Boat.

The first part of the race went as expected, figuring out the edges and adjusting my strokes to keep the boat fast and on line. As I raced past Staging Eddy, I realized that I needed to tighten up my form, as I had been paddling short boats and not long boats lately. I was so thankful for the snug fit of the cockpit and outfitting, as it helped me to maintain contact with the boat and focus on my technique. It felt a whole lot like sitting in a Medium Karma, which is the perfect fit for my 6’1” and 180 lb frame.

As I approached the biggest challenge (in my opinion) of the Ocoee Race, the Doldrums, I felt confident that I was going fast, but needed to keep the boat straight and away from the shallow rocks. I knew that fatigue would set in, and my form would become sloppy. As expected, my form got sloppy and my strokes were not as efficient as they could have been. As I approached Tablesaw, I got frustrated and focused on the transition between Tablesaw and Diamond Splitter. I have experienced a spin-out very frequently in this section, and didn’t want to lose any more time.

Wave, splash, repeat. The transition approached and I flew right through and on to my line for Diamond Splitter. The Karma UL had exceptional tracking and balance through the waves and swirly water in this section. Very impressive! As I made my way down to Hell Hole, I would face a similar challenge, taking the race line on river right without getting pushed off line by the stiff eddy line or Hell Hole itself. I approached the two-wave feature, zoomed right past Hell Hole toward the finish line.

My final time, while not on the podium, reduced from 33 minutes 7 seconds to 32 minutes 18 seconds, a personal best. I now wonder how fast I could go after I tighten my lines, continue to improve my fitness, and prepare with more effective nutrition. I am proud of what I have accomplished, thankful for the opportunity to race in the Karma UL, and excited to race with so many of my good friends. Thank you JK and JAW!

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