Small Girl, Big Boat

I wanted to do a quick review on the Nirvana (medium) now that I have spent approximately a year in it. To give a rundown, I am 5’3” fluctuating between 115-120 lbs. This is the largest creek boat I have ever paddled and I will be completely honest, I did not think I would like this boat due to its medium size. My first time in it, I was proved wrong. I was extremely shocked that my own preconceived thoughts of it being too large for me were wrong. Let’s talk about the adjustments I made to make this my own.

When getting a new boat, I do my initial outfitting and off I go which in a jackson is usually just adding foam to my hips and maybe adding foam to the backband. I then make small tweaks. My first adjustments were with the back of the backband. I messed with this a fair amount before settling on a position. Play around with this and find what works for you.

Next, I added padding to the backband. And then I added even more. Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of foam. And when the boat is sitting without anyone in it, this is what gets many folks talking to me about the boat.

Then I added foam to the seat but not in your typical fashion. I personally like a really aggressive knee position so I didn’t add padding to the entire seat like many do. Instead, I added foam to the back part of the seat where my butt sits. I then added one more piece. (This is foam I bought at Walmart in the camping section.)

While this is more adjustments than I have made to previous Jackson Kayaks, it makes this work for me and in reality, it’s not many adjustments. Anyone that knows me, knows I am absolutely in love with my antix and you don’t see me out of it that often when I am creeking but the Nirvana is a boat that I take when I need a bit more confidence. Being a small paddler, I can easily be hole bait. The bow on this boat is amazing as it completely rides above the water and gives me more confidence going through holes. I also find this boat to excel in “bigger” water. I put quotes around this because our big water in the SE does not compare to big water out West.

Let me compare this boat to the Karma Unlimited:
The Nirvana is not quite as fast (9’ compared to nearly 12’) which can be expected but it is nearly as fast. I find the Nirvana paddles more like a creek boat than a long boat regarding maneuverability. I have no problems driving this boat in and out of eddies. Bottom line: you compromise a bit of speed but I find I can maneuver the boat better on more technical runs.

This is not a boat that you want to be passive about. At least not for someone of my size. You need to be engaged and you need to be active. It skips over holes, it is easy for me to snap in and out of eddies and it maintains its speed. This is my first 9’ boat and I have to say I am in love with this length.

It is not uncommon for people to see me paddling this boat and ask me a number of questions due to my size. If you are a smaller paddler and have thought that the medium Nirvana is just too much boat for you simply by looking at the boat or because you have looked up the specs, do yourself a favor, go demo it. If I can paddle one, you can paddle one 🙂

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