Thanks to Colorado Kayak Supply for the use of their Fun Runner demo!
After paddling the Jackson Kayak Fun Runner 60, this boat has become one of my top recommendations for beginner-intermediate paddlers. Unless you know yourself as a super aggressive athlete that is committed to working on freestyle moves in the whitewater park during your first season(s), take a serious look at the new Jackson Kayak Fun Runner. This boat strikes the perfect balance between river runner forgiveness and playability; it’s a perfect choice for beginners or intermediates that want to get comfortable on the river and still have the option to work on some intro playboating.
1) Very easy to roll: in a full-on playobat, there is often a “pause” in my roll on the way to upright. Instead the Fun Runner glided effortlessly right through to upright.
2) Stable: Solid secondary stability to help you build confidence as you get more comfortable on the water.
3) Fast and “carvy”: More “creeky” beginner boats (like the Hero, Zen, Mamba, etc) are harder to keep going in a straight line because they have more rocker and softer edges. The Fun Runner tracked nicely when paddling downriver and ferrying, and it carved crisply in and out of eddies.
4) Still playful: You’re definitely sacrificing play if you choose one of the “creeky” beginner boats. In the Fun Runner you can still front surf, back surf, spin and stern squirt your way down the river. It’s been years since I skyed stern squirts like I did in the Fun Runner. You will be able to tell if playboating is your thing and you want to try a more aggressive freestyle kayak, but you may still want to hold onto the Fun Runner for your favorite river runs.
5) Outfitting: Jackson Kayak’s outfitting is excellent. Their boats are probably the driest in the industry, and the unishock bulkhead system is safe and comfortable, and the seat is very easy to move (i.e. you don’t need tools, as with some other manufactures’ outfitting)
1) It’s not a full-on playboat. You won’t be learning to loop in the Fun Runner.
2) This isn’t really a con, but take the time to choose between the 60 and the 70. At 155 pounds, I was able to stern squirt the 60, but the stern edge would probably get squirted or back-endered in bigger water.
3) If your home run is bigger volume and you want to be able to surf and spin but you don’t want to worry about getting squirted or catching your edges, check out the Jackson Kayak Zen- it’s a full-on river runner but will still surf and flat spin nicely.
Verdict: This boat nails the sweet spot for a “sporty” river runner. Jackson Kayak now has a respectable line up of boats filling each niche from playboat to river runner and creek boat. If this boat doesn’t sound quite playful enough to you, check out the Jackson Kayak Fun. If it sounds a bit too edgy, take a look at the Jackson Kayak Zen or the Hero if you really want maximum forgiveness and don’t care about playing.
It’s not easy to design a boat this playful and this forgiving at the same time. If you’re looking for an awesome river runner that you can still take to the local playhole or wave, you should seriously consider the Fun Runner.