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Jackson Kayak Villain Review

Note: The Jackson Kayak Karma has replaced the Villain as their go-to creekboat.

The Villain is Jackson Kayak’s most dedicated creek boat, forgiving and high performance not only for boaters looking to fire up steep and technical class IV and V whitewater, but also a good choice for class II-III boater. If you’re looking for a good waterfall boat, this is a great option; the Villain has a displacement hull with gentle edges, translating to softer landings, smoother boofs and forgiving handling (do your back a favor and stay away from planing hull boats if you’re planning to run waterfalls). Prior to the Villain, I paddled the Dagger Nomad for years, and I’ve always said I thought the Nomad was one of the best creek boats out there. But the Villain S stacks up against the Nomad 8.5 quite well, handling very similarly, which is a big complement.

Handling and Performance: Quick and Forgiving
The Villain has the enough rocker to make it very maneuverable while still having the speed you need to make critical ferries and hold your line when it counts most. Gentle chines help you carve in and out of eddies, but they don’t interfere with the boats excellent boofing abilities. All of these forgiving characteristics, plus the fact that it rolls easily, make this a good beginner-intermediate design as well. If you’re looking for a boat that tracks (goes in a straight line) really well and surfs better than the Villain, check out the Jackson Kayak Zen. Or take it a step more playful with the Jackson Kayak Fun Runner.

Boofing Performance: A Classic Creeker
If you’re looking for a high performance creek boat, it’s crucial to make sure that the boat boofs well, and the Villain certainly does. It has the rocker to make straight downstream boofs a breeze, and it also preforms well on angled boofs where you make contact with a rock and need to the boat to roll/slide off the rock smoothly without “tripping.” A boat with a planing hull and chines (the Wave Sport Diesel, or Jackson Kayak Zen, for example) is not the best choice for tight, steep and technical creeking, in my opinion, because when you go to execute a boof like this, your chine will often catch the rock, tipping your boat downstream and throwing you into a big downstream brace.

Instead, the Villain allows you to make an angular boof like this and edge your boat upstream, allowing you to land in the eddy behind the rock with the necessary upstream edge to make a quick eddy turn or simply land in control. This performance characteristic is, in my mind, the hallmark of a good creekboat.

Pros: As I’ve said, great all-around creeking performance. It’s very dry, and I also love the outfitting. The uni-shock bulkhead system is probably the safest and best-thought-out in the industry. I hope not to ever piton like the shots in this video, but it’s awesome to know how well this system works if I do:

Cons: My only complaint about this boat is the fact that I hit my thumbs on the outside of the boat around the knee area. If there were less of a ridge here and the boat tapered more smoothly from the sidewall to the cockpit rim, this wouldn’t be a problem. Sit in it and see what you think. I haven’t heard this complaint anywhere else.

Verdict: This is easily in the top three creek boats in the industry. Definitely give it a long hard look if you’re looking for a dedicated creek boat for your quiver. For sizing, at 155 lbs, I prefer the Large Nomad but paddle the Villain S.


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