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Pyranha Jed vs. Jackson Rock Star Review

I recently had the opportunity to compare head to head two of the best freestyle boats on the market– the Pyranha Jed and the Jackson Kayak Rock Star. I continue to feel that the top three freestyle boats in the industry for 2012 are the Jackson Kayak Rock Star, Pyranha Jed and WaveSport Project X, and this was a first step in getting a feel for how they all compare.

So here are my first impressions of the Jed vs. the Rock Star after paddling each in the same session at the local whitewater park. I had a few smaller holes as well as two waves to test the boats on. I’m 155 lbs, 5’8″, size 9 feet with a 30″ inseam.

Design Differences:
The strongest impression I got from my session was the contrast in volume distribution between the two boats. I should point out that the overall volume of the Rock Star is definitely greater than the Jed (58 vs. 55 gallons, although as Clay Wright pointed out, volume measurements can be misleading). But aside from this, the Jed feels even smaller because it lacks volume in the tips of the boat, whereas the Rock Star has quite a bit of volume in its more blocky, bigger ends which don’t come to such a slicey point as the Jed. At least for hole performance, this contrasting volume distribution is the biggest design difference I see so far.

Loop (and McNasty) Performance:
Rock Star:
-Looped bigger at my weight, partly because of its greater overall volume, but I also think it has to do with the fact that there’s more volume in the ends of the Rock Star.
-Sticks loops better because of the volume in the ends, at least in the smaller, weaker holes I was paddling.
-Blocky stern makes it harder to finish loops… One downside of the higher-volume tail shape on the Rock Star is that it doesn’t snap through the end of a loop as easily- there’s more surface area slapping the water when you go to snap the tail through and land a loop.

-Flatwater loops better- the tail of the Jed snaps through more easily on loops because it’s not as blocky and high volume as the stern of the Rock Star and the tips are narrower (looking from above).
-Precise McNasty Control- with its slicey bow, the Jed felt like a precision machine for McNasties. It felt very responsive to the nuanced edging used for McNasties. After the pirouette, the volume around the cockpit came into play, giving the loop some nice pop.
-Harder to Stick Loops at least in the weaker, low water features I had to work with, I think the lack of volume in the tip of the stern made it a bit harder to stick loops.

Cartwheel Performance:

-Cartwheels more smoothly and more easily because the tips are so slicey and volume is more concentrated around the knees and the cockpit. Cartwheeling this boat is fun! It would be a great boat to learn flatwater cartwheels.

-Rock Star:
-More retentive in a small hole- The volume in the ends of the Rock Star seems to make the boat more retentive (stays in the hole) on cartwheels. The Rock Star was a lot more retentive cartwheeling in the slower, weaker “Downtown Hole.” In the Rock Star I could lock into cartwheels quite well, whereas I couldn’t really cartwheel and stay in the hole in the Jed. In a stronger, more retentive feature I don’t think that would be such a factor.

Wave Performance:
I had two smaller waves to work with during this session- one that was just big enough for flatspins and carving, the other good for dynamic spins and left blunts. Both boats felt good on these wave features and seemed to blunt similarly well. If I had to say, I think the Jed hull felt a bit looser, at least on a small wave, but this is a first impression

These are different boats! I certainly can’t say that one is better than the other yet. I can definitely say that the Medium Rock Star paddles bigger than the Medium Jed. A few gallons of volume is a big difference in freestyle, and choosing a boat that is just the right size for you is super important for maximum performance. It’s actually a good thing that each manufactuer’s sizing is different since it means you can dial in sizing more precisely (i.e. if the Medium Jed feels too small, check out the Medium Rock Star). Certainly both deserve a spot on the podium for top 3 playboats in the industry. I’ll be testing these more as the season progresses, and also comparing each to the Project X… Stay tuned!

12 Responses to “Pyranha Jed vs. Jackson Rock Star Review”

  1. John Griffiths
    May 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Hi Dustin,

    not one of the most commen designs out, but have you paddled the Titan Genesis? If so, how does it compare?



  2. Dustin Urban
    May 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Hey John, I haven't paddled the Titan Genesis, but I'd certainly like to…. hmmm, where could I find one to try?

  3. John Griffiths
    May 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Hi Dustin,

    no Idea where to get it in the US, I'm living in Europe. Thanks for your reply anyway, And keep these reviews coming,.. Very helpful to compare boats the way you do, mentioning strengths and weaknesses of each design.


    • Karl
      May 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      I would like to see a unbiased review also. The Palmer’s have a plastic and a glass Genesis over in Glenwood.

      • Dustin Urban
        June 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

        Hey Karl, Gensis is certainly on my radar. I'll see if I can make it over to Glenwood

  4. Dustin Urban
    May 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    I'll keep my eye out, thanks John. Glad you like the reviews! more on the way…

  5. matthew
    May 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    What brand of paddle do you use? I suppose it is easier on your shoulders/joints/everything?

    • Dustin Urban
      June 4, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      Hey Matthew, I use Riverstyx wooden paddles made by Jim Snyder (pictured at the top of the site). I've been using them for over a decade and just love the natural flex of wood… carbon does feel a bit rigid in comparison. Other benefits: every time I paddle I'm holding a piece of art, there is no dihedral curve to the paddle, eliminating "flutter" when sliding or sculling the paddle. Cheers. http://www.rivrstyx.com/

  6. Jeff young
    May 27, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    I’m the only Titan dealer in the USA. The genesis really does kick ass. Best playboat I’ve ever paddled. I have a large and a med in stock.

  7. Ryan
    December 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    Hey Dustin, I am currently looking at a new playboat. Considering the Jitsu, Jed and Rockstar 2014. Have you had a chance to paddle the 2014 Rockstar? If so, do you have any thoughts on the 2014 Rockstar vs the other two boats? I am looking at the larger sizes in all three. Thanks,Ryan

    • Dustin Urban
      January 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

      Hey Ryan, those are all good boats. I paddled the 2014 Rock Star all last season, I've paddled the medium Jed some, and I haven't had a chance to paddle the Jitsu. A good place to start might be your weight… I'm not sure about how the large sizes of these boats are scaled, but the Medium Jed paddles quite a bit smaller than the medium Rock Stars for instance. This could make the Jed a good choice if you're on the low end of the larger sizes. I recommend hopping on the forums (boatertalk, mountain buzz) and seeing what other people your size think of the larges in these boats.

      One big difference with the rock star is the stern… the jed has a pretty small stern which can be flushy landing loop tricks; depending on inseam, this can be overcome with seat position, and I'm not sure how the large would be for this.

      The 2014 rock star was designed to have plenty of volume for its short length. Which means it has quite a wide, blocky stern. This makes it stick loop tricks really well. I think it makes slicey tricks like tricky wus a bit harder, but you wouldn't know that watching Dane Jackson :-)

      Best of luck and have fun!

  8. Charles
    July 29, 2015 at 6:20 am #

    The best is the carbon, we choose our riding style not a size !!!!!!

Leave a Reply to Charles