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.
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:
-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.
-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.
-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.
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!