I’m not gonna lie, after nearly five years of paddling exclusively Jackson boats, hopping in a new playboat like the WaveSport Project X 56 was pretty exciting. It’s the first time I’ve tried this design, and I’ll cut to the chase- what a fun boat! What got my attention most about the X was the hull. Surfing and spinning this thing was like gliding around on butter.
Wave Performance: Oh-So-Slippery
The hallmark of a poor hull is that it takes effort and skill to “break it loose,” to go from front surfing to grinding or spinning on a green wave. In the WaveSport Project X, “breaking loose” is the wrong term since there’s so little effort required to flat spin on a green wave. If you’ve got your hull flat, merely sweep outward from a rudder and your skittering through an oh-so-slippery spin. I’m not sure I’ve had so much fun carving and spinning since planing hulls first came out. Lay down an edge and this thing carves super responsively.
Hole Performance: Big Pop, Nice Lines
At my weight, the boat popped nicely for some air loops. It also locked in a balanced and super fun way for cartwheels in a small hole. The side profile of the boat seems to explain that to me… the ends stay pretty wide right up to the tips, keeping the sidewall profile quite thin and slicey. I’ll need more time in a hole to comment on McNasties and other tricks.
I will say that at 5’8″, 155 lbs, the 56 felt a little bigger than optimal for wave tricks. Back in the days when I paddled for Perception, many of us would paddle the Full Tilt in a hole and the Spin on a wave. A narrower, smaller boat is just easier to snap from edge to edge for blunts and other aerials; the extra volume that you want for aerial hole moves just translates to more weight and bulk on a wave. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how I fit in the Project X 48; it’s possible that this would be the better-sized Project X for me on the waves.
Pros: I like how the seat, hip pad and back band material is non-absorbent, minimizing any extra water weight in the boat after sponging out. Back band is very comfortable. I like how it slides along the webbing side to side with your body movement- this probably helps minimizing chafe potential. I’ve always added height to my seat for better leverage and control, so I added a Jackson Kayak Sweet Cheeks 200 on top of the seat. Also, I’m almost at the point where I’d rather not go kayaking if I don’t have some kind of sprayskirt support, so I threw a Happy Seat/Thruster combo in as well.
Cons: Jackson Kayak’s outfitting has set my expectations high for quick and easy outfitting. While the zip-in hip pad shims and ratchet back band are nice, the foot support system is pretty weak I would say. They give you enough foam to support the legs of a 12 year old in this thing, but the foot foam without the add-ons required cutting for me to get enough foot room. I would need to cut it even more to get far enough forward (I was still stern heavy). The problem at that point is that the back band was already ratcheted down as far as it would go, so I assume that I would have to shorten the webbing connecting the ratchet to the backband in order to get further forward? I contemplated moving the seat forward, which I will do with more sessions in the boat, but I was surprised to see that I would have to loosen Philips head screws next to the seat in order to do so. I guess I’m at the low end of the paddler weight range (140-210 lbs… I weigh 155), so maybe this would all work out easier for a bigger paddler. You could also throw some Happy Feet in the bow and skip the foam cutting.
The Project X hull lives up to the hype- incredibly slippery and fun on the small but steep and fast Sleeping Beauty Wave. If you weigh around 155 lbs like me, the Project X 56 will offer huge air for hole moves, can still be thrown around on a wave, and will go downriver better than the Project X 48. While the boat is heavier than I would like (35 lbs compared to the Medium Jackson Kayak Rock Star‘s 27 lbs) and the outfitting could be more user-friendly, this is clearly an outstanding freestyle design that you should seriously consider if you’re looking for top freestyle performance.