Summer is nearly upon us, and not before time. Not long to go now. And with summer comes the weekends, for myself and my girlrfriend at least, of warm days messing around at the Cardiff International White Water Centre, playing around on weirs, and now the fun of taking the boats to the beach. People keep telling me I should try other activities such as stand up surfing and wind surfing, but while I will happily give them a go, my real passion is being in a kayak. I just want to get better.
I love my Zet Veloc. It is a fantastic steed for winter boating, and while I still like to keep my hand in with it during the summer, I would like something altogether more sporty for summer playing. My girlfriend, Emily, is also having trouble with her Jackson Karma too. She finds it too big and hard to control, and frankly for the rivers and type of water she enjoys running it is too much boat in all honesty for most things.
She had a bit of a dent in confidence recently, but as soon as she gets into my Dagger G Force she is grinning from ear to ear. She can roll it easily and she knows that when she wants it to change direction, it will respond in kind. It also means she can keep practicing the sorts of things that really will improve her confidence and skill. Play boating. Trouble is the G Force is a bit on the slow side. Whilst it is a fun boat, it ferries like it is going through syrup. Em wants to be able to progress and get better at playing, but also wants a boat that she can go down a river in and still pull off the sorts of eddy catching moves and boofs that you can do in a bigger boat. I am the same. I want to improve my play boating, but I will never be aiming for big aerials, and I also want something that I can have a hoot in down grade 2 and 3 rivers.
The fact is that a lot of boaters have the wrong boat. They either have one too big to be able to do anything in other than a basic side surf in a hole, or they go for a full on playboat despite having no intention of doing much in the way of using its full potential. Enter the Jackson Fun.
The Fun was Jackson Kayak’s first boat, and it remains their most popular seller. My interest in this boat was piqued by the release of the 2015 model. It looked fantastic with its clean lines and promise of having great down river performance while still remaining capable of most play boating moves.
I originally tried out the Fun, the medium sized boat in the Fun range, at the Cardiff White Water Centre from Canoe & Kayak Store. And while I found it to be a nice boat I was right at the bottom of it’s recommended weight range. I simply could not get the boat on end on the flat water either. So after a while I requested that they brought in a demo of the potentially much more suitable 2Fun. At around 138lbs (63kg) I am right in the play boating weight range for this model, but not at the very top so I’m not sunk. Jackson are generally known for taking account of paddlers equipment, so their weight recommendations are based upon your naked weight and not your weight including kit.
The first time I tried it I didn’t even realise that the shop had got the demo in for us. So I only had my creek boots with me. Even still I managed to get into the boat ok. It was a bit tight, but doable. A couple of weeks later when I gave the boat a better try out I took my wetsuit booties and had plenty of room. Unlike an out and out playboat the Jackson 2Fun is very comfortable. For reference I am 5’8 and wear size 9 shoes.
So far so comfortable.
On the water
When I first took the 2Fun down the white water course I found that it does have a bit of a learning curve. But then this is what it is all about! Having been in a creek boat for a while and also being fairly out of practice I found that I was being lazy with my posture. Once I had worked out what I was doing wrong (lazy posture, not edging for long enough, not using edges properly etc) and I took charge of the boat, the 2Fun came alive!
This boat will not forgive you if you are lazy, but you will learn a lot. You can really boss it around though and it will love you for it. Weight shifting has a huge effect as well. The 2Fun seemed to feel like a river runner when you wanted it to be one, and like a playboat when you wanted it to take on that role. For my type of usage it doesn’t seem to have compromised much in either department. After all I’m not exactly going to be going in for the Freestyle Worlds, and I can’t even get a full flat water cartwheel yet. However I can get the ends down, which means that I will be able to achieve such things. It isn’t the fastest boat, but it is still capable of a turn of speed when you need it. Big carving S-turns feel great, and it loves to surf. Even on a steep wave it didn’t seem to pearl much.
If your roll uses good technique then you should be able to roll up a barge. But as we all know, not everyones roll is picture perfect. In this regard the Fun was superb. It seems to roll up on auto pilot, even if you cock up your technique. You should still refine your roll as best you can as the boat won’t do everything for you, but you are more likely to come up than not if you have the rudiments down but perform them less than perfectly.
One of the main reasons I wanted to try out a 2Fun was to see if I could double pump it to get the ends down on flat water. I’m still hopeless at balancing the boat once it is up, but I wanted to see if the 2Fun would allow me to practice this. If anything I think I found it slightly easier than in my G Force 6.1 to get vertical, so it definitely shows a lot of potential there. A lot of crossover playboat/river runners seem to compromise a lot in either department. Previous models of the Fun went too far towards the play boating side of things and perhaps were a little too squirty and edgy. The newer 2015 Fun seems to have the balance just about right.
Since I don’t currently own the boat this is not meant to be an exhaustive review, but I am very happy with what I have experienced. The Fun will, frankly, suit 75-80% of paddlers in the UK who never go above G3, and who have no intentions of coaching or being a river leader with a boat loaded with gear. This is a boat for people who like the idea of a nippy, agile river runner, and who want to learn some play boating but have no aspirations to be world beaters. The clue is in the name, and this boat is for people who want to have fun on the river. Will I be ordering one? Let’s just say that the piggy bank has been brought back into use!