At first I was pretty keen to take my beloved Blissstick Super Rad 180 (pictured above) on the Colorado River/Grand Canyon. We've been through a lot together. On many occasions she has gone to great lengths to protect me from vicious rocky rapids, and I in return have swam after her to rescue her from a life unknown. This would be my way of properly thanking my yak for the years of loyal service.
So I've started training. During training it quickly became apparent that I might want to reconsider my boat choice. I get cramp after a few hours, I cannot paddle faster than a crawling speed, and I've gained enough weight that more often than not that I wonder whether I am indeed controlling which direction the boat goes or if it is happening simply by chance. And so the Grand boat hunt begins.
And this is going to be quick. I had a chat with one of the chaps at Lee Valley who thought for a sec, and then responded with "If I was to paddle the Canyon, it would be in a Jackson 4Fun". Worth a shot. I like it.
Pros of the Jackson 4Fun: o a couple of strokes before you're up to speed o glides like a dream through the water, for a semi-playboat at least o so spacious o comfortable (at least for the hour I hired it) o is pretty comfortable punching through white water o extremely stable and easy to throw around o is comfortable in holes!
The last one kinda converted me. I played around in other boats too: Jackson Fun Runner Jackson Fun (as opposed to the 4Fun, above) - this is probably more of a weight-of-the-paddler scenario (I'm 6'1", and between 85-95 kg, depending on whether or not my friends are reading this). And finally, to get a feel for a creeker, the WaveSport D75.
Despite the lack of comfort offered by the ironically named WaveSport - it is clearly a cheaper kayak than a Jackson, from plastics to design to outfittings - it is still respectable and would make an excellent choice for anyone I am sure. This punched through rapids pretty well, and I was genuinely amused having never paddled a bigger boat down rapids to find how it made the rapids feel about 10cm tall. It effortlessly glided over most water features, and that was nice and relaxing and nice and calm and nice. I decided to up the session and play in all of the holes, and this is where the WaveSport (and I am assuming all larger kayaks, but yet tbc) fell down. I was out of control, uncomfortable, and stuck. Calmly navigating out of this not small, but relatively not large, hole was extremely tricky. The boat would catch, and want to spin around awkwardly to face upstream, all the while I could neither fight it, nor let it easily go with the flow.
Smaller kayaks on the other hand tend to be a bit harder at punching through the waves and rapids. You're more aware of features because they can mess you up a bit on the way down. So you might be a bit likelier to get stuck in a hole. The flip side is that if this happens to you, controlling the boat in there is going to be orders of magnitude easier. And this is where I felt extremely comfortable in the 4Fun. I was able to accurately carve around and out of each feature, completely in control of what was going on. The incredible stability meant I hardly had to think twice; adopt a smart brace, and have fun. Which might be where it gets the name from.
So, speed on the flat water is good. Handles like a dream. I am amazed that there are so few kayak designs like this. I perceive this to be so much easier and fun than a creeker (of the three creekers I've paddled I'd have rather hit a river riding on an alligator...I don't like creekers).
The Jackson Fun: I imagine might be a similar experience for less chubby paddlers than myself. The Jackson Fun Runner: again, maybe a weight thing, but amazingly I felt slower and less in control than the 4Fun. I feel as if someone tried to make a new boat have the appearance of how the Fun handles, and thus somehow made an inferior boat that's slower, awkward, and harder to use. I mean, marginally, it's still a superb boat.
I haven't purchased a 4Fun yet. I am feeling obliged to trial a Waka Tuna, Jackson Zen and a Dagger Axiom, if I can get my hands on any of these. That said, if any sponsors might be reading this do get in touch :)