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Jackson Kayak - Nirvana Large Review

I've now been paddling the Nirvana since the fall of 2017, which at the time of this review puts me at about six months or so of paddling this boat. I've taken it on class 4 rivers, I've done back to back comparisons on my favorite sections of river for judging boats with my prior boat, the a large Jackson Karma, and I've instructed numerous classes in this boat. I've also witnessed how others work in this boat during instruction, validating some of the thoughts I have.

General thought on the boat:

This boat is a pretty good to decent boat for intermediate paddlers. It's got a lot going for it. That said, it's not for everybody and there are other boats with plenty of positives over this boat. The model it is replacing, the Large Karma, has enough aspects that compare favorably to this that I can't outright recommend this boat over that, especially for hesitant boaters, and especially for newer boaters.

I personally don't think I'll continue paddling this boat all that much. I just have way more fun in the Antix and overall want something with a bit more compliance and manueverability.

Here's some of my overall thoughts from my on river experiences:

  • This boat is LONG. See the picture of it next to my truck? It's gigantic. Not sure why it seems so gigantic at just 4 inches longer than the other 9' race class boats... but something about it just makes it massive.
  • It's not as edgy as other boats, but it's far edgier than most creek boats.
    • This is good because it lets you hit moves in a crisp fashion you couldn't normally pull off in say the Karma. I'm a big fan of this boat for that reason.
    • This is not so good because it's such a long boat with a healthy amount of waterline, putting a lot of edge in the water at nearly all times. It sucks to surf because of that, and when it gets pushed off line takes a lot more muscle to bring back. It's not as forgiving nor compliant. A lot of people will say you just have to be a great boater, but I'm not buying that. Water is dynamic, things change, you get pushed slightly off line, it's an imperfect environment with inconsistencies. I think the not so good wins out here.
  • The rocker is awesome. It's good for more than just boofing over things as well...
    • It reduces the amount of edge in the water down to slightly less than the Large Zen, so it has the large Zen beat (which is a lame boat IMO)
    • Compared to other creekers with less rocker, you don't get that big chunk of volume much further out hitting the moving current when peeling out, or vice versa eddying out with the upriver current on the eddy. This makes it so you can control entering and exiting notably better, while on many creekers you kind of just have one entry and one exit turn with them, without adding notable muscle
    • It looks to go over instead of through more features.
  • The stability is still excellent. The Karma is still the heavy weight champion of stability. You can damn well take a nap in that boat (I am not liabel if you try this). The Nirvana is a close second though, with great stability. I will say though the tail with it's flat surface and kicktail isn't quite as friendly if you're just casually floating through some odd water or getting spun around in something you didn't plan on. The Karma does win there.
  • The speed is good, but not as great as advertised. I think one of the aspects of whitewater boats that people neglect to mention when factoring in speed, is compliance. It doesn't matter how fast you can get a boat going if you can't keep it in control and maintain that speed. So yeah, the boat is fast, but when it gets off line no amount of stern draws are going to bring that tail back in line. Moving the seat back has helped, but overall this boat is not faster than an equivelant sized more compliant creeker. I personally can paddle my Karma just as fast as this
  • Acceleration is another just okay factor. You can't get around this boat being heavy, and in that regard this boat and the Karma are a bit of a bear to get going. If you grab a small eddy on the side of say a class 4 creek and need to drive back into some heavy moving current... you're going to have to drive this puppy hard.
  • Since weight just got mentioned, this thing is still a beast. It may have the Karma beat by 3-4lbs supposedly, but you'd never know it. Throw in a water bottle of water, a pin kit (lightweight one even) a first aid kit, a breakdown paddle, a throw bag... this boat quickly tips the scale at 60 some odd lbs.

In general... Jackson Kayak's have had this nack of releasing boats lately and trying to say it's for everyone. They aren't entirely wrong, everyone can make it work, but it's just not necessarily what everyone is looking for. Myself and a good friend of mine who are diedhard Jackson boaters are starting to look past this boat. Others are as well.


If Jackson releases an equivelant to the new Waka OG, then we'd be talking!