C&K's Michael Gordon tests Jackson's latest to the breaking point and comes up smiling.

2013 Creek Boats: Jackson Karma

Michael Gordon getting his paddle on in the Karma. Photo: Adam Brown

2013 Creek Boats: Jackson Karma

($1,199; jacksonkayak.com)
S / M / L — L: 8' / 8'6" / 9'; W: 25" / 26" / 28"; 72 / 86 / 103 gals.; 40 / 45 / 50 lbs.

The Jackson team cooked up a unique hull profile for its new Karma creekboat, with impressive results. The Karma is a fast and agile river-running machine, offering predictable and forgiving performance. The pronounced lower edges look like notches running the length of the boat; they're always engaged and help the Karma hold a true line through shallow and aerated water. The secondary edges flare out above the waterline, so that the widest point in the boat is above your center of gravity. These high sidewalls prevent your edges from catching in the cross current, while the flared-out design centers the kayak beneath your body when you land drops. With a bit of rocker and plenty of volume in the nose, the Karma's speedy hull glides over hydraulics and gives a little added boost to your boofs.

Our test protocol included a month of near-daily abuse on the western Washington classics, a speed test during the Northwest Creeking Competition on the East Fork Lewis, and three laps of a photogenic 40-footer. Start with the good news. The Karma came up big on race day, accelerating quickly off the line, boofing big at the entrance falls, and charging quickly over wave-trains and holes. The Karma's performance inspired me to charge the fast line through Hippie Jon's Swimming Hole, which that day claimed eight swimmers and flipped three rafts.

Next up was the drop test. You can stomp lines all day, but the true measure of a creekboat is whether it takes care of business when you don't. Exhibit A: my second lap of 40-foot Limpwrist Falls on the South Fork Snoqualmie. Though I landed, corked to the side, the Karma resurfaced upright and pointed downstream. The hit was hard enough to cave the Karma's stern edge. This was a gentle reminder of the forces involved in a large drop, and I felt lucky that the boat took the brunt of the impact. The good news is we were able to knock the dent out, and fire off the drop one last time to get the image above.