Christopher Audet, 43, sees his Jackson Karma RG as joining the long-refined comforts of a Camry to the fun of a Ferrari 488 GTB. His Karma RG has the agreeable, user-welcoming interior of other Jackson boats, with easy-to-adjust foot braces and a comfy seat in a hull that's made to play. At 11 feet 10 inches, the Karma RG is quite a bit shorter than most sea kayaks and resembles an elongated whitewater boat. Audet, a sea kayak and whitewater instructor who lives in Searsport, Maine, spends, over the course of a year, every other day afloat, so comfort is key. But since he surfs some of the biggest tides in the world–surges with the power to flip much bigger boats–Italian-grade responsiveness and cork-like buoyancy are the keys to Fun City.
CanoeKayak.com: So, how does your play boat play?
Christopher Audet: Because of its length, it's a lot more maneuverable in the surf zone and rock gardens. It's more forgiving because it handles like a whitewater boat in ocean situations. However, it's definitely not just the length. The Karma RG’s rocker and the volume in the bow allow it to ride up and over squirrely eddy lines as opposed to the more pointed ocean bows that get buried a little easier.
Can it range beyond play sessions?
I'm not going on a ten day expedition with it, but it's as awesome for three-day trips as it is for park and play. It's a pretty versatile boat, and I've used it to teach rolling because it rolls nice and easy.
How about the interior?
The cockpit comfort is top notch. I've sat in a lot of shapes and styles of kayaks and I've found it to be incredibly comfortable. It's easy to adjust the seating as you don't have to be a contortionist to adjust the foot braces. If you blindfolded me and sat me in a Karma RG and then the Karma Large, which is Jackson's Creek Boat, and finally, my Jackson Journey, which is a sea boat, I wouldn't know the difference because the back band adjusts the same way and foot rests are the same too. It's a refined system, so it's really easy to dial it in. It has strings in the jam cleats for the seat back as opposed the metal ratchets in seats of other boats that corrode no matter how much I rinse them. The strings stretch a little bit, but then you just pull them a little farther.
Your tides aren't just monstrous. They're also very cold. Ever gotten into and out of a dicey situation in your Karma RG?
I was surfing down at Popham Beach, and I was over a sandbar that was a really confused section of water. It's a zipper where two waves converge and I was surfing the wave on one side and another wave came from a totally different direction and power-flipped me. It flipped me so violently that I was disoriented. I'm not proud to say that I swam out of the boat, but the Karma RG's buoyancy and volume allowed a friend in his RG to perform a rescue without it being a big, prolonged thing. The grab loops on the RG's back really helped. Plus, my RG didn't just swamp and fill with water because of its buoyancy.
Where haven't you paddled your Karma RG that you'd like to go?
The Shubenacadie Tidal Bore in Nova Scotia in the Bay of Fundy. It's my favorite place to paddle because tidal bores form standing waves. With the huge tidal ranges, you get the ocean tide punching water upstream and the force of that opposes the river flow. With sandbars on the bottom, beautiful standing waves form that you can surf. You can do three hours of pure surfing. It's both exhilarating and exhausting. It can feel like you're paddling on a treadmill as you try to hold your position while a set is forming, and it looks like you're surfing in chocolate milk because of all the silt. I'd also like to paddle my RG on the coast of Oregon and northern Cali where there are big swells and rocks.
As a part-time whitewater and sea kayak instructor and guide, you're paid to paddle. Is that like winning the lottery day after day?
I giggle all the way to the bank when I cash my checks, but our tourist season is so short and we cram so much work into each day that we don't have time to just paddle for fun, so we surf at night sometimes.
Final words about your RG?
Paddling is my passion and it makes me so happy when I find the right tool. I'm guessing it's how a carpenter might feel about his favorite hammer.
–Read C&K editor Jeff Moag’s take on the Karma RG and the Return of the Longboat