The Zen 65 (medium), is Jackson Kayak’s newest river runner with 2 more sizes in the range, 55 (small) and 75 (large) due to follow shortly.
The very first impression, highlighted by the photos below, is how similar the boat looks to a Mamba (and therefore a Diesel, Burn, etc…) but that is where the similarities end.
While the Zen looks similar to many other kayaks, it FEELs very different. It’s as if the scientist boffins at Jackson Kayak have managed to work out exactly how much speed, manoeuvrability, looseness, tracking and boofing are required to make the ultimate river runner/cruiser.
Paddled flat, the hull feels incredibly loose with zero drag to slow it down. Put it on edge and it will carve a turn or catch an eddy, with precision I have not found in a kayak before. It is as if the kayak knows where you want to be and does what is needed to get you there. This boat is easily able to carve up a river, slalom-style, catching eddies and making ferries with speed and ease.
Volume-wise the Zen feels small but proves adequate for what it is designed to do and is not some lumpy tub that needs to shed a few pounds. In terms of the kayak weight itself, 20kgs approx, it is easy to carry and feels light on the water.
Get it near a wave or hole and the hull just wants to surf and spin. Stability is really good too and it is possible to recover from over-edging when most other kayaks would have capsized.
The outfitting is the standard JK river spec with unishock bulkhead which makes adjusting a breeze and makes it a great kayak for clubs/centres who have to cater for a wide range of paddler sizes.
While this was only my first outing in the Zen, it won’t be my last and I can’t wait to get it on some steeper, creekier rivers to test it out.
Here’s the promo video to whet your appetite: