Paddling tips, tricks, news and gear reviews from an Unsponsored point of view

Jackson Karma (Large) – First Paddle

Today I spend a few hours in the new Jackson Karma. Now today was quite unusual as once I was in the Karma and on the water I took an instant dislike to it!

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Karma (Large)

Length: 270cm
Width: 71cm
Weight: 22.7kg
Volume: 390L
Paddler Weight: Range 83-136kg

The large Karma was supplied by Northshore Watersports here in the UK. On picking up the boat I noticed it was pretty light. This was a surprise given the fact that it looks really really big. I was expecting something more akin to the Dagger Mamba and Wavesport Recon but the Karma was noticeably lighter.

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On closer inspection it’s quite easy to see where the weight has been saved. The outfitting is simple and relies upon lightweight and tough hardware and the vast majority of it is plastic.

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There is very little in the way of metal in the Karma with the minimal number of bolts and no full plate footrest bracketory. The footrest system seems very basic and as this was the first time I had tried out the system I wasn’t too hopeful about how it would perform. It reminded me too much of a a system that I think Pyranha first used around 25+ years ago.

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However once on the water I found that it works rather well and I quite like the idea of being able to pull the footrest towards you when you are sat in the boat. It is also so much quicker and less fiddly than any other full plate footrest system I have tried.

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The seat rail is welded into the boat which also acts as a stiffener for the hull, this feature is starting to become quite common in a number of the newer designs that are being released.

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Setting up the Karma was super simple. The rope and cleat system works well and I moved the seat forward a couple of holes which only required one nut to be removed.

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The lack of holes in the hull is really good and certainly makes sense. It was nice not to have any water ingress through the hull, it also saves on weight. And although the cockpit shape had left me frustrated trying to get my deck on the rim it did provide a really good seal with my IR Klingon Empire deck.

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The cockpit rim does have a couple of holes at the front and back. I’m not sure what function they actually perform.

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The backrest was very supportive but due to its size also made putting on my deck a little awkward. When the deck was on the backrest could be felt and seen pushing against the neoprene. I’m not sure whether this would lead to damage to the neoprene in the long term.

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Looking at the boat on dry land you can see that the 103 gallon volume isn’t concentrated in one particular area – there is quite simply lots of volume in all areas!

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The new Jackson Kayak range come supplied with a GoPro mount attachment, this essentially is a threaded hole that allows you to bolt a modified GoPro mount directly to the bow of the boat.

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It seemed rude not to try it out.

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At 210lbs (naked) I sit at the lower end of the weight range of the large Karma. On the water the boat feels pretty big and sits high in the water. It therefore bobs around a bit and feels very different to the Recon and Mamba. I did not like this at all and for the first 30 – 40 mins in the boat I was ready to call it a day and hand it back. However after moving the seat forward another notch and an hour or so of water time I began to really like the Karma.

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It’s a pretty fast boat. The Karma shares the same planing hull design as the Zen, but has more rocker and volume at the bow than its river running sibling. The hull of the Karma is very interesting, it has an unusual configuration of multiple edges.

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The edges offer good levels of primary and secondary stability as well as giving the boat something to grab the water with as you make a tight turn and carve.

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The Karma has good acceleration and it can pick up waves easily and surf really well. Get it bang on and the Karma will just sit on the wave with no need for paddle correction. A little lean forward, back, left or right moves the Karma. This shows how well configured those edges are.

The Karma rides really high in the water and simply barrels through everything you put before it. Getting up to speed only takes a few paddle strokes and the speed is maintained well. To get the most out of the speed I reckon you need to put the boat on edge and drive it through the turns. Doing so produces a nice quick turn with no hint of the rails being grabbed by the water.

I think that the medium Karma may be a better option for me. I plan to give that one a try shortly.

Overall I think the Karma will be worth looking at by everyone who wants a creek boat that is a little bit different and quirky.


  1. Kevin Todd

    The holes in the cockpit rim are there to help allow you to drain water from the boat. Hold it upside down and water channels into the rim lip where the holes let it escape. Love the Karma.

    – Kevin Todd (

    • Unsponsored

      That makes perfect sense. Thanks.

  2. Glenn

    it reminds me of a barge…

    • Kevin Todd

      The Medium? Opposite of a barge in my opinion. Easy to turn, very fast, etc. I’m 6’1″ 175-180lbs and the Medium works great. The Large is huge (103 gallons) for larger paddlers.

  3. Glenn

    Yep I was referring to the Large, as in this review…

    • BCox

      Re the large: It’s damn nimble for thus age 76 paddler on chemo thus not real strong. You just need to dial in the trim with the seat and use good stroke & body work and it’ll go where you want when you want. Despite its size it handles like a Super 7 when drive it right.

      • Suki

        totally agree with BCox… it really is nimble, very surprising for its size. I’m 101kg so nearer the lower end of the weight range… I chose the Karma for this reason as have always been at the higher end until buying the Karma L.. everyone else I know who’s lighter still paddle relatively big boats, e.g. I know loads of 70kg folk paddling Nomad 8.5s, so it’s only as barge-like for you as your Nomad 8.1 is a playboat in comparison for me!

  4. Sam


    Nice site! Any chance you would be testing the Karma M sometime soon? I am a touch lighter than you and thinking M or L…

    • B. COX

      Soom. Stay tuned.

  5. kayakjournal

    Interesting that you put the seat forward. JK recommends trying it one notch back from the middle setting. Did you ever test the medium?

  6. dh

    I paddle the stomper currently have been very happy with it. The karma was very hard to maneuver and I had the worst run down my local river I have ever had. I think there is not enough continuous rocker in the karma, sits too low in my opinion (everything is too low profile), and it is too edgy. I demoed the medium and I’m 5’8 170. I’m a big fan of the Jackson playboats, but the creekers are just not where liquidlogic or wavesport is.

  7. Philip


    This post rocks! Really like the details and definitely made up my mind on whether I should get a Karma.

    Now, I was wondering whether I can get some advice on what size would be the right one for me. I am 191 cm tall and 98-100 kg (naked). I am hesitating between size M and L. I leaning towards L, as I am quite a bit over the weight limit of the M size. My only concern is the volume which the L size packs, 390 litres sounds huge, considering the fact that my LL Flying Squirrel 85 felt quite good with it’s 330 litres.

    Many thanks for you assistance in advance.


  8. Josh P

    I’m 5’o” and abou 205. I purchased a slightly used Karma M for whitewater and some creek/river for an easy day or so I thought. I’m used to the creek boats which I can fly down the water, drift and paddle with little effort.
    Upon purchase of th JK it was comfortable. I got to the creek put it in and found it to be very stable. I could spin on a dime. However, I had the hardest time paddling the boat in a straight line and paddled my ass off next to my buddy in a freaking Walmart kayak for about 10 miles and my shoulders are screaming!
    I couldn’t drift a straight line or stop paddling or I would start turning and drifting. I got so frustrated I could have thrown it off a cliff!
    I stopped and tried moving the seat back and it helped a bit but still not impressed. I tries different paddling strokes and leaning, shifting my hips and pushing with my feet to experiment.
    It did well when I hit some whitewater though where it got fun…
    All in all I’m not impressed at all for a $1200 kayak marketed for all water types. What gives?
    I would appreciate any advice…

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