When boat designers are given the task of designing a new boat they have a hard road in front of them. They are asked to make a boat that beginners will love and makes it easy for them to paddle, but also for high level boaters to have performance and safety. Here is a review from Josh Carter. He is a local Smokies paddler that has spent time in both the small and medium. Josh is a growing paddler and is currently stepping into the world of Class IV-V paddling.
About Josh: I’ve been paddling for almost a year now and the hardest thing to date I have ran is Upper Big Creek and the Watuaga. I have mainly paddled an Eskimo Salto, but have had the chance to play around with a Villain in the water too.
Taking my first look at the Karma Small, I was very excited because I had heard great things about this boat. It had what looked like the right amount of edge on it looking at the hull and had the Jackson outfitting, which is always a nice bonus. I had the seat set in the center of the boat and I hopped in it my first time on the Little River Sinks at 2.5 feet. The first thing I noticed was that the boat boofed like a boss! Compared to the Salto I had paddled it felt like I was stomping pretty much every boof. The next major thing I noticed about the boat is the speed. It cuts through the river so fast and I found myself running up on the boat in front of me on the river several times. The next thing I really enjoyed was the carving; I was able to steer the boat with my hips at times, which means the boat is so easy to maneuver into tight eddies. My favorite feature about the boat though by far is the slight edge. It has enough to effectively turn the boat, however, as compared to my Salto that would flip me when I caught to much edge, the Karma never did that. I could go almost to a 45 degree brace without my paddle and I would not flip. Overall I am very impressed with this boat, especially some of the add on features such as the GoPro mount on the front.
Josh in the Karma S boofing the Sinks on the Little River
Everything about the Karma Small is true for the Medium except for a few changes. When I paddle the medium I use a 200 for the seat, extra foam in the sides, and I have the seat all the way forward. This allows me to effectively engage the boat. The medium has a lot of volume and the boat just feels beefy. I’m 5’10″ and 165lbs and the boat is very comfortable for me. I am not quite used to the larger size and I am still learning how to effectively control it in whitewater, but there are several advantages to it. When I was on the Little it boofed so well, even better than the small did from what I noticed. The next major thing that really helped was the extra volume; when I was on the Watuaga I popped out of several holes very quickly, the main one being the last hole on Hydro. The medium carves and cuts just as well as the small, but has the extra volume so that you feel safe.
Josh Boofing the Karma Medium on his first lap down the Watauga
Final Judgement: I’m in love. I plan on switching to one as soon as I can get my hands on it. They are a great boat and Jackson really outdid themselves with this. If you have a chance to demo one you should! Check out the J.O.E. demo trailer from Tommy Clapp to try one of these beautiful boats out