On November 2nd I traveled up to Elizabethton TN to connect with Jeremy Gass and Wesley Bradley in preparation for the Green Race. This was the first time I was able to look at a Karma up close. Laying it side by side I could see some difference right away in hull design. The Karma had a more definable edge from bow to stern and although it’s chines are not as soft as the Villain they were noticeable soft. When layed on it’s hull it didn’t appear to have as much rocker as the Villain, but I did notice more stern rocker.
On The Water: I was able to test it in 3 different settings. First was at the green race (Green River Narrows 12”). This was my first time in the Karma and I started with a seat position of Neutral and moved to one back after Gorilla. I found the boat sporty but difficult to turn at times compared to my Villain. I was carrying extra safety equipment and ropes so I attribute some of the issues to the equipment. The boat handled well through go left and one key thing I noticed was the edge. It was there when I wanted it, but didn’t trip me up like other edgy creekboats I have paddled. Ferries, surfing and rolling all felt easier in the Karma even though I was still searching for that perfect seat position.
The second time I took it out was on Greenbriar in the smokies. The level was an extremely bare bones 1.4 and I was pushing dark. I tried the seat position of all the way forward for the first part of the run and all the way back for the second part. I did notice that the Karma’s edges in rocky shallow water was more noticeable. I had to watch out for low water broaches more than I did with my Villain, nothing major and the times that I did broach the boat slid right off into the flow. I found that I liked the seat position all the way forward which is consistent with my Villain setup. I currently paddle my Villain 1” and ¼” of center.
The Third time I took it out was to Greenbriar again but with a healthier flow. The level was 2.1 and The seat position for me was all the way fwd. The Karma excelled at the boggie water, changing direction when needed, and catching eddies was a dream. After a lap we decided to push up about a mile onto Ramseys for a small addition of some class IV+/V whitewater. The Karma rose to the occasion and boofed as well as my Villain in the tight sections of river. I did notice two major differences between the boats aside from edge. One is the speed and acceleration of the Karma. It was much easier to accelerate for a boof or to make a needed ferry. The Second thing I noticed was the length. I found I bumped my stern a few times as I was getting use to the extra few inches. All in all it did well on the tight sections of Ramseys.
Over All: It boils down to will I personally switch from my beloved Villain to a Karma? The answer is yes! I found it’s protectiveness to be everything I have come to expect from a Jackson Creekboat with the added abilities of some non-catchy edges. At my size and weight 5’11” 155lbs I will paddle it with the seat all the way forward and I will remove the factory seat foam for a 200 sweet cheeks. I used a 100 on top of the factory seat for demo purposes. It is a great boat and I look forward to picking up my very own… but don’t just take my word for it, get out there and paddle one!