Jackson’s Newest Line-up: Are the Antix, Nirvana, and Mixmaster beginner friendly boats?

There has been a lot of hype recently about the three newest boats released by Jackson Kayak, with a huge emphasis on fun and ease of paddling. The two throw-back designs: the Antix and the MixMaster, are designed to make the river a playground and make river play more accessible for every paddler. The 9-foot Nirvana was released as the next best thing in creeking; fast, forgiving, and maneuverable. This is all well and good for the top tier paddlers out there, but do these boats really have anything to offer to the paddler or soon to be paddler who is just starting out? The short answer: Absolutely!

The long answer: Each of these boats has something unique to offer to beginner paddlers, or even the intermediate paddler who doesn’t see themselves throwing freewheels off of Gorilla in the near future.

The Nirvana briefing: The main features that make this boat desirable for expert level paddlers are some of the same features that make it beginner friendly as well. The length and hull speed of the boat mean that newer paddlers will be able to easily complete river maneuvers like peel-outs, eddy-turns, and ferries. However, the boat has well-defined edges and parting lines that don’t take away the learning experience of getting a feel for the edges. Beginners will still feel like they’re paddling a kayak and not a cork that bobs over everything. If you’re an intermediate paddler, the Nirvana will take your paddling to the next level, too. The biggest asset to the intermediate paddler will be the speed, which will allow you to make those difficult attainments in class II+/III water, while the aggressive rocker will allow you to run the bigger stuff with confidence and control.

The MixMaster lowdown: The first question you might have when you look at the MixMaster is: How am I going to fit in that? The good news is, unless you have giant sized proportions, you can fit in the MixMaster and have fun! The beginner paddler is going to feel the sharp learning curve of the MixMaster, but will be a healthy challenge and isn’t anything impossible. The first boat that I paddled was super slicey like the MixMaster, and it definitely challenged me, but once I got a feel for it, it was rewarding in the long run. The MixMaster will be exceptionally easy to roll due to the low side-wall and low volume, which is a helpful feature for the newer paddler. The intermediate paddler, however, is who this boat was designed for! If you’re looking to break into the realm of the increasingly popular discipline of river play, the MixMaster is perfect for you. Every eddy line becomes an opportunity to sink the stern or the bow, and you will soon be addicted to the playboater lifestyle.

The Antix inside scoop: The Antix is another throwback design, with a twist. The low volume stern pays homage to boats of whitewater’s past, while the bow rocker and higher volume bow make this boat more forgiving on those higher grade runs. Beginner paddlers will find this boat to be in the sweet spot of challenging and forgiving, and will make learning river maneuvers way easier. Intermediate paddlers are already calling the Antix their favorite all around boat. You get the benefit of getting to play the river, while not feeling like you have to sacrifice the stability and comfort that you tend to lose a bit of in a full of playboat or creekboat.

If you’ve been doubting how the newest Jackson lineup will fit into your kayaking, I can assure you that there is a spot for each of these boats that will improve your paddling. Or, if you’re looking to introduce someone to the sport, any of these boats are a worthwhile option for getting them stoked about kayaking.

I hope this was helpful and I’ll see you on the river!
—Katelyn Green

Comments on “Jackson’s Newest Line-up: Are the Antix, Nirvana, and Mixmaster beginner friendly boats?”

  1. April 10, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    The antix you guys really nailed! I paddled the large antix 90% of the time I’m out now. Great job on that one guys. Really nailed that boat for sure.

    The Nirvana is pretty good. I have the large, and have coached a few intro to whitewater courses now with this boat being in the mix of boats used. In both the large and the medium I find moving the seat back a position really helps it be a fair bit more compliant for whomever is paddling it. It would seem the out of the box setting is way too far forward causing the boat to track poorly resulting in the boat not wanting to track, and a lot of energy wasted trying to keep the thing from spinning out on you and not wanting to come back. This was echoed by a few other kayak shops I know around the country as well so it’s not just a few boats limited to one region. Perhaps consider changing the mounting up a bit so out of the box it’s a bit more compliant?

    As for the mixmaster, as a not giant sized person (5’10”) but over the weight on the boat, I gotta say it’s not as workable as advertised and I wish you would stop repeating the same schtick that it fits everyone as if saying it a ton will make it true. I really miss the days when you run 4-5 sizes of a boat so there was always something for everyone, but that was back when you just made whitewater kayaks, now you got all this fishing stuff and cooler stuff.

    Dropping the Karma from your lineup in favor of the zen is something I wish you guys hadn’t done. The karma is just so damn forgiving especially for beginners! The medium zen is rad, but doesn’t work for most adults over 180lbs (aka: Most adult males who can afford a new kayak). The large zen is mediocre at best, and the small is too small for nearly all adults. At least the zen and the karma lineup complemented each other real well as between the two there was a boat size for anyone really.

    Overall, kind of let down by the direction you guys are going. A less diverse lineup, a reduction in sizes available that work with a wider range of paddlers, and boats that just aren’t as friendly for a wider range of paddlers.

    1. Ryan Williams
      April 12, 2018 at 1:15 pm

      I totally agree with what Jesse said. For a company that is “the largest whitewater boat manufacturer” it would be nice not to feel like some of the sizes are totally disregarded. A couple examples of this are the rockstars and the karma series. In both cases the larges are ridiculously large, and the mediums are too small for a lot of adult men. I am 6’1″ which is not abnormally tall by any means and yet at 190lbs all of the large boats are absolute bricks. The large karma for instance is 105 gallons. How am I supposed to hike that out of the store never mind in to a river. The large nirvana is 9’4′. Although I have not paddled it so I can’t be to critical, I can still tell that a boat that long isn’t exactly ideal unless you are huge. The large rockstar is beyond my abilities to cartwheel because of the volume and I still can’t fit in it with my feet intact.
      I guess what I am trying to say is I feel like unless I am 230lbs, if I am over six feet and plan on kayaking, I have to accept some sacrifices in the performance of my boat. This is simple not necessary. Perhaps the best solution to this would be coming out with an extra size with each of your popular boats or boats in the future. A slightly longer rockstar medium, a slightly narrower karma large, a mixmaster that has just a little more leg room. Even at the slight expense of cartwheel preformance. I am sure you guys can get it done! You are all very smart people. It is just time to stop putting all the design efforts into the medium sizes.
      Disclamer: I am not criticizing the boats you currently make. They are all amazing boats and I used to love jackson but since I have grown and am out of highschool, none of them fit me well enough to justify paying $1400.

      1. July 22, 2018 at 4:27 pm

        6’1” and 190? Seems like you are in luck, as the Antix L, Zen Lg or Nirvana Md are right up your size zone. The 16 Rockstar Lg is right on target, but if you are struggling to get that vertical try the Mixmaster 7.5 for a really different take on getting vertical in more places.
        The challenge for sizing boats is that if we make our Large for 190, then what will people 220+ use? If we make our Small for people at 140lbs, think how many women and high school kids will be left out? So the best way to look at being ”in between” sizes is that you can choose between 2 options. If you have the $ you can buy both. It sure beats not being able to buy any kayak that fits! With Dagger / Pyranha / LL all shooting in the middle ranges more often, we feel we are the one company letting the whole family have options. Sorry if that means someone 190 lbs is sometimes in between boats! Thankfully, we rotate our sizing often so for those boats I just mentioned you should be right in the sweet spot. Clay

    2. Alan W
      April 13, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      Maybe a bit unfair Jesse tho I agree with some points. I believe Jackson try to have the top boat in each category and they always succeed in small boats but now they’re doing similar in extreme races too with the Nirvana. I’m not interested in either the Antix or Mixmaster being in my 60’s now, long legged 6’2″ 190 lb. like you I absolutely love the Zen Md, though I’m wary I may be too heavy for it. The Large is a dud, pure and simple, slower, more cumbersome, less comfortable than the medium. It doesn’t work. The Karma I absolutely loved. I think if anything it was dropped in favour of the Nirvana rather than the Zen. The Nirvana is great I acknowledge but the seating position I find slightly odd and not at all Jackson like. I’m guessing the Zen could be argued as the best boat (subjective I agree) amongst River Runners whereas the Karma wasn’t considered such amongst Creekers. Hence the focus on the Nirvana. What I’d like from Jackson is another out and out Creeker, round(ish) hull but with Jackson magic somehow. I fear though that they have stepped aside from that category and conceded it to the Nomad.

      1. August 30, 2018 at 4:52 pm

        Hey Alan –
        We’ve noted your concerns and will move forwards with them in mind. I haven’t heard many who prefer a Nomad to Nirvana but every opinion is valuable. Thanks for your comment!! Clay

    3. July 22, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Sorry you feel that way, Jesse. I agree with you on so many of your comments I know you are actively using and appreciating when we get things right! As for diversity.. is any other company making half as many new models as we have? From Traverse 10, Mon-star and Nirvana L to Fun 1, Zen S, Antix S and Mixmaster 7.0 – that’s some diversity! The Zen’s slightly lower weight range was a challenge for us – I loved the Lg for creeking at the time but expect all our boats to be more versatile in the future. I paddle all 3 Antix’s for different uses (175lbs), we have Team paddlers from 145 to 195 enjoying the Nirvana and our new Rockstar 4.0 has a higher parting line than the last version so more people can fit into that as well. As for sizes – it’s not the coolers or fishing products so much as the kayak buyers that dictate what we can make. When we sold 500 Super-fun’s we made a Mon-star. When that took years to break even, we slowed down on the ”over 230lb playboat” range. When the Zen Small didn’t sell nearly as well as our Medium, we decided the 80-120 lb weight range might not be the best place for us to put a Nirvana. As for the Karma – great boat but we just really liked the Nirvana concept better and many of us prefer the boat despite it’s length, not because of it. I’m definitely feeling like the Karma idea – shorter full volume creek boat – might deserve a re-visit from us in the next few years… there are just so many fun ways to enjoy the water right now but we will always come back to basics again and again. Clay

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