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2016 Jackson Rockstar Review

- Tuesday May 10, 2016
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For the past few years, my go-to playboat has been the 2013 Superstar.  When I heard Jackson was going to be discontinuing that model, I was concerned I wouldn’t find another playboat that felt as comfortable as the Superstar.  Seeing that the new 2016 Large Rockstar was 63 gallon my first thought was, “How am I going to squeeze 250 pounds into this boat and make it work?”

I was shocked to find out how comfortable I really was in the 2016 Rockstar.  The boat's seating reminds me of the Superstar.  Jackson shifted the volume to be more centrally located than the previous models.  This along with the knee braces being moved a little closer to the cockpit reminds me a lot of the Superstar.  This definitely makes it easier to enjoy extended play sessions before having to get out to stretch your legs.

Thats where the similarities end between the two boats and the new fun begins.  The reduced volume in the boat made flat water training much more enjoyable for me.  Flat water bow stalls are much easier to initiate with the new design than previous models I have paddled.  The main reason for this is due to the reduced volume and increased slice in the bow and stern.  A lot of people that I had seen struggling trying to learn the feel of that edge needed on the double pump were now feeling the level of commitment they need to get the boat into the bow stall.

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The reduced length of the boat helps greatly in surfing those smaller waves without pearling when you hit the trough of the wave.  The reduced length also helps in getting that bounce as you are coming off the crest of the wave trying to plant that nose for a good loop, or in my case a spectacular window shade, that legends have been wrote, and songs sung. This boat makes you more aware of your posture when you are surfing, at least for the big guy.  I enjoyed this a lot because I love how this boat's response to my weight shifts.  This along with the reduced length really lets you key into how the water feels as you are doing spins, etc.  The Superstar was a great surfer but the Rockstar makes you want to get in the wave, throw your weight around, and see what happens.

Ok, how about river running you may ask.  Well, if you are a bigger paddler coming from the Superstar to the 2016 rockstar the first thing you will want to remember is posture, posture and posture.  The superstar was more forgiving if you're starting to slack on your posture and go into lazy kayaker mode.  The Rockstar will quickly remind you by making the first eddy you cross or funny water, a quick trip to upside down land.  Here you can try to catch a fish with your teeth and think about how you should use proper posture all the time with any boat, but especially the Rockstar. 

The next consideration is speed.  It’s not going to have the speed longer play boats have, so make sure to plan those left to right or right to left moves a little sooner in advance.  My first run in this boat was a class 5 adventure.  Scampering from line to line, trying to avoid any bizarre cross current I could see.  With every hole trying to kill me.  My friends that I paddled with said it was a class 2 paddle.  What did they know in their fancy river running boats?  So I tried again making sure to focus on excellent posture and boat control.  The run then turned into something more magical.  Proper posture made the boat more playful, and made me look for every white cap that could surf me.

I think the 2016 Rockstar is a great improvement to Jacksons lineup.  The changes are great for either the novice trying to learn some of the basics or the professional trying to kill it in a competition.  Even though there will always be a small part of my heart that misses the Superstar, the 2016 Rock star will challenge me in ways to help make me be a better boater.



  • The new slicier ends make it easier to bow stall and slice into the water.
  • The new knee position and balanced volume make the boat more conformable for extended boating sessions.
  • The foot room is comfortable even for a person with size 14 feet.
  • Jackson makes this boat in a competitive model if you want want an option that weighs less than the standard one.
  • Four sizes to choose: from Extra Small, Small, Medium and Large.



  • Being a full on play boat, it may not have the speed that some boaters are accustomed to.
  • If you're in the upper range of the boats weight limit, you will want to take some time to practice having more focus on your posture due to the slicier edges.


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