Jackson SuperHero review

Recently I have been trying out a 2008 Jackson SuperHero. I have now paddled it in Scotland, South Wales and for one run down the Durance from the Rabioux to Embrun in the French Alps back in June.

The SuperHero I borrowed

The SuperHero I borrowed

About Me
A bit about me to start with: I am 25, 6’6″ (198 cm) and about 14.5 stones (95 kg). I have been paddling for approximately ten years, but only running whitewater for the past 6 years. I am confident on grade 4, and run the occasional grade 5. Boats I have previously owned include Bliss-Stick Huka, Bliss-Stick RAD 185, Jackson SuperStar Classic, Jackson SuperFun (2007) and the original Jackson SuperHero.

France
My first experience of the new SuperHero was out in France in June when a friend turned up on our campsite with one. I immediately took the opportunity to try it out – even before my friend had tried it himself! Setting up the outfitting took hardly any time at all – I just had to rip out the extra foam my friend had taken the time to glue in. Adjusting the full-plate footrest takes seconds as you just release the adjusting rope from the cleat on the central buoyancy, climb in, pull the rope so the footrests are tight and the lock it back off in the cleat. The backrest adjusts in the same fashion.

I had been paddling my SuperFun for the previous few days and found the transition between the two boats very easy. The hull of the Hero range is based on the hull from the Fun range and this became immediately apparent as I found it behaved just like a higher volume version of the SuperFun. I found the boat easy to control in the bigger volume water and, despite its size and looking like it should ‘bob’ around a bit like a cork, it certainly didn’t paddle like this was the case. As well has having the same hull as the Fun range, the seating position is also the same. Your knees fit into the padded bumps on the deck providing a wide, stable position.

Scotland
For the last week of October I was up on the west coast of Scotland enjoying everything from a low-water run down the Allt Mheuran to a (comparatively) very high water run down the Arkaig. Not once did I feel that I was out of control in this boat – it went where I wanted it to (almost) everytime. The times I didn’t make my intended line were more down to pilot error than to issues with the boat. Despite paddling this boat back in June, I had expected to take a little while to get used to the its handling and how it responded to my requests. This proved not to be the case as the first test turned out to be Milton Falls on the Blackwater (Perth). I had inspected the rapid and worked out my line before setting off, managing to hit my exact line on each of the four little drops that make up this rapid. The next test came in the little gorge towards the end of the run. Again, inspecting it and working out my line I set off. This time I was able to test out how the boat coped when I got it wrong. Instead of skirting a small stopper part way down, I managed to drop into it sideways. This is where I recieved my first experience of surfing the boat. It performed as expected and I quickly surfed out, only to turn and run the next drop backwards. Going for the backwards boof, I messed up and subbed out completely. To my surprise, the boat resurfaced completely straight and very quickly. It was the biggest pop-out I have ever managed!

During the week I was able to test out how it handled on steep, low volume runs like the Allt A-Mheuran right through to the high-volume runs like the Arkaig. No matter what kind of river I tried it on, I never felt out of my depth in this boat. From the first time in got in to it on the Blackwater I felt like I had been paddling this boat for a long time. It gave me the confidence to step up my paddling without fear that the boat was going to behave unexpectedly.

Practicing my boof on the Lower Tummel

Practicing my boof on the Lower Tummel

Hitting my line on the Spean Gorge

Hitting my line on the Spean Gorge

Concentrating hard on Triple Step, Middle Etive

Concentrating hard on Triple Step, Middle Etive

Dropping off the first set of falls on the Allt Mheuran

Dropping off the first set of falls on the Allt Mheuran

Wales
In South Wales I took it down the Afon Dualis which gave me an opportunity to test out how it handled in small, playful stoppers as well as test its handling on the grade 4 “Devil’s Weir” rapid. Following this, we headed to the Nedd Fechan. Because the SuperHero is so similar to the boat I paddle most often – my SuperFun – I found it exceedingly easy to control the boat and hit the lines I intended to.

Comparisons
Since returning the SuperHero to its owner, I took an opportunity to demo a Large Pyranha Burn on the Upper Dart. I was quite surprised that, despite being longer than the SuperHero, I struggled to fit into it. I think that this is primarily down to to the SuperHero having a higher, wider knee position, similar to that found in most playboats. This meant that, in the Burn, your legs are straighter than in the SuperHero. Due to the straighter leg position, and the boat being narrower, I found the burn noticeably less stable. In addition I struggled to keep the Burn on-line as easily. As well as the poor handling, I did not find the Burn as comfortable and the backrest less supportive. After two runs down the Upper Dart I had bruises on both knees from where they had been constantly been bashed against the inside of the boat – in the SuperHero there are foam pads to provide cushioning for your knees.

Conclusion
From a personal point of view, these are the best things about the SuperHero:

  • Ease of adjusting the outfitting – footrests and backband are both adjusted using rope-and-cleats, so are infinitely adjustable even when in the boat
  • Comfort – sweet cheeks, knee padding, shock footrests…
  • Dryness – only holes through the shell are the drainbung and cockpit
  • The amount of rocker – made boofing easier whilst not noticeably affecting speed or control

I have never tried a boat that I have felt so comfortable in – both in terms of physical comfort and comfort in how it paddles. I felt that I was always in control and knew exactly how the boat was going to react.

I am now looking to purchase one of these fantastic boats for myself for when I am back paddling in February.

How not to do Hurley…

Following on from a great session yesterday, Martyn and I planned a visit for this morning. All was going well until my fourth ride of the day when I managed to catch an edge, flipping me over. As I went over my paddles caught the fast flowing water and made a beeline for my face. Next thing I knew there was an almighty ‘crack’ and my face hurt like hell. Somewhat dazed, I rolled up to find blood pouring from both ends of my nose – I had split the top – and paddling across to Martyn and Geoff it became immediately apparent that something was wrong.

Geoff got out onto the weir with me and cleaned up my nose, and the picture below shows what he was greeted with…

What my nose looked like as we cleaned it up

What it looked like as we cleaned it up

Assessing the damage

Assessing the damage

It was pretty obvious that continuing paddling was a bad idea, so I got off and took photos for a while instead. This afternoon I popped along to A&E. As soon as I saw a nurse her first line was “Well, your nose is pretty obviously broken…”. An x-ray showed that I had also fractured my cheek bone, near to where it joins my nose. I now have to see a consultant on Tuesday who will take a better look once the swelling has started to subside and decide on whether my nose needs to be reset. Not exactly what I was looking for from my last Hurley session of the year!

Many thanks to Geoff for helping clean it up, and everyone else for their concern.

Anyway, here are some photos from today.

Ken

Ken

And I thought my kit was bright...

And I thought my kit was bright…

Making full use of the wave

Making full use of the wave

Martyn

Martyn

Great air blunt

Great air blunt

Pulling some fancy move

Pulling some fancy move

More photos are available here

As this is likely to be my last blog post before Christmas, I would like to wish everyone who reads this a very Merry Christmas.

Happy holidays.

Busy, busy, busy…

December has proved to be a busy month so far. The month started with the Gene17 Adventure Paddler Weekend, ticking off two descents of the Upper Dart on the Saturday and then a descent of the East Lyn from Watersmeet on the Sunday.

In the couple of days preceding the next weekend, messages were flying around as Simon was trying to organise a group to hit Dartmoor on the Saturday. Plans were made and we set off early doors on the Saturday. Driving down the M5 towards Exeter, our appetites were whetted as past field upon field under water. We were expecting big levels and decided that it would be sensible to start with the Upper, Upper Plym. This starts from the middle of nowhere high upon Dartmoor, with a walk-in of approximately one mile!

Looking back across the walk-in

Looking back across the walk-in

The only incident of note on this river occurred when Simon decided to capsize as he launched into the river at the very start, immediately letting go of his paddles and floating off downstream upside down. Luckily for him he managed to roll back up with the assistance of a rock on the river bed!
Next up we headed to the Erme. This turned out to be a nice medium level and was a cracking run down. Robo made sure we were on our toes with a swim not far from the get-on, but the remainder of the run down to just above the gorge passed without incident (except for Doug’s discussion with a tree) – well, we did walk around Slot-and-drop. I proved to the rest of the group why you shouldn’t run this kind of river in a playboat by getting back-looped part way down a rapid and running the remainder using my head as a rudder. My helmet now has some lovely new war scars! On one of the rapids just downstream, another of the group, a friend of Seth’s, ran it upside down and snapped his paddles clean in two in the process. Luckily for him Robo was now walking down the bank and threw his paddles across the river to allow Seth’s friend to continue downstream. The gorge passed without incident…. almost. Simon decided that we hadn’t had enough rescue practice so far so very kindly helped us out by getting pinned before freeing himself, capsizing and promptly swimming at the end of the gorge. Thanks Simon! The day was not over yet though, and Dave S gave us further practice following a long ‘play’ in the stopper at the bottom of the rapid into Ivybridge – the last rapid of the river. He started the rapid by piling into a rock and reshaping the nose of his new Pyranha Burn (he seems to have got the knack for doing this!) before dropping into the stopper at the end of the rapid. He spent a few minutes trying to get out of the stopper before popping his deck and swimming out. We rescued his boat and he got back in to paddle the final one hundred metres down to the get-out.

I was intending on entering the Hurley Classic the following day, but due to a combination of factors including the long day on the Saturday and the early start required for registration, I overslept and missed it. I did, however, make it down to see the end of the competition.

Today I have been down at Hurley with Martyn. It was a really nice three-gate level, but the water was really cold! Here are some pictures from today.

View

View across the riverside park

Martyn

Martyn

Only

Only a small queue

There were only five of us on the water

There were only five or six of us on the water!

Heading home

Heading home

A few more photos are available here

This is not all the paddling I have planned for the month though. I am hoping to get back down to Hurley tomorrow, and then hit some south Devon rivers between Christmas and New Year 🙂

Gene17 APWE 2008

Last weekend (6/7th December) saw the 2008 Gene17 APWE based at the River Dart Country Park.

Saturday saw a couple of runs down the Upper Dart, including a little race down the Mad Mile on the second run with a couple of great pins at Surprise Surprise. Saturday evening was spent at RDCP, where we were treated to a showing of ‘Family Mad’, a film about running waterfalls in Iceland and a 60′ North Greenland Presentation by Graham Milton. The night was rounded out by Ewert from AS Watersports on the DJ decks.

On Sunday Martyn and I headed up to Lynmouth for a blast down the Lyn from Watersmeet.

Here are a selection of my photos from the weekend. More are available at http://photos.andywicks.com/APWE2008

Dave H running Euthansia, Upper Dart

Dave H running Euthansia, Upper Dart

Looking up the valley from the bottom of the East Lyn after a great run down

Looking up the valley from the bottom of the East Lyn after a great run down

Spotted this view on the drive out of Lynmouth - had to stop and take a picture or two

Spotted this view on the drive out of Lynmouth – had to stop and take a picture or two

A (very) cold weekend in Wales

The weekend started when I left my flat in Harrow, NW London at 1845 to start the drive to our accommodation for the weekend in Capel Curig, North Wales. Picking Amy up from the station in Harrow, we headed to Henley to collect her kit and meet Emma. I made the foolish mistake of believing that I know better than my sat nav and promptly got us lost before we’d even made it 5 miles from my flat! Unfortunately, this was only the start of the delays.

Having made the stop-off in Henley and now with three people in the car and three boats on the roof we continued with the journey. All was going swimmingly until, a few miles short of the M40/M42 junction Amy suddenly realised that she had left all of her paddling kit in her house in Henley.  A few phone calls later and it was decided that she would borrow Caz’s kit for the weekend so we headed to her house in Sutton Coldfield. Shortly after arriving at Caz’s, Amy changed her mind and decided she didn’t want to come to Wales with us. Dropping her off in Birmingham, from where she was to be picked up, Emma and I set off again for Wales. Teh time was now about 2300. As we left Birmingham we had a call from the guys who had left uni in the minibus a few hours before and were already at the location of the hut and all they had to do now was locate the actual hut. An hour and a half later, we reveived another call from them saying that they had finally managed to find the hut. They had been looking for almost two hours!! The long drive across to Wales was made even tougher by the dense fog – which at times reduced visibility to just a few metres! At 0130 we finally arrived at the hut and immediately joined in with the drinking games.

Waking up on Saturday morning we were treated to a stunning view with the sun glinting off the frosty ground across the valley

View from the hut on Saturday morning

View from the hut on Saturday morning

Deciding that a breakfast of cereal was not going to cut it, we headed off to find a cafe from where more suitable sustenance could be sought over a chat about which river to paddle. Knowing that levels were low, the Llyfni was decided on as it was most likely to have enough water to paddle. After some faffing and getting changed, the shuttle was run and we prepared to get on.

The Freshers

The Freshers. From left Dave, Robert, Yen, Jude, Ben, Miles and Vicky

Unfortunately, looking immediately downstream from where we were supposed to get on, the path was blocked by trees. A few of us walked down the bank as far as we could go (only about 50 metres) but we were still unable to see if there was a route through all the trees. Even a quick paddle down through the trees did not provide a route through – at one stage I couldn’t even work out which direction was downstream! This resulted in the decision that we could not paddle this section. Instead we headed to the beach for a little paddle.

Emma walking up the beach at Pontllyfni

Emma walking up the beach at Pontllyfni

Sunset from the beach at Pontllyfni

Sunset from the beach at Pontllyfni

Saturday night saw the usual activities – dinner, drinking, a bit of playfighting, a pillow fight – all ending with Joe falling out of bed from the third bunk!

Sunday morning started earlier than the previous day, aided with a sausage sandwich. A quick pack up and clean meant that we were on the road by 0900 as we headed towards the River Dee, from Chainbridge to Llangollen. It seemed that everyone other paddler in North Wales had also decided to run the Dee on Sunday as everywhere you looked there were groups.

Breaking up into two groups of seven, my group set of first. Serpent’s Tail was quickly upon us and this is where we had our first swims of the day. Dave managed to swim just above the rapid after colliding with Robert. Sion went into the stopper first and promptly went over. Vicky, who was following Sion, followed his lead and went over and swam. Emma managed to go through unscathed but the rest of us weren’t as lucky. Robert went into the stopper, capsized and swam, quickly followed
by Steve. For some unknown reason Steve decided to join Dave, Vicky and Robert and partake in an “out-of-boat experience” – his first proper whitewater swim! To make matters even worse, he was only wearing neoprene shorts to keep his legs warm! A rapid set of rescues later and we were ready to carry on. Instead, we waited for the other group to run the rapid. However, they were in the process of re-uniting Ben with his boat following a short swim upstream. Jude and Ben decided to portage Serpent’s Tail, but both Yen and Miles decided to run it. Miles ran through without any problems, but Yen discovered how the Nano likes to play in stoppers – resulting in a swim.

The trip down to Town Falls was uneventful, except for Robert and Ben who both took swims immediately above where we were due to get out and inspect Town Falls. We watched a few people run down the left-hand line of the falls, but we were looking at running the main line. I volunteered to demonstrate the line and luckily managed to run it without getting my head wet. Returning to the bridge, Emma P and Steve had both decided not to run it, and Miles was the only fresher up for it. I ran the falls first and got myself into a position from where I could provide safety cover, while Emma B lead the others down. Emma managed to get down, but rolled. Joe got down upright. Miles followed Joe and went over at the start of the rapid – only to roll up just as he dropped into the main part of the rapid. Expecting him to swim – he had never rolled on a river before, let alone in whitewater like this – we were all surprised to see him roll up at the bottom of the rapid. Dave B came down next and was treated to a bit of skyward action courtesy of tail-squirt. Sion followed Dave down and also managed to stay upright.

Me running Town Falls, River Dee

Me running Town Falls, River Dee

Joe (foreground) and Miles (background) on Town Falls, River Dee

Joe (foreground) and Miles (background) on Town Falls, River Dee

More photos from the weekend are available on my Picasa site