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
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.
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.
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
Hitting my line on the Spean Gorge
Concentrating hard on Triple Step, Middle Etive
Dropping off the first set of falls on the Allt Mheuran
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.
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.
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.