We didn’t need to paddle the carbon version of the Jed to know that it is a great design for a freestyle kayak: we were already well aware of that from our time paddling the plastic Pyranha Jed Eye and loving it. To be able to experience the exaggerated version of this loose, fast and aerially-inclined freestyle hull, though, has been an absolute pleasure, and it was clear to us that (in the right hands, of course) this kayak could very easily be the formidable world-beating competition machine that Pyranha intend it to be.
It’s true that most of us will never need to consider buying a carbon freestyle boat like this, and for the majority of recreational play-boating purposes this is complete overkill, but for those elite paddlers who need an uncompromising, fine-tuned kayak to really push for their optimum performance, the carbon Jed will undoubtedly prove to be popular. For the rest of us, it is at least a shiny thing of beauty to behold.
We were seriously excited when we first saw a composite version of Pyranha’s latest freestyle kayak, the Jed (Eye), glistening away on its stand at the Kanumesse trade show in Germany, and had to work hard to fight the urge (the pull of the Darkside, if you will) not to pinch it there and then. The Pyranha Jed – the normal plastic one – burst onto the freestyle kayak scene earlier this year to much critical acclaim from paddlers from across the spectrum of ability. A version constructed from super-tough and super-light composite materials was always talked about and was an inevitability at one stage, but details of when weren’t forthcoming at first. Having resisted the contemplated act of grand theft kayak from the trade show in Germany when this much-anticipated construction was eventually unveiled, it wasn’t long until we were able to get our hands on one to try out: and opportunity that we exploited most enthusiastically for a good few weeks!
We’ve steadily worked our way across the country with our composite Jed, taking in the big waves of the Thames Weirs before heading on up to the whitewater course at Nottingham for some play hole action, putting this shiny and lightweight incarnation of a very popular freestyle kayak through its paces in a variety of paddling features.
- The main advantage of composite constructions, in this case, carbon and Aramid, for freestyle kayaks over their plastic counterparts, is the reduced weight and increased the rigidity of the hull. This, as a general rule, makes the kayak much, much more responsive and moves easier to initiate. The carbon Jed is absolutely no exception to this rule: the stiff hull and feather-light construction combines beautifully with the Jed’s performance features to make this kayak truly formidable in the world of freestyle kayaks, and an absolute joy to paddle.
- This is not to say, however, that a composite freestyle kayak is the right thing for everybody. As the responsiveness is improved, so is the price, to almost double that of a plastic one. And that’s just the standard version, without the optional customised graphics! This is quite a lot of hard-earned to be shelling out if you’re casually or even fairly enthusiastically, into a spot of freestyle at your local venue at the weekends. Then on top of this, the chances of breaking your beloved whitewater plaything are also greatly increased if it’s made of carbon.
- As much as a freestyle kayak made of composite materials can feel light and uber-responsive on the water, accentuating the features of the hull shape to a high degree, it won’t actually make you a better paddler, or allow you to do things you can’t do in an ordinary plastic one. The benefits offered by composites merely enhance what is already there, and allow you to be as good as you can be: everyday in a composite boat could prove to be a lot like your best day in a plastic one.
- Equally, though, the added responsiveness goes both ways, and the results of a wrong edge in a rigid carbon kayak are even more inevitable than they are in an ordinary model.
- It is for the above reasons that high-end competitive freestylers who are out training every day of the week, year round, require carbon boats. Only once you’ve got so good that the slight flex – and it is slight – and (more considerable) added weight in a plastic freestyle is actually holding you back and inhibiting your performance that the extra spend is worth looking into, but until then, plastic freestyle kayaks continue to serve the majority of us very admirably.
Testing the composite version of the Pyranha Jed Eye, we were reminded of all the excellent features that make its plastic forerunner such a great freestyle kayak, all accentuated by this lightweight, rigid construction. The Jed will respond intuitively to every subtle move you make and thanks to the hard (also referred to as single) rail hull deign is incredibly loose and has plenty of pop making initiating aerial moves delightfully easy.
This loose hull with plenty of pop means that the Jed lends itself well to the fast, clean snappy and dynamic moves that characterise freestyle today, but this isn’t all. A slightly narrower hull means that edge-to-edge transitions are snappy (facilitating that awesome responsiveness), and combined with the hard rail means that you can get over an edge and really drive this boat. The carbon Jed tears it up on a wave: it’s incredibly fast, and combined with its loose hull this can be harnessed to link big moves fluidly.
A slicey bow and stern mean that moves from basic spins all the way up to mind-boggling and world-beating aerial stunts are easy to initiate in a hole, too. Once again the snappy edge-edge transitions and loose responsiveness come into their own here, and allow you to throw the Jed around with precision and control. The volume is well-distributed, and the kayak feels balanced on the water.
Fixtures and Fittings
As is quite normal for custom composite freestyle kayaks, the standard outfitting is fairly basic, allowing for a paddler to completely customise the fit to suit their individual needs. For this, Pyranha provides plenty of handy foam that is pre-perforated to easily cut down to the right size and serve as foot blocks. There is a Connect 30 seat, complete with adjustable hip pads that can be easily padded out as much as necessary.
Because of the construction, it would be very difficult to be able to fix ratchets for the back band, and this would unnecessarily add weight anyway. The system used instead for tightening the back band is a strap that pulls through two metal tabs and locked off against its own tension to pull the back band forward. This can’t be adjusted from sitting in the kayak, so requires a bit of trial and error to get right. Although it at first seems to be secure once adjusted, we found on more than one occasion that it would lose tension while paddling, meaning that you’d suddenly find yourself with not as much support at the back, which could be annoying.
It’s important to bear in mind, though, that it is not fair to expect the easy usability and adjustability of outfitting on carbon boats to be like that of plastic boats, which we are accustomed to being able to swap around between paddlers at will. Fitting out a carbon boat will be the labour of many days and a lot of experiment to get just right: these are not ‘off the shelf’ items! The result though is a boat freestyle kayak that fits you like a glove is stiff, strong and very lightweight allowing you to push your performance as high as the aerial moves you’ll be pulling!
Every carbon Jed is made to order, which gives you a lot of control over the custom options, particularly when it comes to graphics. Not all are included in the standard price, but Pyranha is happy to offer quotes when you place your order.