Jackson Kayak All Star

Jackson Kayak All Star, Blister gear REview.
Jackson Kayak All Star

2013 Jackson All Star

Manufacture’s Specs:

  • Weight: 30 lbs
  • Dimension: 5’11” by 26.75”
  • 59 gallons
  • Cockpit 34.75×20.25

Recommended Weight Range: 140-200 lbs.

MSRP: $1149

Reviewer Info: 5’10” 175 lbs.

Test locations: Maine and Quebec

Days Paddled : ~20

In 2013, Jackson updated the All Star for the first time since 2010. The changes include an increase in volume (+3 gallons), a longer water line (the overall length is the same), and a more progressive rocker. Jackson claims the boat is faster and looser than “any play boat Jackson Kayak has offered to date.”

The first time I got in the 2013 Jackson All Star was on a big wave, and I immediately loved it. I could connect moves easily and get big air. But as excited as I was about the boat on a wave, I found myself a bit challenged by it in a hole. Don’t get me wrong, this boat also gets huge air in a hole, it just has taken me a bit of time to figure out. In a hole, I’m more aware of the boat’s increased volume.

But more on that in a bit. Let’s talk design.


First of all, the extra three gallons is very noticeable. While I haven’t spent a lot of time in the 2010 model (I previously paddled the 2009 All Star), the 2013 certainly feels bigger than both its predecessors. The most obvious addition of volume is to the stern. The days of slicey long flat sterns have disappeared in this new world of freestyle boats.

The bow has also taken on some additional volume, and it’s wider and thicker than the 2010 All Star. And while the boat has more rocker overall, the bow of the 2013 is a bit flatter than that of the 2010. I’ve found that the boat purls fairly easily as a result of this flatter bow, making me lean a little further back than I did in the earlier models. And I’ve found that it’s more difficult to throw the bow down in flat water because of the increase in volume, as well as the shape of the bow.


This boat is a ton of fun on a wave, and I immediately found that it was much easier to throw around than the 2009 model. It’s very fast and can get huge bounce for big aerial moves. The boat’s speed plus its looseness makes it easy for me to link moves. Very impressive.

Initially, the boat did take some getting used to. The combination of big bounce and a flat bow has made me (rather comically) accidentally plug the bow when I was coming off of a big bounce and trying to edge into another. This resulted in an enormous amount of pop, but not when I wanted it.

One nice aspect of the additional rear volume and rocker is that it’s much more difficult for your stern to purl when you’re back surfing—this is more common when you’re in a boat with a stubby, lower-volume stern with less rocker.

In a spin, I’ve found that it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in a side surf (this happens in a hole too…), and I’ll need to muscle the boat around a little more. These are the moments when I notice those extra three gallons. But once in a back surf, I feel very stable, and I’m not worried that I’m going to catch a back edge.

Jackson All Star, Blister Gear Review.
Jane in the All Star, The T-wave, Penobscot River, Maine. (photo by Adam Swett)


I will preface this by saying that I am generally much more comfortable surfing a wave than a hole. When I first surfed this boat in a hole, I found it more challenging to execute moves that had previously been easy for me in my ’09 All Star. With more time in the boat, I’ve gotten used to this characteristic, but I found that precision is necessary and I can’t get away with mistakes like I could in my old boat. The 2013 is certainly not as forgiving as the ’09 model.

The thick bow and stern demand precision when you’re initiating cartwheels, but when you find the “sweet spot,” they’re very stable.

In a hole, I’m much more aware of the boat’s extra volume. I’ve found that when I’m initiating moves on the bow, the bow slips sideways easily if you’re not perfectly lined up. Granted, I have been able to remedy the slipping somewhat by scooting the seat forward.

One benefit of the extra volume in a hole is that it gives the All Star a lot of pop so that I can launch huge aerial loop moves.

In his review of Jackson’s 2012 Rock Star, Blister Paddle Sports Editor David Spiegel writes that he appreciates how the Rock Star avoids getting stuck in the “side surf of doom.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the All Star. I have felt locked in a side surf much more frequently in the 2013 All Star than in any other boat I’ve paddled. The All Star is longer than the Rock Star with more volume and a lower center of gravity, all of which could account for this difference.

Down River

This boat is stable and reliable down river. It’s relatively fast, and I don’t need to work as hard to make a simple move as I do when I’m in the Rock Star. The Rock Star is very much a dedicated playboat, while the All Star manages to be a worthy down-river vessel as well, and it’s become my go-to boat for our larger volume summer play runs on the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers.

I have found the edges on the 2013 boat to be a bit catchier on swirly eddy lines than my previous All Star, but this isn’t a big problem so long as you’re paying attention.

During down river play, I am very aware of the boat’s additional volume, especially in the bow. It’s more work for me to throw the bow down for a wave wheel or macho move than it was in my older All Star or lower volume boats like Wavesport’s Project X 56 or the new Mobius M (57) whose bows are just slightly “slicier.”

Jackson All Star, Blister gear review.
Jane in the All Star, Habitat 67, Montreal. (photo by Reuben Hudson)


Overall, the boat is quite comfortable. It comes with the standard Jackson hip pads, the Sweet Cheeks 100, and Jackson has raised the back band so that it supports your lower back a bit better. You can tighten the back band with the same rope and clam cleat system standard in all Jackson boats.

The All Star now comes with a foam foot block that has an elastic cord running through the center that can hold extra layers of foam, which you can remove depending on your inseam. The Happy Feet are gone (and I’m sure some people will be happy about that), but to be honest, I miss the padding since I find my toes hurting from hitting the deck of my boat when I’m up on my bow a lot.

Jackson All Star, Blister Gear Review.
Foot block on the Jackson All Star.

Other features include a built-in GoPro mount on the bow and elastic bands on the center pillar that will accommodate a water bottle.


This boat is made from pretty thin plastic. This is nice when I’m hauling it around river banks, but I have seen several new All Stars get creases on either side of the bow after repeatedly hitting rocks.

There is a thin crease starting to form on my boat, but it hasn’t progressed to the point where I’m concerned about it cracking.

Bottom Line

Overall, this boat is a great playboat that will also work as a decent river runner if you’re familiar with river running in a playboat.

The All Star excels on a wave, and it goes huge in a hole. I’ve found that it feels a little large for me when I’m not on a wave, so you might want to keep that in mind when you’re thinking about sizing.

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