Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kayak Review - Necky Jive

Aqua Jive in the foreground, yellow Pyranha Z.One in back
The Necky Jive isn't exactly a new kayak. It's been out of production for several years. In fact, Necky no longer makes whitewater kayaks at all. So why is this boat worth a review? Because it surfs. Really well.

Now that I'm back to living on the coast I plan to get in a lot more surfing. It's one of the things that really hooked me on kayaking when I started - surfing in a whitewater kayak. In fact, that was why I bought my first kayak. A Prijon Fly. It was pretty much the same thing as the Dagger RPM. A great design for its time but really not the best ocean surfing boat. My surfing buddy had a Jive and always was getting more and better rides. Over the years I've had the chance to paddle Jives on the ocean and the river. Recently I was lucky enough to pick up a used Jive in great shape and after one river session and one surf session it has reminded me why it's such a great surf boat. So what makes a good surfing boat, you ask? Let's look at the Jive and find out.

The Jive has good speed. It's fairly long (I paddle the 8'10" version, there's also an 8'3" version). It doesn't have that much rocker - the ends are fairly flat so it has a long water line. It's also noticeably more narrow than most modern whitewater boats. But that stuff matters on flat water, when you're trying to catch the wave. Once you're on a wave and gravity is doing the acceleration the Jive starts to plane. It has a very flat bottom that starts to skip on top of the surface. This allows it to reach speeds much faster than you could by just paddling. All boats can plane, but the wide, flat bottom of a boat like the Jive make it easier. So the Jive has good speed when catching waves and then great speed when it's on the wave. Speed is fun.

But speed isn't everything. You also want control. A nice hard edge allows you to dig into the water and turn on the wave. The Jive has a hard chine that allows it to steer with a little body lean. Performance surf kayaks will have a really shard rail that carves great turns - sometimes when you don't want it to. The Jive has a good balance of edges that dig in when you want but stay loose enough when the boat is flat (in the picture you can see the slight double chine that softens it up a bit). That's more helpful on a river where you get mixed currents, but it gives the Jive a little bit of forgiveness which can also be nice in the surf.

Another important characteristic for kayaks is the volume distribution. You want to have some volume, especially upfront, so that you don't get buried in the water. But not too much, especially in the stern, that you can't slice into the water when you need it. The Jive strikes a nice balance in both areas. Both ends are fairly thin and pointed but there's plenty of volume around your knees that help keep the bow from getting buried. This also helps it work well as a river runner, the volume giving it some stability in bigger/harder water.

Overall the Jive is a bit like a longboard. It's great speed allows you to catch smaller/less steep waves and have fun riding them. Even more, when things get really big and you want to scream down the line and get out of the tube before it collapses - that's when you want a Jive. (OK, you really would prefer a composite surf kayak at that point, but that's not what we're talking about here). On the medium waves it isn't as loose and fun as some of the newer boats - we also have a Pyranha Z.One in the quiver that is great for that - but the Jive still gives you the thrill of speed.

On the river things have evolved. Modern kayaks are designed for doing tricks on waves more than surfing them. Boats have more rocker which is more forgiving and most long boats have a lot of volume to help provide stability. The Jive really doesn't compete with modern river runners or playboats. The general outfitting, the grab handles in particular, really aren't up to today's standards. But that's not why you buy a ten year old plastic boat (the Jives are very heavy 'cause they were made with lots of plastic - a great thing when you want to slide a boat over rocks repeatedly). You buy it for the old school speed, old school surfing. That's what the Jive is and it's hard to find anything better.

Here's a little video of me surfing in a different Jive.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great review! I could get my hands on an old Necky Rip for cheap, but wonder if it really compares to the Jive in the surf... any experience with the Rip, too?
    Thanks, Chris

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    1. I never paddled a Rip but it's pretty similar. I believe it's longer than the Jive and maybe not as responsive. They made some composite ones that were pretty sweet for surfing big waves. If it's cheap, it will definitely be worth the money.

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  3. Great tip. I'm a sea kayaker, been taking my sea kayak into the waves, which works great for everything except turning. Picked up a Jive after reading your article, learned to roll, and having 20x more fun now. Absolutely love the thing.

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    1. Glad to hear it. Short boats just do so much more in the surf!

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  4. What do you think a used one is worth?

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    1. It's at least a ten year old boat - that's when they stopped making them. If you're selling, it's worth what you can get for it; if you're buying, it's worth what you're willing to pay. They do have good plastic that tends to hold up well, but how it was used/stored will make a big difference on what condition it's in. Most seem to go somewhere in the $200-300 range if they're in decent shape.

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