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small zen 3.0 - jackson kayak

Small Zen 3.0 Review – Jackson Kayak

After paddling this boat for just a couple of months here are my initial thoughts from a 115 lb 5’3” female paddler.

  • Stays high and dry
  • Paddles unlike any other Jackson Kayak I have paddled, not only does the bow stay up but it wants to float you above the water where you sit in the kayak as well (feels like when you boof and you land, you land on a cloud!)
  • Just floats over holes which as a small paddler is not something I am used to. It is pretty awesome
  • Maneuvers well
  • Boofs well
  • Surfs really well for a creek boat
  • Super easy to roll

When am I going to grab the Z3 over other kayaks in my Jackson fleet?

  • On a new run that I am nervous about
  • Going to a creek that is near the top of my skill level
  • A creek that is known for some beefy holes
  • When the water is cold, it is a cold day, I am feeling a bit lazy and I don’t want my face splashed!


I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!

6 thoughts to “Small Zen 3.0 Review – Jackson Kayak”

  1. Just wanted to thank you and give you kudos for your review of the Jackson Zen 3 SMALL. It is so difficult to find size specific reviews for Small versions of boats! As a petite woman whose husband’s experience and talent skew him toward paddling higher performance boats, it’s hard knowing how to translate all the advice and reviews to a boat that suits ME at my size. Boat designs don’t translate apples to apples from a Large size down to the Small size (at least in my opinion), so having even a little review/info from another person who’s paddled the Small is immensely helpful. I just bought the Jackson Zen 3 and love it. Your specific review was hugely helpful in my decision 🙂

    Thank you again and please keep the reviews and commentary going!
    Pia Moffatt

    1. It is hard for me to compare as I tested the Zen3 and Nikki did the machno. I’ve only paddled the machno once and one thing I liked from Z3 better, it held its line. Both boats want to ride high on the water which is a great thing IMO. My best advice is demo both boats and decide what you like/don’t like about each and go from there.

  2. Hi, Crystal. Thanks for writing this review. Did you ever surf the Zen on ocean waves in San Diego? If so, how did it do? Thanks.

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