The Flow State: Jackson Kayak Flow Review

A review of Jackson Kayak's new 4x4 of whitewater kayaks. Dive into the Flow with NOC's Paddle Sports Buyer and long time kayaker, Wren Freeman!


The Jackson Flow is the newest boat to join Jackson Kayak's whitewater lineup. Truly a boat in its own class. The Flow resembles the dedicated River Runners of the early 2000’s but with the modern design of today’s kayaks. The smaller cousin to the successful Gnarvana, this boat fills a gap in the market between Creek boat and Half-Slice by providing a forgiving yet sporty and responsive ride.

Jackson Kayak Flow Miami Vice

The 4x4 Of Modern Kayaks

When I first started kayaking, I owned a Wavesport Diesel 65. Back then that boat was referred to as the 4x4 of kayaks. It was a dedicated River Runner. Responsive on the water and zipped in and out of eddies with ease due in part to the planing hull design yet was still forgiving enough for newer paddlers. Modern boat design has changed a lot since the days of the Diesel. Most boats today have an extreme amount of bow and stern rocker that assists the boat in boofing and allows the boat to stay on top of the water. This is where the Flow comes in. Along with modern boat design updates, the Flow has a dedicated planing hull with smooth transitions toward the bow and stern making it more responsive while maintaining some forgiveness. It comes standard with the easy-to-use Jackson outfitting complete with the adjustable Bees Knees, to get you a custom and comfortable fit. The Flow is considered a “River Running Creek Boat." A Creek boat in a River Runner package. With the Flow's modern hull design and outfitting there is a new 4x4, do it all kayak on the market!

Jackson Kayak Flow Miami Vice Boof

What sets the Flow apart?

 The Flow is revamping a class of boats that have since fallen by the wayside in the industry (due to the rise of Half-Slice kayaks) the classic River Runner. The River Runner is a smaller to mid-sized boat that is designed to generally run rivers. They are usually more responsive and ‘sportier’ than other styles of boats. The main differences between a river runner and creek boat are that a creek boat will generally be much bigger (and heavier) and have more volume. They are designed to run big, technical whitewater. Some people don't need the extra size and volume of a Creek boat, this is where the Flow comes in. You get all the benefits of a Creek boat but in a slimmer, sportier package. The Flow is bringing the River Runner back and reminding everyone who paddles it why River Runners are so much fun to paddle! This boat is at home on any river from class 2 to class 4 and 5. It is perfect for anyone that is looking for a sporty River Running boat but doesn’t want or need a dedicated Creek boat. It front surfs like an absolute dream and the rocker profile allows you to boof over holes and waves with ease. It is a shorter boat overall and as a result turns very fast but still gets up to speed quickly. The flow is perfect for beginners and expert boaters alike!

Jackson Flow Surfing

        Photo Credit: Effort Inc.

Final thoughts

The Flow is the perfect boat for any paddler looking for a fresh new design. It is forgiving yet still has the sporty feel that people love about the classic River Runner. The smaller cousin to the Gnarvana, its modern hull design allows the paddler to move down river and eddy turn and peel out with ease in a smaller more compact package. The bow and stern rocker allow the paddler to stay on top of the water, making boofs almost automatic. It also comes with the Jackson outfitting that we know and love for the easy adjustments. Overall, I'm extremely impressed with what Jackson has done with the Flow. It fills a gap in the industry between Half-Slices and Creek boats. It's a boat that inspires confidence and is an absolute blast to paddle. Come demo the Flow at the NOC Outfitter's Store in Bryson City, NC or try one out during a class with our legendary Paddling School. In fact, our Paddling School has called the Flow their workhorse for the 2024 season!

 About the Author

Wren Freeman Whitewater Kayaking

My Name is Wren Freeman, I have worked for the Nantahala Outdoor Center for close to 7 years as a Raft Guide and now am the Paddle Sports Buyer for the NOC Outfitters Store. I started kayaking in 2014 and have paddled all over the southeast and southwest. I do not charge as hard as I used to but these days, I tend to stick to the class 3/4 runs in the southeast and I spend most river days on the Ocoee and love to creek in the Smokies when there is water to paddle.


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The Nantahala Outdoor Center started as a small whitewater rafting company in 1972. Since then, our passion for the outdoors has expanded into whitewater kayaking and canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, SUP, ziplining, and international adventure travel! We lead the industry in outdoor adventure and invite you to read our thoughts on all things outdoors.