Fayetteville, West Virginia
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Jul 2015
First post here, but was looking for other reviews of the Cali and decided to chime in. Hereís my rather long initial review.
I received my Cali in WV early last week, and luckily some heavy rains brought some local stuff up right in time to give it a good workout the past week. Iíve been using a Jackson Super Hero as my primary creek boat for the last 2 years, but wanted a more traditional displacement hull, better plastic, and some speed. Iím also 6í1Ē 205 lbs., 36Ē waist, 30Ē inseam. I fit in the boat just fine, but could see where someone slightly bigger may have issues. I was a little loose with just the stock hip pads, but a little too tight when I added a shim to each side. Had some thinner 1/8Ē minicell that I stuffed in and it fit like a glove. Had to move the bulkhead pretty far in towards the seat, and moved the seat just slightly forward a few inches. Really like the thigh hooks; a big improvement over the Jackson. I added ľĒ neoprene foam all around the thigh hooks and up into the knees for more comfort and glued in knee blocks with some neoprene foam layers glued over that. The knee blocks really helped with the performance. Also had trouble getting them to stick at first, but it was hot and humid the day I did it, and I didnít let the DAP cement cure long (about 12 hrs from application to when I was on the river). Re-glued and havenít had an issue yet. When the boat arrived, a good portion of the black graphics (stickers?) had worn off. It almost looked like it melted off, as there were black smudges all over the deck where it wore off. No scratches or dents, and was well wrapped when it arrived. Not a complaint, just an observation about stuff not sticking to the plastic (thankfully, very slick on rocks also).
Still need to work on the bulkhead. The pads feel comfortable, but I had to move it up so far that there are large gaps all around with a lot of play up and down. My foot would actually get wedged between a gap in the bulkhead and the metal rail when entering if I wasnít paying attention. Plenty of room for my size 12 feet and Rasslers though. I like how the front pillar doesnít extend all the way to the foot area. I was thinking Iíd remove it, but itís not in the way at all. Same with the stern pillar. I can see where the rubber bands that hold the pillar and backband in position will wear out. It seems ok, and is easy to use, but probably not the most durable setup. Seat is comfortable for me.
The boat feels heavier than what I have seen for the listed weight, but lighter than the Recon 93 and Karma L by a good bit. I found it extremely awkward to carry. Doesnít balance well on the shoulder and canít get a good grip on the front pillar. I found myself grabbing the rubber band on the front pillar before I realized what it was and decided that it wasnít a good idea. I like the water bottle/throw rope set up on the seat track, but a bottle does come out easily if not clipped in. The rope attachment points behind the seat feel solid. Not a fan of the flat angular grab handles around the cockpit. Overall, I knew from the Pure XL that I would be doing a lot of outfitting work off the bat, so none of these ďissuesĒ were of concern for me. I wanted a durable, performing creek boat. Sooo, onto the water I went.
On the water, the boat really performed great. I didnít think the primary stability was poor at my weight, in fact it felt incredibly stable. I also thought I sat a lot lower in the boat than any other boat Iíve ever paddled, but it wasnít noticeable on the water. It floated me very high, and felt a little corky at first, but in the rapids, it was fairly sporty and incredibly fast. It took a few strong strokes to accelerate, but once it was up to speed, nothing was slowing it down. The boat went up and over most features, and the pointy bow speared through bigger holes without hesitation. Boofs were effortless. It turned easily, but I did have an issue with the bow wandering a bit offline at first if not driven aggressively. Keeping an upstream angle in harder ferries also proved to be a chore, but after a few days in it and some more concentration, Iím not noticing it is as much. Though itís sporty, the extra length in the bow and stern were noticeable to me coming from shorter creek boats. It caught eddies very cleanly, even when not edging aggressively. I was actually surprised at how well it surfed. That was something I thought I was compromising on, but it surfed and spun pretty well on waves.
Havenít had the seat shifting issue yet (not that I noticed anyway, need to check when I get home). I noticed what appeared to be leather on top of the aluminum block when I adjusted it. It was actually a pain to get it back in the slot when I first adjusted it, as it kept bunching up and coming off. Currently using a like new Mountain Surf large keyhole rand skirt, but the boat was really wet at the end of each day. My Jacksons have the edge there. Will be trying other skirts and putting aquaseal on the bolts. I definitely had to be more form conscience when rolling compared to my Super Hero or 4Fun, but it wasnít difficult to roll by any means.
Overall, I really like the boat and glad I took the plunge and bought it. I donít think itís for someone who doesnít like to customize the outfitting and is afraid of foam and glue. Probably not a boat most can jump in and feel comfortable with the stock outfitting. The performance was everything I wanted. The plastic feels ready solid. Itís a sharp looking boat (except the graphics coming off before it ever got on the water). I really like the overall design, and the proportions fit me very well. Within a day of paddling, I felt incredibly solid in it.