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Old 08-01-2015   #1
El Dorado Hills, California
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 28
2015 Jackson Zen v. Dagger Mamba

Hi, I am relatively new to kayaking and am looking to purchase a river runner. The Jackson Zen and Dagger Mamba have caught my attention. Which boat would better suit a beginner and be able progress to harder water with best? Or are there any other great river runners that would be a better option?

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Old 08-01-2015   #2
DesertRatonIce's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 217
You cant go wrong with the Mamba. I have been boating with it since 2005 and I really love the new version. The mamba is easy to roll and stable for a beginner and it also can run the big stuff later on. I have never paddled a zen so cant really comment on that boat.

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Old 08-02-2015   #3
Sumas, Chilliwack, BC
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 120
I have had both, the zen rolls easier. Outfitting is easier to setup and is a faster boat all around. I liked the old zen as well but the new one is way better. Plus it is a bit lighter than the creek version mamba.

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Old 08-04-2015   #4
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Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 689

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Old 08-04-2015   #5
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 386
I have spent a bit of time in both boats. Here are my thoughts. I am 5' 11" and 150 lbs for reference.

The first word that comes to mind for the 2015 Zen is fast. The boat gets to top speed after only a few strokes and is very quick to maneuver. It has a continuous edge throughout the boat and snaps in and out of eddies with ease. It ferries better than almost anything I have ever paddled. This boat is an amazing down river boat that will make any run fun. Catching eddies, making hairy ferries, and surfing on the fly waves are where the Zen really excels. The only downside to the boat in my opinion is a lack of rocker. The boat doesn't have that auto-boof feeling, but what it lacks in boofability it makes up for in speed. Great design by Jackson.

The Mamba is one of the best boats on the market in my opinion. It is very versatile and fun to paddle. The mamba has a progressive edge profile that is most aggressive near the cockpit. Essentially, this means the mamba has edge where you want it and none where you don't. The boat has plenty of rocker and a discrete edge in the bow, so it boofs and deflects off of rocks much better than other planing hulled boats. The edge is not as sharp as the Zen so the boat is not nearly as aggressive catching eddies, but feels much more forgiving. The stern is rounded off so the boat is very stable in squirrelly water and doesn't get tripped up in eddy lines. Dagger also has the most comfortable outfitting in the industry in my opinion. The downsides to the mamba are that it is not as fast or maneuverable as a Zen and it is heavier.

Both boats are great and you won't go wrong either way.
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Old 08-13-2015   #6
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 8
Originally Posted by tango View Post

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Old 08-13-2015   #7
Sumas, Chilliwack, BC
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 120
In hindsight I would really recommend any river/play series from the brands available. FreeRide/Fuse/Fun and Hero series for examples (there are more I'm sure). These are all fun boats and great to learn in. They aren't edgy per say and they do everything good enough for learning. If I had bought a SuperHero/superfun when I started I would have went thru less boats trying to find the best fit. Too many times I am seeing guys go right to the creeker and paddling class 2 with it. Then they usually try to go from class 2 right to 4 without really learning a lot of class 3 fun stuff because their buddies are already doing macho runs......if your weight is is bottom/middle of the boats range you can paddle up to class 4 no problem as you progress. Plus the river/play boats are waayyyy lighter
Remember I am not talking about pure playboats......

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