The first edition was a decent river runner with a healthy dose of play. It was innovative, capable and fun. The edges were a bit hard and the volume a little low in relation to the published weight range. The outfitting was just adequate with the seat adjustment being the major drawback.
Most of the low points were addressed in the next version, but the ergonomics seemed to lose ground. It was more difficult to achieve a "lock" with the boat. The "improved" plastics didn't seem to be so. I'll gladly take a few extra pounds for a strong hull, but Jackson favors minimizing weight.
The third version seemed very similar to the older Star playboat. That is, it was like a larger playboat that had some river running ability. The outfitting was good but I didn’t feel the plastic was up to the task. This is also where buyers began to get "force-fed" the GoPro mount, an irritant that continues.
The newest 4Fun returns to the original concept. Bumping up the length and volume makes it a very capable river runner and reduces the chances of unintentional stern squirts. But, you can still throw ends. The parting line is raised in the midsection, making it a more predictable boat. The knee pockets feel lower so you can engage better. Like most Jackson boats, it rolls with ease and surfs like a demon.
There is an internal "keel" bonded in for the purpose of greater rigidity and the elimination of oilcanning. It's too early for me to tell if this is durable or effective.
All in all, this is a fun and predictable boat. I feel it’s capable of getting you through some pretty big stuff but also provides ample play.
My whitewater experience is limited, but this boat seems very forgiving to me & rolls really easily. I wanted a boat that my skill level won't exceed & this seems to be a great choice. It's not the best at river running or surfing & playing but seems to do both rather well.
All in all I'm very happy with my boat choice & expect may years of enjoyment from this boat
I am not the biggest fan of the rope methods used to cinch up the back band. In addition, I have added foam to the thigh hooks to help keep my knees in when rolling. I have heard this same issue with other Jackson owners. I am still concerned about the plastic and its potential for tearing on sharp rocks. I have come to the conclusion that the 1st Jackson i purchased and i wrote about here in 2008 was just made badly. It was a demo and I have heard of other paddlers who had the same boat of that same colour that had the exact same problem.
This edition has a lot more play in it and greatly resembles the previous generation Star series. So, you're trading off some river running traits to throw ends easier. But, it'll still get you from A to B in good shape and loves to surf. It's especially fun with hand paddles.
Jackson doesn't like to poke holes in the hull so there's no drain plug. Getting the water out through the rim drains is a bit of an inconvenience. The deck hardware is better for cable locking than it is for a rescue to grab onto.
Jackson outfitting is a love or hate proposition. I'm in the former camp. It's light, simple, easy to field repair and infinitely adjustable. The yak surfs and plays like a champ. Virtually any move is point & shoot with confidence. Rolling is easy, even bare-handed.
If you're looking for a player that can get you down the river with little problem, put this one on your test list.
Generally speaking the lighter plastic of these boats do not represent a weakness. The cross-linked plastic that Jackson uses is more expensive material, requires longer cook times at higher temps, and is harder to work with for safety reasons, but the result is a lighter plastic that is stronger than the linear plastic used by most manufacturers. It is, however, more difficult to repair if it does get damaged.
After buying a used 2007 model and using it a half dozen times on my local river I managed to put a 6 inch gash in the boats hull, right below the seat. I did this after going over a rock once, - the same rock I have hit many times in other kayaks.
What I learned, or I think I learned, is that the boats light weight comes at the price of a less durable plastic. And if you try and repair that plastic, watch out. It can’t be welded and very few if any manufactured adhesives or epoxies will bond to it.
One common recommended repair process was to use 3 M, Vinyl Mastic Tape. Ever try and find such an item in Canada? Unless your buying the item by the gross – don’t bother.
Never the less, for basic down river and some “playboating”, the boat is designed very well. Still, I can’t help but question the plastic used. Before you buy, do your research and make up your own mind. I give my Jackson 4 Fun, 4 out of 10, because the numbers match.
I tested a lot of boats until the 2007 4Fun arrived and it has been everything I had hoped. Built on a stable platform, it spins, carves, and punches through holes on command, even when my commands are not as authoritative as they should be. I am at a bit over the recommended weight for this boat but it does not seem to cause any problems except perhaps reduce my speed a little. My skill level has not reached the point that I can comment on it as a play boat but more experienced paddlers have shown me the boat is capable of the moves, one of whom bought his own 4Fun soon after taking mine for a test paddle.
I personally prefer the light and simple outfitting and do not mind occasionally pulling the cords to re-adjust the backband. The boat comes standard with the HappyCheeks and HappyFeet, both I find extremely comfortable. At the recommendation of a friend I also added the HappySeat which inflates under your thighs for enhanced security, comfort, and flotation. I find it a welcome addition that eliminated a slight soreness I would get in my hips after an hour or two of sitting still. Now I rarely need to stretch and sometimes remain in the boat while others in my group take a break.
This boat is also super easy to roll. My few swims have been a result of panic and poor mental preparation as this boat has easily rolled up every time I have made the attempt, even when my form was not quite up to par.
Then, you get in, adjust the Happy Feet and Sweet Cheeks and note that it feels snug and plush, but not so snug you couldn't easily bail out. The knee padding is simply great.
Everything is well thought out on the boat. Holes are minimized through unique ways of attaching outfitting. The lip forward of the cockpit will hold a paddle while you're using your hands for popping on the sprayskirt or whatever. The boat feels comfortable after hours of hard play or paddling, although I did find that the Happy Feet will "moosh around" and change from the optimum foot position. The deck bar is not large enough to make it easy for rescuing an inverted buddy.
It's touted as a river running playboat and is one of the few dual purpose boats that does both well. You can paddle it at flat trim and not worry much about catching an aft edge. This provides you with decent downriver speed.
While my play repertoire was limited, this kayak has added to it. It's not an all-out player, but has the tools to do most things pretty well. It's predictable and rolls easily. The deck sheds water in a surf and resists purling.
All in all, an aptly named boat. I'd highly recommend test driving one.