I'm 51 and fairly new to kayaking, overweight and none too confident in my ability to handle anything fancy. And for that reason, the Jackson Riviera is now topping my list as I decide on my first kayak to purchase.
Here's the good:
Despite only having a molded-in seat, the Riv was seriously comfortable. I spent 3 hours on the lake and could have gone longer. It was also easy to paddle and turn, fairly fast, and remarkably stable. Best of all (by my reckoning) it turned out to be a tough workhorse of a kayak -- no bells and whistles, just a solid boat.
Since then, I've done some research and found that it has a replaceable skid plate in back, so that you can drag it, and it's made in America--I watched a video that showed various workers making kayaks and talking about their commitment to "Make it like it's yours."
So why only an 8? If there's a kayak I would rank a 10, I haven't found it yet! Also, there are at least 2 things I would change about the Riviera. The biggest is, I would like to see more padeyes on the front half, for heaven's sake! In order to add more line, for safety and grabbability, I'll have to install some myself once I get my own Riv. (One of the benefits of a sit-on-top is that it's supposedly easy to get in and out of even in deep water, but line surely does help the process). The other is that I would like some self-draining scupper holes.
All in all, though, this is the kayak for me!
I have not gotten it in the water yet but was disappointed that when carried by the side handle the weight is not balanced.. the nose dives into the ground and it seams much heavier than the typhoon. On the plus side I like that it has a flat nose with handle on both ends. I can't wait to get it in the water and see how it handles.
I did get it up stream and coming back down through the main current found that it was very easy to steer and control. It was a bit disconcerting with my 240# frame so close to the water surface, but I grew used to it quickly. As I got more bold, I found that the kayak responded well in bumpy or still water. At the end of the test, coming back into camp, I tried a few eddy turns. I've not paddled a kayak that took an eddy turn more easily - and I used to paddle a WaveSport Diesel. That surprised me - a lot.
I rate it well for how easy it is to paddle. I think novices could be trusted to take this boat out and have a good, safe time with it. I didn't rate it higher because there's no attachment points for thigh straps. I don't suppose with the molded in seat back that a back strap is necessary. Also, scuppers would have improved the rating.
This is a fantastic shallow water/rock bottom river sled that still tracks extremely well in deep water and had a good glide as well. We are living out a major drought this year and water is limited so this boat shines even more the hull is almost bulletproof. She has bounced it off some serious granite boulders and it bounces well!
I myself like to drop in the molded cockpit and relax in it as well. I am six foot three and 250 lbs and it fits me as well as her five foot seven body. We have let other novice family members take it down river and they all love it because its stable, easy to control and just plain relaxing.
I too would like to see a drier seat with the addition of scuppers but not if its going to sacrifice any the durability the Riviera has to currently offer.
Final note: if you are considering kayaks for the family try out a Riviera first, comfortable, maintenance free, durable, stackable and priced right.