NEW 2013 Dagger Jitsu Review

Boats/Boards, Freestyle, Gear, Whitewater Kayaks

Interview with Boat Designer Mark Robertson

The Spring / Summer of 2013 will be seeing quite a few new freestyle designs, most notably the Dagger Jitsu. Team D, who has not had a cutting edge boat to work with in the past few years, should be psyched with this brand spanking new, high performance big wave surfing / hole machine.
As with all of the new boats that arrive here at CKS, we always like to get a first hand rundown, with as much detailed information as possible. Lead designer, Mark “Snowy” Robertson is responsible for launching Dagger back into the freestyle realm – here’s what he had to say about the new Jitsu:



1. Dagger’s been out of the core play boating scene for a few years. Is this the boat to bring them back in? There are some ripping freestyle paddlers on Team D, how have they responded to this design?
We certainly plan on this putting Dagger back into the freestyle game. Our team has been without a cutting edge freestyle boat for a while now so it was long overdue to give them the tools to once again show how talented and diverse they are at freestyle. Key team members have played an integral role in the evolution of the Jitsu and so far everyone seems super excited with the outcome.

Guys like Rush Sturges were instrumental in the design and performance characteristics of the Jitsu.

2. How does the Jitsu compare to the Agent?
We really started with a clean slate on the Jitsu. We knew what worked and didn’t work with the Agent and kept that in our heads but we wanted to start fresh. The Agent was old in terms of playboats and freestyle has progressed a lot over those years so the requirements were different for what we wanted the boat to do.
3. Are there hints of any Daggers of the past (or present) in this boat, or is it all new?
The combinations of the hull and deck features are all fresh approaches from Dagger. If anything, in the hull we looked at the speed that the Dagger Crazy 88 offered as this boat was fast in carving across a wave face. Ergonomics and fit are all familiar feeling to other Dagger boats but we really tried to introduce a new era for Dagger freestyle.
Interestingly if you look as far back as the Dagger FX you’ll see a lot of new freestyle boats in there. That thing is almost 10 years old….plus it had flames on it! Unrefined and ahead of its time!!!
4. What impact will the Jitsu have on the future of Freestyle?
For Dagger we are confident it will have a really positive impact. Getting a competitive boat back in the lineup and giving our team paddlers and loyal customers a playboat they can really evolve with is a really exciting prospect. We learned a lot in this process too. Some of the ideas we tried didn’t make it into the final boat but we now have even more ideas for the next playboat cycle! So for Daggers freestyle future the Jitsu is hopefully just the beginning.
5. Who tested out the protos? Where?
This was a truly global project. We have access to some incredible freestyle paddlers who each brought a different set of needs and requirements to the table. Team tested paddler proven is at the root of all Dagger design projects and I personally believe in this for creating a well-rounded product.
Rush Sturges tested prototypes in Africa, Canada, New Zealand and the US West coast. James “Pringle” Bebbington gave excellent hole performance feedback from the UK, Europe and Uganda. Ben Marr gave us his specialist big wave input from Ottawa Canada and China. Katya Kulkova and Lowri Davies tested the small Jitsu in Europe. And of course plenty of testing occurred closer to home on the US East coast with Andrew Holcombe, Chris Gragtmans and Anna Levesque. Through the winter, and sometimes in the snow, we were able to get on some classic freestyle spots including the future hole for the freestyle worlds at the NOC.
At the same time we involved freestyle paddlers of all abilities to ensure we weren’t just getting skewed feedback from these top end freestylers who could probably helix a dugout canoe!!Prototypes were put through their paces on everything from huge waves to small shallow holes giving us this well-rounded end product.

Chris Gragtmans working on his aerials at Skookumchck. Skook’s a great place to work on a boats speed and wave surfing abilities.
James Bebbington aka. “Pringle” has been dominating the freestyle scene recently (winner of the 2011 Worlds in Plattling, Germany) due to his super smooth combo skills. He was a great person to have on the R+D team because to his diverse bag of tricks.
Extensive product testing leads to a refined design – this is exactly what Dagger has done with the Jitsu.

6. Why would someone choose a Jitsu over another competing brands 2013 freestyle boat? What makes it better / different?
Better is subjective. I think everyone likes different features of many different designs. Its putting them together into one manageable package that is the key. We wanted an all-round boat. Wave and hole performance were both equally important. We feel we got just what we set out to create. This all round end product coupled with Daggers form-fitting new Contour Ergo outfitting with unparalleled on the fly adjustment makes the Jitsu a true competitor in the freestyle market.
7. From a tech standpoint, tell us about the hull, rails, speed, volume distribution, etc…enlighten the tech geeks out there.
This is my favorite question. I’ll try to keep it short!! The Jitsu has it all. Speed is fast for a 5’9” boat. Smoothing out the progressive rocker has given it good speed down a wave. A unique inverted shape on the stern tail makes for a cleaner water release helping with overall forward speed. The stepped carving rail is a carryover from previous Dagger designs and really helps to bite into the wave face for dynamic carving, vital for getting into position and for generating speed for that next big trick. Width through the tail (but not too much) helps with a confident platform when landing aerial moves on a wave.
In a hole it’s all about volume distribution not just how much volume. Balancing slice with pop was a big challenge. Pringle, one of the masters of combo moves, didn’t want to end up with a boat that just tumbled over itself like some short boats have a tendency to. We played around with volume progression trying to keep optimum slice angles while centralizing volume for lift through the mid stage of most combo moves.

Smooth transition from a slicey bow tip to volume in the knee area. This results in predictable cartwheeling, but lots of pop when you need it.
Shot of the rails in action. Paddler: Rush Sturges.
The Stern of the Jitsu is rather fat, which creates a stable landing platform for aerials. It also give the boat more buoyancy for hole moves. You can also see the inverted shape on the bottom on the stern – this helps with cartwheeling releasing.
The volume progression of the stern.

8. Who named it, and what is the significance?
The boat name was suggested by Team Dagger paddler Christie Glissmeyer. Directly translated Jitsu can mean “art” or “technique” in movement, particularly something taken to its highest level. It also represents manipulating the opponent’s force against themselves rather than confronting it with your own force. The name has a snappiness that fits with the dynamic nature of this new Dagger playboat on a wave. Also the idea of manipulating a force could describe how the paddler can link moves by using the power of a hole feature to their benefit.
9. This is probably fairly obvious, but what tricks is this boat built for. Is it more of a hole or wave boat? or both?
It’s definitely both. Testing the Jitsu on many different sizes and types of features ensured we stayed grounded to the needs of hole and wave paddlers alike. Combo moves are where the future of freestyle in a hole is still evolving. Linking sequences of moves and particularly changes of direction in moves mid flow are certainly a progression we wanted to enhance with the Jitsu. Plenty of volume and smoother soft shapes really help in allowing the paddler to control the boat through directional changes mid trick in order to create new combo sequences.
On a wave spinning into aerial tricks was a key focus. Allowing the paddler to come out of multiple spins directly into air screws etc. Speed is still important and although its super short the Jitsu still gets around the wave and drives through a carve well.
10. How does the Jitsu do as a downriver play boat compared to other boats out there. Some boats do better than others downriver; where does the Jitsu fit in?
At 5’9” the mid-size is short so it’s not the fastest boat downriver! That said it has a very smooth predictable volume distribution particularly behind the paddler. This makes for a very forgiving downstream paddle. Testing it in bigger volume holes and downriver features (big whirlies at Skookumchuck tidal race and the Upper Gauley at 9,000 CFS) proved this out well! It’s all a matter of planning ahead when paddling downriver in today’s short playboats as you don’t have the downstream speed to make last-minute shifts across the river. That’s said they are brilliant for downriver flips and tricks through a rapid!

9 thoughts on “NEW 2013 Dagger Jitsu Review

  1. JB

    So importantly is it faster than a Jackson?

    1. Bobby Kuepper

      That would be a great head to head shoot out. Rock Star vs. All Star vs. Jistu. The 2013 Jackson All Star is a little bit longer than the Rock Star or Jitsu, so I would imagine that it would be a little bit faster. Overall, my guess is that they are all pretty similar.
      Once Stakeout comes into play up in Canada and the snow starts to melt in the west – the results will come in.

    2. bob

      The Jitsu is really really slow. I bought one and returned it already. unless you have a huge wave it just drags its tail. If you want a fast boat, get a pyranha Jed

      1. Bobby Kuepper

        Bummer to hear. Hope you end up with the boat you want.

      2. James Bebbingon

        Hey Bob,

        Really surprised to hear that, I’ve tested the boat lots on European features which are typically small waves & holes.

        I’ve found it incredibly fast on all sizes of feature. My only thought of what could cause tail drag is either the seat being set too far to the back or that you might be a tad too heavy in the 5.9? Maybe a 6.0 would work better.

        I weigh 73kg and that’s about ideal in the 5.9.

        Anyhow really sorry it hasn’t worked out, give the 6.0 a shot or try playing with the trim.

        Good luck!


        1. Bobby Kuepper

          Thanks for the info Pringle.
          Here at CKS we’re really excited to get the Jitsu out in the play park. We’ve sold quite a few so far, and have been hearing really good things. Looks like a really fun boat with next level outfitting.

          Thanks for taking the time to answer the comment on the blog.

          CKS Admin

      3. Leon

        I demoed a pyranha jed medium and I now own a jitsu 5.9 (it was the boat I liked best after trying loads). I have to say – I didn’t find the Jitsu slower at all!


          That’s good to know. We’ve got them all on demo fleet here and agree with you. The JED, Jitsu and All Star all seem to have about the same hull speed on smaller to mid sized features…we do not have a ton of water here in Colorado right now, but it would be cool to see how all 3 of these boats do head to head…

  2. Phil Carr

    Great boat, read my review

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