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Jackson Kayak is a producer of kayaks and was founded by its namesake, Eric "EJ" Jackson. After working with Wave Sport Kayaks as a team member and as a designer, Eric Jackson and business partner, Tony Lunt formed Jackson Kayak in Rock Island, Tennessee in October 2003.
Already in their first year, the company sold 2,500 boats, resulting in $1.5 million annual sales. Year-on-year sales increased by 80% until 2007, and the company sold 7,515 boats in 2008. In the United States, the company sold 40% of whitewater kayaks in 2008/2009, and the expected sales in 2009 was 7,000 boats. It also has the largest market share in England and Japan, and increases its share in France.
The kayaks have become very popular as high-performing playboats of Freestyle athletes. Many of the world's leading Freestyle paddlers use Jackson kayaks, and Jackson Kayak's sponsorship of some of the best Freestyle kayakers in the world adds to this development (see below).
Company strategy and debated effect on the market
Jackson Kayak works primarily with smaller dealers instead of large retailers. They have particularly promoted Kayaking as a family sport, especially by producing boats for children as small as weighing 13.5 kg (30 pounds). Canoeist Joe Jacobi, an Olympic Gold medalist in 1992 and teammate of Eric Jackson at the Olympic Games, believes that Jackson has "made whitewater kayaking a family sport in a way that no one else in the industry has been able to do."
After a peak in 2006, the kayak market in the United States has declined. In view of their success and their inexpensive boats, Jackson Kayak has been accused in the kayaking world of flooding the market with kayaks and, also by creating a large second-hand market, of being in part responsible for the market to decline in recent years. Opponents of this view blame the evolution of kayaks for the market development: As long as kayaks evolved fast, and differences between boats of different generations were large, the market boomed, and Jackson Kayak was there to serve the demand. Now that the evolution has greatly slowed down, they argue that the interest in new boats has naturally decreased. Eric Jackson himself claims that his company has actually activated the market.
In 2011 the company was profiled on Apple's website for the extensive use of iPhones and iPads in the business. Each employee has been given an iPhone and business apps such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Word Press, Square, Air Sharing HD and Duplicam. These have become an integral part of the Operational and Information Management processes used at Jackson Kayak. The company is creating an online following by developing its own apps for kayakers. Company news, community forums, product information and kayaking videos are made available on-line to tech-savvy outdoor customers. It also recently reached an agreement with the Mexican tourism industry and the adventure tourism industry that will benefit all of the parties and broader society in many different ways. Jackson may well become one of the new breed of companies that seem more like an organism (social movement) than an organisation (traditional corporate).
Past and current boat lines
- The Hero series - river runner/creeker in four sizes: Side Kick, Little Hero, Hero and Super Hero
- The Rocker series - creek boat in three sizes: Punk Rocker, Rocker, and Mega Rocker
- The Star series (2007–2009; now called "Classical" Star series) - playboat in four sizes: Shooting Star, Star, All-Star, and Super Star
- The 2010 Star series (since 2009, successor of the "Classical" Star series) - playboat in five sizes: Shooting Star, Star, All-Star, Super Star, and MonStar
- The Rockstar - in sizes from XS (kids) to L
- The Fun series - playful river runner/play boat in six sizes: Fun 1, Fun 1.5, 2 Fun, Fun, 4 Fun, and Super Fun
- The 2010 Villain Series (Replaced the Rocker series)- hardcore creek boats in two sizes: Villain S and Villain
- The 2012 Rockstar Playboat followed by the 2014 revised Rockstar Playboat
- The Karma creek boat - a high-volume planing hull creek boat in three sizes, S, M, L, with the large displacing a massive 103 gallons
- The Karma Unlimited 11 foot race boat, designed for no-holds-barred whitewater races such as the Green Race
- The Zen river runner, with a planing hull and slightly less volume than the Karma
- The Antix playful river runner/creeker, with a planing hull that some would compare to "old school" boats like the LiquidLogic Braaap
- The Nirvana nine-foot class race boat
- The Karma Traverse crossover creeker, with a drop-skeg and a rear hatch for storage
Recreational & Touring Kayaks
Five different models cover the Recreational Kayaks and Sea Kayak/Touring Spectrum. They range from maintenance free kayaks such as the Regal and Riviera to sophisticated touring kayaks such as the Journey and Rogue.
The Day Tripper, a recreational kayak was introduced by Jackson Kayaks in 2007. It can best be described as a hybrid between a canoe and a kayak and its versatility enabled it to be used for kayak fishing which opened the door for purpose built fishing kayaks. Its design feature radically differentiated the Day Tripper from other recreational kayaks. This lead the way to further collaboration with professional kayak fishermen and the development of three more fishing kayak models namely the Coosa, Cuda and Big Tuna.
The model range consists of whitewater kayaks specifically built for kids and a smaller version of the Day Tripper.
Sponsored team and success at world championships
The sponsored team includes some of the world's most successful Freestyle K-1 kayakers. Among them are the Jackson family (Eric, Emily, and Dane Jackson), Nick Troutman, Claire O'Hara, Ruth Gordon, Jason Craig, Clay Wright, Stephen Wright, Jez, Rafa Ortiz, Mike Dawson, Nouria Newman, Ben Stookesberry, Joel Kowalski, and Steve Fisher. At the 2007 World Championships, Jackson Kayak's team took the K-1 World Title in Pro Men, Pro Women, Junior Women, and third in Junior Men. At the 2009 World Championships, the team took the first three places in the K-1 Pro Men and the first two in the K-1 Pro Women competitions as well as the runner-up for the K-1 Junior Men's title; the team did not sponsor junior women at the time.
In addition, some of the competitors who were not sponsored by Jackson Kayak rode kayaks of their brand, including in 2009 the two first places in the C-1 competition, the first place in the K-1 Junior Men's competition, and second to fifth place in the K-1 Junior Women's competition. In 2011 the Jackson team managed to collect 5 gold medals, 4 silver and 3 bronze medals. Dane Jackson became the first person to participate in all four of the freestyle disciplines and walked away with three gold medals and a bronze medal.
In the 2013 World Championships held at the Nantahala, Jackson athletes took out K1 Men's, K1 Women's, Junior K1 Men's, Squirt Men's and Squirt Women's while gaining podiums in C1 and OC1.
- De La Cruz, Bonna (01/18/04), "Ex-Olympian turns Midstate hamlet into white-water mecca" (– Scholar search), The Tennessean Check date values in:
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Harris, Roger (2004-04-27), "Olympian Looks to Make Splash with His Kayak Designs in Rock Island, Tenn.", The Knoxville News-Sentinel
- Bonna Johnson (25 October, 2009). Jackson Kayak tops industry sales in six short years. Independent thinker has taken his expertise, and his business model, straight to his customers. The Tennessean (retrieved 8 November 2009)
- article on the success of the company by The Tennessean