The Making of The Dagger Jitsu

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We caught up with Dagger’s designer, Mark “Snowy” Robertson, to get the inside scoop on the new Dagger Jitsu. Here’s the story behind Dagger’s new freestyle boat, just in time for team trials this April.

First off, it’s been awhile since Dagger has put out a new freestyle design, how long have you been working on the Jitsu?

Yeah it has been a while!! We began throwing some ideas around with the team paddlers about a year ago now. Figuring out what sort of boat they were after and where they wanted to take freestyle paddling. Version one prototypes first hit the water in September 2011 and we have tested and tweaked and retested for about 10 months until the boat was ready for production molds.

What were some of the main goals in the new design?

An all-round wave hole package was always the focus. Specifically for waves we wanted speed and looseness to be able to drive the boat and generate speed from anywhere on a wave. We wanted looseness to be able to spin into and setup for moves directly off clean spins. In a hole it was all about linking combo moves. Huge pop for loops and other aerial moves was still a high priority but we were keen to allow the boat to be able to slice into a move and have precision and balance when on end.

Nowadays everyone is so quick to say all boats look just like the last one that came out, where did you pull inspiration for the new design?

At the end of the day we are all striving for the same goals. Volume balanced with slice for hole moves. Rocker and width for speed and release on waves. With those parameters in mind boats are going to have similarities. It’s amazing however how much of a difference the subtleties can make. Small tweaks in width to length ratios can make boats paddle entirely different. Slight alterations to the depth and angle of release edges can make or break a boat. So it is the combination of all of these variables that sets boats apart from one another.
I started off looking heavily into surfboard and waveskis to understand how they create the speed and float they do out of boards that are actually quite wide. Width will float a paddler and give you great looseness but can really affect speed and makes the boats super hard edge to edge. I realized we could never get away with the lack of tail rocker that these short boards had but certainly learnt some ideas from how they carried their width through different areas of the board. I also looked at some of the carbon and composite boats on the market as there are some neat things happen in that world right now.

Where were some of the testing grounds that played a part in the designing process?

The Jitsu was a global effort. We involved paddlers from around the world who at the time had access to a wide variety of features. The Jitsu truly follows Daggers “team tested paddler proven” roots which I personally stand by in creating a well-rounded end product.  First version prototypes were paddled on epic waves in Uganda to small play holes local to our factory in the south east.
I was able to paddle the first version at the world’s freestyle hole in Plattling Germany with current freestyle world champion James Bebbington. To see firsthand the boat and him on that feature and gather direct feedback was super useful to getting the project off to a good start.
Rush Sturges and Ben Marr have paddled prototypes on some of the best waves in the world including the Nile, Lachine, Ottawa etc. We closed up testing with a super key test trip to Skookumchuck in B.C where we finalized the boat before going into production. Closer to home we had some really productive test sessions with Andrew Holcombe and Chris Gragtmans. Through the winter, and sometimes in the snow, we were able to get on the New (including the dries put in waves), Gauley at high water and local playholes at NOC and eternity hole. We have also had boats over in Japan and the UK with test teams.

Do you think having it at those features really shaped what the boat is?

Absolutely! Listening to the team paddlers up front then proving out multiple prototypes on this wide variety of features until it suited everyone’s needs has certainly given us the boat we have today, and hopefully a boat that everyone will be happy with. The wave performance has certainly come from working with incredible paddlers on some of the best features available. Hole ability is a result of blending the forgiving needs of an everyday paddler with the focused requirements of the current best hole freestyle paddler in the world.

Everyone wants a boat that’s as fast as lightning and loops huge, which is a hard combo. Do you think you’ve hit the mark on that, or are there some compromises in the design?

Boat design is always about compromise. There isn’t one design in any discipline that can say it excels and is perfect at it all. You just have to pick the variables that are most important to your end goal and create a boat that fits them. Speed was super important to us and longer is faster but then longer is not good for modern day hole moves. So you figure out what amount of compromise you are prepared to accept! Working with different paddlers in all aspects of freestyle paddling gave me a huge melting pot of requirements which is then my job to distill how to blend all of that into a well-rounded end product. I’m super excited with the compromise we ended up with!

What’s the story behind the name, Jitsu?

The boat name was suggested by Team Dagger paddler Christie Glissmeyer.
Jitsu can be translated to mean “art” or “technique” in movement and essentially defines something taken to its highest level.  It also represents manipulating the opponent’s force against themselves rather than confronting it with your own force. We felt it had a snappiness that fits with the dynamic nature of this new Dagger playboat on a wave. While at the same time the idea of manipulating a force could describe how the paddler can link hole moves by utilizing the power of a feature to their benefit.

Obviously everyone is pretty fired up to get their hands on this thing. When can we be expecting to see them hit stores?

The Jitsu paired with Daggers entirely new Contour Ergo outfitting will see a staggered roll out with the mid size (5.9) coming first.  Midsize boats should be shipping to retailers by 1st November 2012 with the large (6.0) following early January 2013 and the small (5.5) shortly thereafter.

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