Dagger Jitsu Review

March 4, 2014
Dagger Jitsu
Dagger Jitsu 2Dagger_Jitsu
Wave punchability

The Good

  • Great handling (quick and responsive)
  • Fast edge to edge, and “poppy” for aerials
  • Incredible fit right out of the box

The Bad

  • At 5’9”, a bit small for big water river running (unless you don’t mind getting worked occasionally)
  • Short stern can rear-ender the unwary
  • Pearls when paddling forward if seat not positioned correctly

The Dagger Jitsu is a play machine, pure and simple. Designed for ballistic aerials, edge-carving surf and ballerina-like spins, it proved perfect for park and play and whitewater play runs. It seemed to have a looser hull than other playboats we sampled, and was bar none the most comfortable of the bunch. Add it to your quiver if the majority of your boating involves park and play or Class II–III playboat river-running.


Brazialian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art focusing on grappling and ground fighting. In Japan, it adds the “no weapons” caveat. In kayaking, it could well be the new weapon of choice for wrestling whitewater.

With a carbon version used by the UK’s James “Pringle” Bebbington to win the 2011 World Freestyle Championships, Dagger has unveiled a winner with its new playboat in plastic.

We tested the medium sized 5.9. It arrived just in time for peak flow on the Yampa, whose C-hole—a colossal monster funneling 4,000 cfs into one of the state’s best playspots—was seemingly made for the Jitsu’s size and curves. From the first ride, it excelled on all fronts, from old school flat spins to blunts, backstabs and more modern moves none of our testers could perform let alone pronounce. If the art of Jitsu is quick, the boat is aptly named—both for its handling and how quickly people wanted to test it.

A flat bottom leads to a short concave section on the sides that then turns into a double-edged rail before progressing to an angled sidewall. In tech terms, this double-step carving rail above the release edge helps the boat grip and drive on a wave face for controlled carving. In layman’s terms, this spells a fast, loose hull for planing, releasing and spinning, and defined edges for carves and building up speed. It also offered plenty of pop for whatever aerials we could muster.

Dagger’s designers tout its unique rocker profile as well as its hull-to-rail relationship through the stern and centralized volume as keys to its success, as well as slicey tips aiding initiation into the 3D realm.

As much as it shines on the water, it also does in fit. Dagger’s new Contour Ergo Outfitting fits like a glove the moment you slip inside. Long gone are the days of shaving hip pads and tweaking seats. With Contour (named for its topo line graphics) you simply hop in and are snug in seconds. Key features include a ratcheting backband, hip pads that are sized right the first time, and an innovative “ratcheting leg lifter” which lifts the front of your seat up to four inches for further snugness.

The seat is also easy to move fore and aft; simply twist and pop the handle behind to take it out of the track and then slide it. The bungee-fastened adjustable storage area between the legs, with an extra strap to fit water bottles, is also a nice touch.


Length: 5′ 9.5″ / 178 cm
26″ / 66 cm
Deck Height:
12.5″ / 32 cm
Cockpit Length:
34″ / 86 cm
Cockpit Width:
19″ / 48 cm
Boat Weight:
31 lbs / 14 kg
Paddler Weight:
140-200 lbs / 64-91 kgs
57 gal / 215 L


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