When I was demoing boats at the Nantahala Outdoor Center at the Nantahala outpost, one
of the boats I tried was a Jefe chico. This boat was recommended to me by a few people, including my former boss at the University of Tennessee Outdoor Program, a veteran female boater who actually won the Boaterchick boatercross race on the lower Cheoah in her Jefe, and some friends. While I did not end up choosing the Jefe chico, the decision was a pretty close call, and for other boaters, this would be the kayak of choice. I’ve highlighted some specs about it that I think are really worth noting.
I can speak only for the chico, but that boat is comfy, especially when comparing to the pyranha, which needs serious outfitting to fit me decently. I’m probably going to put this info in here very time I write a boat review, but being a very small person (5’1″, 106 lbs), the chico definitely made the cut for being small boater friendly. Beyond that, the outfitting was overall pretty good, anyway. The knee braces are lower than most boats I’m used to, and the seat rises higher, which does make rolling a little different. I wouldn’t necessarily say harder, but different enough that if you plan on buying it, plan on spending a little time rolling it in flat or easy water to get used to it before putting on the harder stuff.
The biggest difference for me was that, as an obvious creeker, it has a displacement hull instead of a planing hull. That means the bottom is rounded instead of flat. This equates to great for creeks (most creeks have ’em), easy for rolling, and not so great for sharp turns or surfing. This boat is also much slower than the pyranha burn and wavesport diesel, but hey, if you’re a great boater, you can still win races in it, as my friend demonstrated early this May.
Where to Use it
Probably the nicest thing about this boat is its range of rivers. I’ve seen anyone from first time paddlers to long-time, certifiably bada$$ kayakers hitting anything from flatwater to the Green Narrows. In the early to mid 2000s, kayak sales dropped painfully fast, and one of the reasons people claim is that kayak companies were making their boats too specific–designed only for the elite boaters in the world–and not everyone could enjoy the sport. Liquid Logic definitely broke away from that problem when it made the Jefe.
The Jefe, at least the chico, is a solid boat for smaller paddlers. Though slow and a little more difficult to roll, the chico can take you anywhere you want from your first run to your first class V.