Recent winner of the Whitewater Grand Prix, and superstar of the 2011 Freestyle Championships in Plattling, Germany, Dane Jackson has recently made a name for himself that is all his own. Paddling phenom, Dane is driven by energy and creativity that have him always trying something new. Whether he is playing eddy lines with his squirt boat, racing down rapids on his SUP board, or trying double air screws on massive waves, Dane’s tireless enthusiasm for all things river is contagious. Always smiling, and boating like a demon, let us introduce you to the new kayaking superstar: Dane Jackson
Not everyone gets to grow up in a kayaking family, and even among those that do the skills and motivation to excel don’t always get passed on. But sometimes a dedicated kayaker can be seen in the heart of the smallest child … in the way they are compelled to play in the water, grab onto and won’t let go of a paddle, climb into every boat on the bank, and watch whitewater videos each morning the way other kids watch cartoons. So it was with Dane Jackson. While those closest to him have known for years that ‘EJ’s son’ learns incredibly fast, paddles about 3 times harder and longer than most pros, and has a seemingly instinctive feel for how to make his boat work with the water instead of against it, up until now his accomplishments have been overshadowed by his dad and his sister (both World Champions…). But Dane just recently broke 110 lbs, and throughout his life he has been forced to learn better timing, balance, and technique to make up for his smaller stature. He’s been watching, listening, and learning from top athletes and coaches since before most kids rode a tricycle and he’s had access to the best equipment and boats ever made for smaller paddlers.
Always eager to try new boats and learn new tricks in lieu of strict competition training, Dane’s multifaceted enthusiasm has finally paid off. Between the Whitewater Grand Prix and the Worlds, Dane has proven that he is very likely the best all-around whitewater paddler in world today. While that’s a huge accomplishment in itself, the exciting part is that winning events was never his main goal, so there’s no victory dance and no big celebration, it’s just a milestone along the beginning of a long road yet to be travelled. The best part of this story is that he’s just 18: He has the knowledge and skills of the best paddlers of this generation, yet he has his whole life ahead of him to figure out where whitewater kayaking can go from here. Here is Dane Jackson—big wave surfer, extreme racer, expedition kayaker, SUP race winner as well as Jr Men’s K-1, C-1, and Squirt Boat World Champion…
KS: You have been an amazing boater for years now, but how do you explain this year of straight wins at major events?
DJ: I think because this was my last year as a junior I pushed my self harder at each event to try and get the highest scores and the most wins possible. I paddled better than I ever have this year.
KS: Does it have to do with the fact you got taller and put on some weight over the past year?
DJ: Getting bigger made it so i fit the boats better and i am stronger so that had a bit to do with it.
KS: You also seem more confident in general, do you think it shows and positively affect your paddling and what you have been able to achieve on the water?
DJ: I try to be as confident as I can to stay positive and paddle the best I can. Knowing that I have done well in past events helps.
KS: Tell us a bit about where you are with school? You are home-schooled right? What does that mean and how does that work? How easy (or not) is it to focus on studies while traveling and boating all the time?
DJ: I am home schooled so my mom, dad, or anyone who can teaches me. It is perfect because I can kayak all day and travel all over the world. But it is tough because it is hard to get myself motivated to do school when I am at an event or next to an awesome playspot.
KS: You just won both the Grand Prix and the Worlds. Which one has the best flavor?
DJ: The Grand Prix was unreal because it was something totally new, and the events were crazy and awesome. The idea was really cool. The World Championships was the World Championships. It’s the biggest freestyle event, you train for it for 2 years, and you are there with the world’s best paddlers – there is nothing else like it. They both are amazing events and I loved going to both of them.
KS: What feels the best—beating the boys at the Grand Prix, three gold medals at Worlds, or beating your Dad?
DJ: Beating the boys at the Grand Prix felt pretty damn good, 3 gold medals gets me so psyched, and beating my dad always feels good.
Watch Dane in action here: