All in the Family: Kayakers Emily and Dane Jackson

Emily and Dane Jackson of Rock Island, Tennessee continue a family tradition of kayaking excellence.

Emily and Dane Jackson     Photo: Andrew Hetherington

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Combined wins by the Jackson family at the GoPro Mountain Games

“If you’re an Apache and you hunt buffalo, your kids are not going to be lawyers. They’re going to hunt buffalo.”

That’s how kayaking legend Eric Jackson explains the rise of his children Emily, 23, and Dane, 19. The Jackson clan spent the better part of the past decade living out of an RV, following Eric as he dominated every freestyle­ kayaking competition on earth and nurturing what has become the biggest brand in whitewater boats, Jackson Kayaks. Now, perhaps more quickly than he’d like, his kids are poised to unseat him.

ASCENDANCY: In the past two years, Dane has emerged as the most accomplished paddler on the planet, winning three golds at the 2011 Freestyle World Championships and the Whitewater Grand Prix—an invitation-only event—twice. Emily has continued her dominance in freestyle competitions, including wins at the past seven GoPro (formerly Teva) Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado.

JUST BUSINESS: This June, Dane and his father—along with Emily’s husband, paddler Nick Troutman—will again be competing at the GoPro Mountain Games. “There’s a lot of trash talking,” says Dane. “There’s no such thing as my dad taking it easy on anyone.” As for Emily, she’ll be eight months pregnant, so she’ll likely be forced to cede her title.

SIBLING TESTIMONIALS: “When Dane does his best, no one can touch him,” Emily says. “Emily has been the best for the past eight years,” Dane says—and after giving birth, “she’s not going to slow down.”

TOY FOR THE TOT: The family already has the newest Jackson’s boat picked out. “It’s the first kid’s kayak my dad ever made,” Emily says. “It’s called the Fun 1.”

UP NEXT: This fall the family will compete at the 2013 Freestyle World Championships, on North Carolina’s Nantahala River. It’s only the second time the biennial event is being held in America. “Dad won his first worlds in the U.S.,” says Emily, “so I’d love for us to keep the title in the family.”

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