Should I Give Whitewater Kayaking a Try?
Dane Jackson is an international kayaking prodigy. Here’s an inside look into his flow—and what his sport can do for you
Whitewater is in Dane Jackson’s blood. The 22-year-old from Rock Island, Tennessee, grew up traveling the country in an RV with his father, Eric Jackson, an Olympic kayaker. The wave-chasing adventures paid off big time, and it wasn’t long before the baton was passed from father to son. At just 19 years old, Dane won his first ICF world championship—the Super Bowl of Kayaking—and he hasn’t looked back since, winning multiple international competitions including another ICF world championship on the Ottawa River this past September. We caught up with him after his recent win at what is perhaps America’s most prestigious whitewater event: the Green River Race, held on November 7th in Asheville, North Carolina.
I don’t really have a favorite workout. I just love pushing limits, like getting the fastest time on a hike or the most laps on a [kayaking] section. I guess it just comes down to going all-out every so often.
Set the Tone
I listen to music before competitions to get fired up and ready to go. Music inspires the right mood. It’s hard to pick a favorite track, anything that gets me revved up. At the moment, it’s “Fuel to the Fire” by Rationale.
I eat everything, and I love meat. Day-to-day in the competition circuit looks like a four-egg-and-bacon bagel sandwich for breakfast, a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch, and then a big dinner, like a burger or steak—basically, anything delicious with meat.
Before big events, it helps to remind myself this is all so exciting and fun. I also like to get stoked with other athletes.
You Want Guns? Kayak
Kayaking is great for building upper-body strength. I tend to train really sport-specific. More kayaking means more upper body strength which means I can kayak even more!
On Dealing with Fear
Fear is there for me in every aspect of kayaking, whether I’m preparing for a run on the biggest waterfall or before my final ride at the world championships. I don’t hide from fear or try to ignore it. I feel the fear and channel it to help me focus, to nail the line or to put up the biggest ride I can. And when it’s all over, the fact that fear was with me the entire time makes [the run] that much more of an accomplishment.
Relax the Body and Mind
I definitely relax physically after a demanding event, but I actually feel the need to restore mentally even more. I enjoy the free time and not having to worry about judges, dangerous situations, and really just stress on all fronts. Decompressing after big events and rides is really important.
Trust Your Gear
You’ve got to trust your gear, and that starts with your boat. If you don’t trust the boat you are paddling, you can’t expect it to help out when you mess up or are in the toughest whitewater.
I love kayaking. I love the adventures. It’s just so rad to do what I love. I hope to keep kayaking my entire life.