Jackson Goes 3-for-3: Freestyle Win Caps Hattrick at GoPro Games: Next Stop, North Fork Champs

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While most other mono-discipline competitors are either arriving in Banks, ID, early to train for the high-water North Fork Championships June 17-18, or heading to Nottingham, England, early to train for the World Freestyle Championships the following weekend, Jackson Kayak phenom Dane Jackson is simply boating…and winning.

Jackson made it three for three at this year’s GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, CO, winning the Homestake Creek Race, Gore IV Downriver Race, and, on Saturday, the coveted GMC Freestyle Kayak Competition at the Vail Whitewater Park.

dane Jackson GoPro
Jackson topping the podium at this year’s GMC Freestyle event at the GoPro Games.

In his first run Jackson wowed the crowd with a 1,389-point ride, prompting announcer Dan Gavere to say it looked like he might have won the event with that ride alone. But in heat #2 he even bettered that score, upping his performance with a whopping 1,414-point ride in front of the packed crowd—and never washing out of the hole once. Despite solid runs of their own, which weren’t quite enough to unseat Jackson from his throne, fellow Jackson Kayak paddlers Stephen Wright took second and Nick Troutman third,

From here, for Jackson it’s straight north to the North Fork to hit arguably the world’s top extreme kayaking race before jumping the pond to England.

“It’s definitely a busy few weeks, for sure,” he said after his win. “But I love the GoPro Games and the water level was great. And it was awesome to have such a big crowd.”

Not on hand at the event for him to compete against was his dad, Eric “EJ” Jackson, who, as with many other freestylers, opted to go to Nottingham early to train.

Lest you think he’s infallible, at 19:38 he did settle for third in the Men’s short boat downriver race, eclipsed by Valentin Guitierrez at 19:33 and Robery Prechtl at 19:35. But there might well be some extenuating circumstances we don’t know about.

For the women, sister Emily Jackson topped the podium for her 12th win at the Games, besting Olivia McGinnis and Cat Hadman, who took second and third, respectively. Unlike Dane who’s detouring to the North Fork extreme race, Emily’s flying straight to Nottingham to train for the world’s biggest freestyle stage. “I haven’t been there since they built the new feature so I’m looking forward to getting on it,” she said. “But the GoPro Games were great this year’s and the hole was as big as it’s been in years.”

Next Stop, The North Fork Championships

For Jackson, now, it’s up to Idaho, where the water’s raging. ”That should be a great event also— I think it’s at 4,700 cfs or something, kind of like it was in 2017,” he said. “And then from there, I’ll have to fly straight to Nottingham to get back into freestyle mode.”

All in a day’s work.

In other GoPro paddling action, Spencer Lacy won the coveted SUP Downriver race, Nick Troutman bested Tim Kunin to win the long boat downriver race, and Jackson and Troutman teamed up to win the Raft Cross event.

(Intro photo courtesy Logan Robertson/Vail Valley Foundation)

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