Whether in a freestyle hole, on a wave, in a slalom course or kayaking Class V, Eric “EJ” Jackson is one of the sport’s best, and a long-time industry leader, a trait he also carried over as founder and president of Jackson Kayak for the past 15 years. Now he’s moving on to different waters, with the announcement that he’s stepping down as the president of the company he started a decade and a half ago.
“I started Jackson Kayak out of the desire to make my son, Dane, a kayak he could excel in, freestyle kayaks I could win world championships in, and river runners and creek boats that would take me places I have never been,” he said in his announcement. “I have achieved many of my goals for Jackson Kayak, including helping the kayak fishing market explode into what it is today. Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen Jackson Kayak grow to new heights, culminating with our recent launch of the Jackson Adventures brand and website.”
EJ will continue on as an ambassador for the company as he kayaks, fishes, and does all things EJ. And his children Dane and Emily will continue their roles at the company as well, along with longtime friends and mainstays, who are grateful for the opportunity EJ afforded them when he launched out on his own in the challenging kayak market.
“In 2004 EJ took me under his wing, invited me to be a part of his new kayak company, let me work part time in the tiny boat factory, paddled with me, and let me live in his RV in his driveway all winter,” says longtime employee and freestyle powerhouse Stephen Wright. “I can never thank him or Kristine (EJ’s wife) enough for their kindness and the opportunities they’ve given me. In a lot of ways his leaving is the end of an era, but I’ll still be enjoying working at Jackson Kayak with Clay, Nick, Emily, Dane, and everyone on staff who makes this business work. And we have a lot of exciting new boats on the horizon and R&D projects in the works. It will never be the same without the visionary who started it all, but the future is bright.”
EJ says that as the company has grown in size and complexity, he’s been looking at turning his attention toward something simple again, and focusing more time on his kayaking and fishing. “Many of my friends and family are still working hard in the business to bring great boats to the water,” he says. “I have put my heart and soul into this brand, and so has my family and friends. I hope our customers consider themselves as part of the Jackson family as well.
“I look forward to seeing everyone on the water and sharing new adventures together,” he adds. “Meanwhile, you can find me at Rock Island running the falls, surfing, or perhaps out fishing somewhere. I hope I’ve been an inspiration by showing a way of living that allows you to achieve your childhood dreams at the same time…”