Dane Jackson Breaks 4-Minute Mark on Green: Special PL Q&A! Plus: NPR Interviews Co-Winner Adriene Levknecht


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Well, he did it…finally. Living up to this year’s race motto “Wishful Thinking,” kayaking phenom Dane Jackson finally broke one of the longest-running records waiting to be broken in extreme kayaking: the coveted 4-minute mark in North Carolina’s badge-of-courage Green Race.

Jackson posted the best time in the Saturday, Nov. 5, race, winning the race for the fifth time but more importantly to him, finally breaking the 4-minute barrier with a time of 3:58.68. Next up was Isaac Hull with a time of 4:11 and Holt McWhirt in third at 4:12.07. You could say he crushed it by 1.32 seconds…a lot when any ride in an errant hole could multiply that five times easily, or even a hit by a wave or something as benign as a big splash could add crucial seconds to your time.

Between the 170+ racers battling it out and 2,000 spectators hiking into the gorge, the Green River Narrows Race has emerged as the largest extreme kayak race in the world. This iconic kayak race has drawn spectators and racers from around the world, humbled Olympic medalists, and been featured on major networks such as CNN. Some have likened it to the Super Bowl of kayaking. This year’s race also served up live footage for the third time in a row, with the HammerFactor’s Green Race Live, featuring state-of-the-art live drone and high-definition camera technology. (Visit them on Facebook for updates.)

“We couldn’t be more proud of this year’s live show,” says producer John Grace. “Keeping seven cameras going in the pouring rain is a challenge in a parking lot, much less 4,000 feet down in a canyon. Even without the weather, running a show like this with a complicated fiberoptic infrastructure, in such a remote location is incredibly complicated.  With 20 different countries tuning in, we’re beyond stoked to share the Green Race stoke with the world.”
As for Jackson’s historic run, he’s equally ecstatic: “Dane has spent a decade chasing the 4 minute barrier. He told me it was at the top of his list of carrier whitewater goals. We saw hard work pay off and history be made.”


Last year, Jackson won this in a time fo 4:12, again ahead of second-place finisher Issac Hull and third-place finisher Holt McWhirt at 4:23.1— after hitting a practice run time of 4:02.3 at regular flows. But lower flows and a blip en route cost him. “It turns out upside-down and backwards not the key to sub-4,” he quipped at the time. “Experiment over, back to the drawing board for next year.” The year before he posted a time of 4:02.4, and the year before that 4:02.

“The community and vibe around the green race is just so amazing, and one of the most enjoyable weekends of the year,” he says. “Although everyone wants to do as well as possible, everyone is just having an amazing time racing, cheering friends on, and having another awesome day on the water.”

For the women, Adrienne Levknecht took first at 4:41.61, followed by Evy Leibfarth and Regina Goldkuhl.


We caught up with Jackson after his record-setting run for the lowdown on breaking 4.0:

PL: What boat were you in? I was in my Karma Unlimited, same one I have raced in for a few years.
PL: What was the water level? We got a few days of training at 10.5, but the night before the race it rained hard bringing it up to 11.5 for the race.
PL: How many practice laps did you get in? I got seven full laps, but I was making sure to walk up the slides and Gorilla as much as I had time for. With the higher water it can be harder to be consistent on Gorilla and the slides.
PL: How was your run? No mess-ups? It was the best top to bottom full run I have had, but it wasn’t perfect. I was stoked to nail Gorilla and the slides, but with a few little mistakes throughout the upper part I was expecting it to be just over the 4 minute mark. So I was stoked to hear it come in at a 3:58; I’ve been wanting that for a long time.
PL: Were you in great paddling shape for the race? I wouldn’t say I was in the best shape I have been in for the race, especially with how little training we got beforehand. But I was doing a better job of pacing and not being lazy when it came to the biggest moves. It’s easy to get too tired and lazy by the time you reach the bottom half so I was focused on a better pace throughout the run.
PL: To what else do you credit finally being able to break 4.0? In the end I think a big part was when I started really breaking down each little part of the course, trying to see exactly where all those little times could be saved. Because you can nail the biggest moves, but all those little moves can add up quickly. So breaking down each rapid of the course allowed me to realize where so much time could be saved, especially having a great line vs. just a good line. So trying as many different lines as possible, breaking them down, trying new techniques, that’s where I was saving the time.
PL: Think you could’ve even done it faster, and will be able to do it again? I think there are definitely a few places to save some time, so I think I 100% could go faster. That being said it’s hard putting together a full run with just one run a year, but I will definitely try to push it faster!
PL: How’d you celebrate? With my girlfriend and friends, drinking champagne in the field, it was a great time.

Click below  for full results, and see below for the winner of Paddling Life’s Guess the Winning Time contest, sponsored by Werner.



1 3:58.68 Dane Jackson 1 Long K1
2 4:11.21 Isaac Hull 2 Long K1
3 4:12.07 Holt Mcwhirt 3 Long K1
4 4:12.17 Zack Mutton 63 Long K1
5 4:19.58 Matt Anger 5 Long K1
1 4:32.60 Adriene Levknecht 23 Long K1
2 4:41.61 Evy Leibfarth 78 Long K1
3 5:33.02 Regina Goldkuhl 77 Long K1
4 5:38.36 Michaela Phelan 79 Long K1
5 5:40.45 Avery Potter 156 Short K1


And Here’s Our Guess-the-Winning-Green Race-Time Winner!

Werner Paddle winner Mike Watson taking a turn with the guide stick…

Yes, thanks to PL partner Werner, Michael Watson of Columbia, SC, is the lucky winner of a new Ultimate Carbon Straight Shaft Whitewater Paddle. 

“Awesome! I am pumped!” Watson says. “I knew Dane would sub-4 the Narrows this year and I knew he would be driving hard. I thought he wanted to demolish 4:00 and guessed a time that would reflect his motivation. Thanks for the 3:58:69 Dane and congratulations on the glass!”

Congratulations. Michael on your winning Green Race time guess and enjoy your new Ultimate Carbon Straight Shaft Whitewater Paddle form Werner. 

Click below for NPR interview with women’s winner Adriene Levknecht


Read past Green race stories here:

Closing In On 4 Minutes: A Q&A with 25th Green Race Record-setter Dane Jackson (Watch Video!)


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