Going for Gold on the Green River

Champion Kayaker Dane Jackson Has Records in Sight at North Carolina Race

On a gray overcast day in the fall of 2020, a paddler in a contrasting bright pink kayak made history at the rugged Green River Narrows Race in western North Carolina. Last year, world champion kayaker Dane Jackson won the renowned comp for the third time in a row and set a record time on the course of four minutes and 2.3 seconds. This weekend, the Tennessee native will line up at the Green again, looking to four-peat, while also becoming the first person to break the four-minute mark in Green Race history.

The son of Eric Jackson, an Olympic paddler and founder of Jackson Kayaks, Jackson has made a name for himself with years of competing, chasing some of the tallest paddle-able waterfalls in the world, and notching multiple first ascents of whitewater runs. 

BRO caught up with Jackson ahead of the Green Race, which takes place in Flat Rock, N.C., on November 6. 

Dane Jackson paddles big foamy white water in a bright pink kayak while wearing gear with RedBull and GoPro logos on it.
Photo of Dane Jackson at the 2019 Green Race. Photo by Joseph Eaton.

BRO: What would a four-peat, with a record-setting time of sub four minutes mean to you?

Jackson: More than anything it’d be so sick to be able to break that barrier, because it just shows that no matter how fast times get, you can always find ways to be better and faster. For me, it just added a level of excitement when I started thinking about how I could be under four minutes. It’s one thing to try to be fast enough to be a top placer, feel ready to be smooth, and try to put it together on race day. It adds a whole other aspect when you not only need to be fast but also know that every tiny mistake is the difference between over or under four minutes. It is like chasing near perfection in an extremely challenging race.

BRO: How does this goal compare to other kayaking accomplishments in your career? 

Jackson: As I continue to learn, and find ways to put myself at that four-minute barrier, that improvement will also apply to the rest of my kayaking, as I continue to improve and become a smoother paddler. It’s one of the goals I continue to be excited about, year-to-year, and can’t wait to put another time down in a few days.

BRO: How do you plan to shave off those 2.3 seconds to get under four minutes this year? 

Dane Jackson: There were a couple of big enough mistakes last year that kept me from going under, so this year I am definitely looking to keep it smoother through a few of the bigger moves. The (water) level will also be a tad lower, so I will likely need to push a little harder on the main part of the course, but still gotta have that energy to nail the bottom half.

BRO: What has been your main preparation and training for this year’s race?

Jackson: Luckily instead of coming off of joy kayaking, I am coming straight from the Oetz Trophy event in Austria, so I was already in race mode. As for training, I just have been trying to break down the course, find out where I am losing those little pieces of time, as well as some sprinting on the run out. I have the course broken down enough. I know places where it is important to not become complacent—where, even if it’s a smaller move, to treat it like it’s one of the biggest, since every move is just as important when every millisecond counts.

Dane Jackson’s record-breaking 2020 Green Race Run

BRO: Which section are you most eager to tackle on this run?

Jackson: Every year when you get tired, Power Slide is one of the last and probably toughest to nail, and I haven’t nailed it in a race in a long time. I am hoping that this year I can really put together whatever reserve energy I have left and nail it in the race.

BRO: As a Tennessee native who has chased waterfalls around the globe, how does coming back to paddle in your home region resonate with you?

Jackson: I will always continue coming back to the Southeast, (because) there are few places in the world like it. It has everything from the most fun joy sections, to big slides, waterfalls, freestyle, whatever you are looking for. Especially in the fall, leading into long boat season, there is always an energy in the air, and it’s such a fun time to be shredding out here.

BRO: How does our region compare to some of the whitewater you’ve seen worldwide? 

Jackson: Everywhere is special in a certain way; everywhere has its own style. The Southeast not only has its own style but it also has a massive variety of whitewater. A couple of hours of driving could be the difference between big high-volume runs, the stoutest creeking, or even a 100-foot drop.

BRO: We heard you have a pump-up playlist you listen to before runs—care to share the top three songs that you will be listening to this weekend?

Jackson: 

1. Fuel to the Fire – Rationale 

2. Best Day of My Life – Just a Gent Remix

3. Homicide – Logic

BRO: What keeps you motivated? 

Jackson: Just the amount of fun I can have, not only leading up to the race, (but also) training, paddling with awesome people on fantastic whitewater. But also enjoying myself leading up to the race, during, as well as after, no matter the outcome. I love to win. I will do what I can to win, but I am having fun and enjoying myself no matter what, and that makes it easy to continue to come back.

Cover Photo of Dane Jackson at the 2019 Green Race. Photo by Joseph Eaton.

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