Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman win GoPro Mountain Games Steep Creek
RED CLIFF – Moderate conditions in the cleanest race of Steep Creek Championships history helped Dane Jackson and Nouria Newman kayak the fastest Thursday on Homestake Creek.
The first event of the 2017 GoPro Mountain Games always promises to be one of the best for spectators, and this year didn’t disappoint as hundreds turned under sunny skies to watch Jackson return to the top of the podium. A regular competitor at the event, the 23 year old said the water level – about 150 cubic feet per second as compared to more than 600 last year – may have resulted in a smaller competition field.
“We had about 20 less (competitors) than usual, I think with the low water it kind of scared away some of the people that didn’t feel comfortable,” Jackson said.
No kayakers were forced to leave their boat and swim the creek this year, which was a first in the modern history of the event, said longtime crew member Mike Mather.
“This is the smoothest I think we’ve ever had,” Mather said. “It’s an ideal water level.”
Newman said competitors had the organizers and staff, as well good water levels and a little luck, to thank for such a clean competition.
“They’re just working so hard to put on this event, and it’s so well organized,” she said. “Everything flows, it’s pretty perfect.”
Using a time-trial format, competitors in the Steep Creek Championship are given two chances to put down their best run on the course in round one. The top half of the field from the first round advances to the final round, where the fastest time wins.
Jackson won the event in 2015, but was unable to repeat last year despite the fact he set a new course record in his first run of the day at 1:28:41. His winning time from this year was 1:44:36, second place Gerd Serrasolses finished in 1:45:03 and Nick Troutman rounded out the podium with a time of 1:46:23.
“Last year was a lot of fun because it was high, but … you could miss a lot more rocks,” he said. “I think that’s what’s so fun about Homestake at these flows is there’s a lot more rocks to avoid, and they totally ruin your run.”
FROM 16 TO 53
Dane Jackson’s father Eric Jackson, a kayaking legend at 53 years old, also competed in the 2017 Steep Creek Championships qualified in 13th position of the 16 boaters to make finals.
“The water levels were perfect,” Eric Jackson said.
Feeling better after a shoulder injury which kept him out of competition over the last few years, Jackson said it was his new boat, the Jackson Kayak Nirvana, that motivated him to race.
“I was so fired up to paddle my new boat out here,” he said.
Qualifying in 15th position was 16-year-old Tom Dolle of Lyon, France. Eric Jackson said he was looking forward to seeing Dolle compete in freestyle, as well, starting at 3:30 p.m. at the International Bridge in Vail Village on Thursday.
“He could make finals,” Jackson said.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.