Jacksons claim Gore IV Kayak Challenge titles

Siblings Emily and Dane win Thursday's whitewater event at the GoPro Mountain Games

Dane Jackson digs deep in the rapids of Homestake Creek en route to winning the Tincup Steep Creek Championship on Wednesday. Jackson returned to the water Thursday to win the Gore IV Kayak Challenge.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Just another day at the office.

Dane and Emily Jackson took the men’s and women’s Gore IV kayak challenge titles on Thursday, the second whitewater final at the 2022 GoPro Mountain Games.

“It’s long, it’s exhausting,” said Dane Jackson, who was also victorious in Wednesday’s Tincup Steep Creek race.

“Between the distance and the elevation and the thing is, there’s not the biggest rapids, so you’re forward paddling the whole time. So, you’re tired by the end.”

“I felt good,” his sister Emily stated, adding that she treated the four-mile course more “like a marathon,” preserving some energy for her freestyle qualifications later in the afternoon.

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“It’s a longer run, but I’m nice and sore and tired, so that’s a good sign,” she smiled.

“My lines were pretty clean.”

An athlete competes in Thursday’s Gore IV Kayak Challenge at the GoPro Mountain Games.
Chris Kendig/Courtesy photo

Dane blazed down the class IV lower Gore Creek rapids in 23 minutes, 23.37 seconds, just ahead of Valentin Gutierrez (23:27.14) and Alberto Diez (23:44.52). Coloradan Riley Frank (23:53.45) and Nick Troutman (23:56.52) were fourth and fifth.

Emily finished in 24:55.03, well ahead of Katie Fankhouser (26:01.15) and Cat Hardman (26:09.54). Tessa Prince (26:50.30) and Kelsey Molinare (27:04.04) rounded out the top five.

Both family members are eying the ICF Freestyle World Championships in Nottingham, United Kingdom, at the end of the month, where Dane has won three times. The record for the most titles is four, held by the siblings’ dad, Eric.

“I’m definitely trying to break the four-time world championships that my dad has,” Dane said, noting that it’s always been a healthy father-son competition.

“We’ve been competing our whole lives. Pretty much ever since I was able to paddle, we’ve been competitive,” he said.

“And so now that there’s a chance that I can either tie or break his record, that’d be pretty cool, and I think he’d be proud to see it. But he’ll say, ‘not if he beats me to it.'”

Because of the pandemic, there will be two straight years of World Championships, an event usually held every other season. Dane said he tends to thrive more in the technical whitewater events.

“Whereas something like this, it’s a lot more up in the air on who can be faster, for sure,” he said of the Gore IV race. 

“There’s only so many places you can make up time, so it’s just a matter of who paddled the hardest and kept their bow the driest.” 

Emily was a spectator for her husband Nick at Wednesday’s Steep Creek event in Minturn. She said weighing which is harder — watching or racing — depends on a variety of things.

“There’s definitely a balance,” she stated.

“For me, in competition, I don’t have to worry about a lot of other things. I can just paddle.”

She’s enjoyed having her grandmother fly in to watch the family compete and enjoy the company of her great-grandchildren as well.

“Vail’s great for her because she doesn’t have to get very far to go to dinner or do anything,” she said, adding that having many events right in downtown allows for rare ease of public access to kayaking.

“It’s really open for anyone who wants to watch our sport.”

While the field size was a little smaller than normal, something Emily felt was due to anxious athletes worried about the effects of a longer melt, Thursday morning brought what any long time participant — and there are few more experienced than the 18-year participant and 12-time winner — could have predicted.

“We’re always lucky. Every GoPro (Mountain Games), the sun always comes out — we get great weather,” Emily said.

“One thing that everyone should know is that no matter what happens here, the organizers know how to put on a really good event with what they have. They’ll make it happen no matter what.” 

Kayakers raced from International Bridge in Vail Village to Stephens Park in Thursday’s Gore IV Kayak Challenge.
Chris Kendig

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