Dane Jackson is as close as you can get to kayaking royalty. The son of world champion and Olympic kayaker Eric Jackson, 22-year-old Dane followed in his father’s wake with a dominant whitewater career all his own. The younger Jackson has won gold medals and freestyle titles from the Ottawa River in Canada to the Nile River in Africa. “I’ve been kayaking since I was two years old,” Dane says. “When I was five years old, I did my first waterfall on the Potomac River [in Maryland]. It was this 12-foot waterfall, and I remember being pretty nervous above it, but I had my dad below just in case anything went wrong.”
Jackson grew up on the road with his family, traveling along with his mom and sister while his father competed all over the world. Dane always planned to join his dad in the water. “Pretty much right away, I knew I wanted to do it,” he says. “There was always a joke that as soon as I beat my dad in a freestyle competition, he was going to retire. That happened when I was 13 years old, but he didn’t actually retire because it happened quicker than he expected!”
In 2003, Eric founded Jackson Kayak in Sparta, Tenn., and Dane is one of his most dedicated employees. Though he’s on the road much of the year, Dane works as a principal photographer and videographer for their line of whitewater, fishing and exploration watercraft. In the winter months he comes home to the family’s house near Rock Island State Park in central Tennessee, where three generations of Jacksons still share in the whitewater life together. After all, it’s in their DNA.