Watching the finals for the USA Junior Men is a stiff reminder to the senior men’s class that more competition is on the way! The top three boys are performing so well that they would have made the cut into the men’s finals on most rounds. Today was no different. The finals consisted of Isaac Holden from TN, Michael Palmer from CO, Jason Craig from NV, Jonathan Shales from AL, and Dane Jackson from TN. The water level on Sunday morning was quite a bit higher turning the Salida Hole into the Salida Wave/Hole. It was a flushier feature, but taller and offering most of the wave moves.
Isaac Holden started things out and had some good loop moves but couldn’t get his McNasty going after a few tries and flushing on first rides. Then Michael had a solid ride in the 70’s. Jason Craig struggled on his first ride flushing three times, but nailing some good moves while in. Jonathan Shales went and lit up the hole with an incredible 95 point ride that put him clearly in first place. It was exciting to watch him and it was awesome to see just how happy he was with his ride. Dane was last to go and threw a lot of garbage and struggled with his back loop. He tried to throw it about 5 times and had his head on the back deck but blasted out. Dane was in 4th after first rides.
On the Second rides Isaac had another similar ride, still struggling with some key moves but getting his opening move. Jason had another ride where he flushed out too many times. Michael didn’t improve on his second ride but got bumped to 3rd place after Dane went. Dane had a better ride and moved into second place. Jonathan didn’t have as good of a ride on his second round.
In the final ride, in the finals, where only your best ride counts, things got crazy. Isaac went first and did really well but didn’t move up any spots keeping him in 5th. Then Jason went just went ballistic! He started with some hole moves like loops and airwheels, but then went to blunt McNasties, and then started throwing Pan Ams, and blunts, and a back pan am in rapid fire at the last 10 seconds. It was inspirational to watch and he earned the top spot with a 102! Michael Palmer went next and had another great ride but it still had him in 4th behind Dane. Dane went from 2nd to 3rd after Jason’s ride and hadn’t really put a “Dane” ride together yet. He must have been inspired after watching Jason’s final ride as he was a different kid on his final ride. He went in and threw a few hole moves right off, starting with a huge Air Back Loop. Then he started throwing Back Pan Ams, Donkey Flip, Pan Am, Flip Turn, Helix, McNasty and looked like he never took a breath for the last 20 seconds. The buzzer went off and everyone was shaking their heads in disbelief. No paddler had thrown that many wave moves all weekend, even Nick. The score came back at 121! Dane took the National Championship title on his final ride, his second of the weekend! Jason was second and Jonathan was third, and Michael Palmer 4th, and Isaac Holden 5th.
The USA Team for the Junior Men for the World Cup in Europe this summer is:
1. Dane Jackson
2. Jason Craig
3. Jonathan Shales
4. Michael Palmer