Out of Africa- Jackson’s Head Home

I remember our first trip to this continent in 1999. Neither Emily or Dane paddled as they were only 6 and 9 years old. Things sure have changed over the years as Emily just had her 21st birthday, and Dane is 17, and they each have major parts in our new instructional freestyle videos, as well as coordinating this entire trip.

Dane worked hard with Nick on the 2011 Rock Star promo video and some of the sickest shots in it were of him paddlilng the Rock Star S. Emily contributed incredible shots to the video, while working hard each day to keep both our trip organized, but also keeping things moving at home with the website, team JK, etc.. This trip more than ever before was a great showcase for me, of just how lucky I am with how my kids have grown up.

The paddling here was top notch, the training was great, and it was a great bonding experience with Stephen, Clay, Nick, Jessie, Dane, Emily, and I. We all worked hard together, trained together, ate together, played together, and discussed all things related to our sport and business together.

I spent some time writing my book, “A Life Without Compromise” during our initial part of the trip where we were mostly wave surfing and not doing as much world’s specific training. It was fun to really dig in and hammer out the first draft which I started at home last year. Nick and I are also making our new instructional videos so we filmed a ton of audio and got specific paddling shots as well to support them. The combination of these two additional projects on top of the training made this trip anything but boring. We still managed to get at least one good game in each day of ultimate frisbee, football, bananagrams, or Cards.

Internet was spotty on this trip, with my goal of getting a SIM card for me iPhone thwarted on the first day. I got one, cut it to size (iphone has a mini-Sim card) but it was locked and I didn’t have the instructions on how to “unlock” it, removing the controls that AT+T put on it. Phones purchased elsewhere in the world are much easier to work with and don’t have “locks” preventing you from switching sim cards to any service, including prepaid service at any time. Anyhow, that turned my internet/phone plan upside down and I was at the mercy of going to NRE or Jinja to get REALLY slow wireless. The new Rock Star promo video took two attempts to upload it in town. The successful upload took 5 hours! Slow, intermittent internet is a small price to pay for the best world’s training I could imagine, and the environment we were able to live in for this past month.

Each day of training at Super Hole I felt like I improved. I worked hard on a routine that I can transfer to Plattling and continue to work on all spring. It is complete with combos and bonuses and is a fun set of moves that I’ll be proud to show off at the next world championships. Everyone on the team paddled really well and our quest for a good show at the 2011 World Championships is very likely to be fulfilled. Today is our first day not going to train since we arrived 30 days ago. I am at my fighting weight, and healthy and strong after a good base this winter at home, plus this double time training here. I also made the Rock Star M my new best friend! This trip was incredible in that my dream of having the ultimate freestyle kayak for each world championships was also fulfilled! We hit the nail on the head with this boat. Every single person that has tried the Rock Star is in love with it and wants one. The boat has more immediate appeal than the 2010 All-Star did over the 2007 All-Star which was our biggest leap before this one. People always ask me if there is anything left to design in a freestyle kayak. I can rarely name a time where, at this moment, I can say, I am 100% happy with this design right now and don’t know what I would change for the next version. That is a great place to be, but I hope in the next couple of years we’ll have figured out where to go from here.

It is almost breakfast time and I don’t want to miss the coffee while it is hot! This is my last time waking up and looking over the Nile River. Today my body gets a rest, with two days of travel home. The traveling is actually abusive for the body and mind, compared to any physical abuse we can deliver in the kayak here. My partner, Tony will be at my house when I arrive home and we’ll jump right into our 1st quarter review of how Jackson Kayak is doing for the year. With just my iPad here I have kept abreast and been able to work as if I was in the USA. Internet once/twice/day instead of every second slows my turnaround time, but not by much. The reporting from the factory keeps me in the loop just as good as if I were on tour in the RV. Kristine worked close with me and did a ton of stuff for me while I was here too.

Clarity is what trips like this bring to my life. I will return to TN much better prepared to lead JK for the remainder of the year than had I kept my head to the grindstone without looking up and getting a better view. My team there all take responsibility for critical parts of the business and I am not able to, nor want to try to do what they do. I am lucky to have such great people in the company.

Most of all, I miss Kristine and KC. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I would never want to be apart from Kristine voluntarily unless there was a really good reason. However, in two days my first hug and kiss and smile from her and my life will feel perfect again. She is incredible and has done incredible things in my absence.

I have photos and video on my iPhone and will do an update with them when I get home. Meanwhile- time for my last “Bujigali Sunrise” breakfast with some of the most amazing bacon i have ever had. Then we begin our trek home through Europe and back to North America.

See you soon!

EJ