20 years old, wow. It isn’t really his age so much as how much he has grown up, both physically, and mentally in the past few years. Dane was always the smallest kid his age. At 2 months old he was only 4 pounds.
He also set all kinds of new World Championships records with 3 gold medals and a bronze and won an award, for winning the most awards…
Now, at 20 years he is 5’ 6” tall (like his dad) and 140 pounds or close to it. His physical stature always was something that people noticed in the past and something he was self conscience about, even if it didn’t affect his self-image in a negative way. He was comfortable with who he was, always, not caring what others thought.
His paddling prowess has always been very recognizable, being able to flatwater cartwheel, bow stall, and run some class 5 at age 10. His self-sufficiency was always more impressive to me than his kayaking. At 7 years old, during the 2001 World Championships in Spain, we had an apartment in town (Sort- old Spanish town in the mountains) and it backed up to a small alley with a farmers market, bakery, bar, etc.. Kristine, Emily, and I would still be in bed and Dane we would hear the patter of Dane’s feet going down from the loft, out the front door, and be gone. He would not bring any money, but had a girlfriend (Much older) behind the counter of the bakery that gave him a croissant and hot chocolate for free every morning and sent him on his way. We would not see him until lunch time more often than not. He would make his way to Steve Fisher’s, Junior’s, and Dan Campbell’s apartment and wait for them to wake up to play foam boats, etc.. with him. By the time Dane was 16 years old, he stopped letting Kristine and I pay for stuff for him. We go into McDonald’s and Dane waits behind us and won’t let us put his order on our bill. Emily was/is the same way. We have to insist to get them to let us pay for their meals.
More recently, watching Dane become completely self-sufficient this year, with his own vehicle that he travels and lives in during the tour, making his own money from his work at Jackson Kayak, sponsors like Red Bull, GoPro, Sperry, Kokatat, and more that fuel his financial engine and allow him to travel, compete, and train where he wants, when he wants is a feat that few who try, ever achieve in life at any age. Dane being a professional athlete, in an individual sport, a lifestyle sport, where the places he goes, the things he does are determined by his desire to do them is something I am very proud of and happy for him for.
The tip of the iceberg is visible now, the iceberg being the life of Dane Jackson. He has enough exposure for people to know who and what he is, and what he is capable of. Unless you are with him everyday, it is hard to understand what drives Dane, and what he is truly capable of. He is tireless, motivated, and can handle time on the water like no other. He loves the challenge of different things, freestyle in a kayak, C1, Oc1, squirt boating, C1 creekboating, paddling hard rapids “switch”, and is nearly the best or actually the best at all of them most of the time. He is also a proficient whitewater stand up paddleboarder, proficient being an understatement. As he gets older and more in tune with his new bigger, heavier, strong body (he just switched from the Small size playboats to the Medium Rock Star a few weeks ago) he will continue to make impressive strides forward, and in many cases, simply further ahead of everyone else.
Dane is one of my favorite people in the world to play with. On the water, or at home. We play games like Disc Golf (we average 18 holes/day together all winter) , bag toss, pinball, pingpong, and board games with Kristine, Nick, and Emily as well, like Settlers of Catan. Dane likes to win, but can handle not winning just fine as well. He competes to win, now, always, like his dad, but the playing part is why he does it.
I look forward to this next era with Dane, that of an adult. At 18 he was an “adult”, but today, he is truly an adult. Emily a mother, and Dane now 20… no wonder Kristine wanted to have another kid, KC, as without KC, that chapter of our lives, where we were “raising” kids would be over. Now we have a little, almost 5, year old, and two adults.
Dane, happy Birthday, buddy!