By Eric Jackson
The Pan Am Championships are today at NOC. Paddlers are here from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the USA. The field is very small this year. Many of the paddlers who are training/playing up on the Ottawa for next year’s Garberator World Championships are still up there. A few have headed to the Gauley, and there are lots of American paddlers who are just done for the season. It has been a long competition season this year already. For the Jackson’s we are like horses heading back towards the barn and NOC gets us within striking distance of home. Kristine, Nick, Emily, KC, and Dane have not seen home since April and nobody had any issues making the two day drive from the Ottawa to NOC. Just being back in the Southeast USA is refreshing for us. Last night we had a big taco night- “Tuesday Taco Night- on a Thursday” and Kristine and I, (along with the kids in the RV, busted into song with no prompting– “Everything is AWESOME, Everything is cool… When you are part of a team”.. that is from the Lego movie, in case you haven’t seen it… if you have, you know that this song has “Jackson” all over it. Alec, Hayden, and Courtney are also in the RV with us. NOC gave us a cabin for everyone since we are organizing the judges, scoring, etc. for the event. (Thanks NOC). Kristine, KC, and I are staying in the RV with the 4 dogs, and everyone else is in the cabin. Dane isn’t here, he took his girlfriend, Mary, to see Niagara Falls and then is heading home.
He has won just about everything he has entered into this year, and while the Pan Am Championships is something he wanted to do, he also wanted to do his first ever trip with a girlfriend that wasn’t to a river (Uh- Niagara Falls is a river, but I didn’t see the reason to remind him of that).
Everyone is in tip top shape right now after a season of hard paddling, training, and good living. The season is far from over for us, but we will stage out of our house soon. Gauley Festival is next and we’ll be there with the RV, of course. We are all volunteering for our World Kayak “First Timers on the Gauley” trips where we lead first timers down the river. We have done this for the past 4 years or more.
We drive home and then leave the next day for Austria for the Sickline, World Extreme Racing Championships in Austria. This event is one that I am fired up for. I have been doing my 60 on, 60 off, Power Kayak, and Power Kayak Mixer workouts to be ready for it physically. I am ordering my competition Karma for it as well and will fly over with it. The Karma is such an amazing boat for this event. Big Ramp slide for a starting line… hard holes to keep the bow over, and then a stacked section of whitewater with huge holes, hard boils, and potential whiteout. Finishing with the Champion’s Killer drop that the Karma is born to ace, a big hard 10′ boof into a nasty hole with giant boils in between you and the finish line. After a summer of play boating, I am fired up to race again. I hurt my shoulder at the Alseseca Race on the third drop and it hasn’t recovered yet. I hurt it again at Homestake in my final run before the race and haven’t been able to race since. A summer of play boating, push-ups, overhead presses, and tightening my shoulder back up has me good enough to go again. We’ll hit up Octoberfest’s final day in Munich on the way home again, as part of our tradition, and I’ll be home in mid-October! There is one more big race, the Green Race, which I rarely have the motivation to want to leave home the week after I get home from Sickline.
The Green Race is a big race as well, but a scale down from Sickline which is the most competitive extreme race of the year by far. I am hoping that I am motivated to do it this year, but Rock Island will be calling my name, my bed, my porch, my yard, my factory, etc… We’ll see. Dane and Nick are super motivated already for Green Race as well. With the Karma Unlimited and the new Zen, that adds some serious motivating factors. Nothing has ever compared to the Zen for racing the Green in the creek boat category. The Karma Unlimited is going to rock it as well with a true creek boat feel, and fast out of drop planing, in a super fast long boat. We head to the Zambezi River in Zambia for a TV show filming and to help stop the Botoka Dam that will flood out one of the best rivers in the world in November as well.
OK, that reminds me why I am so fired up to get home- my time there is too short, so I should get on it while I can…
Today we have the Pan Am Championships at NOC hole. Last year we had the World Championships here and I got 8th place. Dane won. Nick was 10th. Nick and I were training together here yesterday and we both have decided it is just easiest to use our Worlds Routine from last year than to make up a new one today. Mine starts with what I call “Dazed and Confused” which relates to the judges, not to me. Goal- go so fast from move to move on the front end that they can’t keep up, and then move to the hard moves where they try to catch up. It is a theoretical approach of mine to getting more leniency from the judges, but not proven. I didn’t pull it off at the worlds, where I failed to get my routine during Semi-finals and didn’t make finals. Here is a second chance to try it and I think I’ll do just that.
The RV is holding together pretty well considering a non-stop tour with almost no time to fix anything. We got a new rear tire fixed after I got stuck in the mud at the Put-in of the Ottawa and when I got out realized that the rear left tire marks were only 1 tire instead of the dually tires like the right side. I had a flat inside tire hidden by the outside dually tire. It was just flat, not blown. However, it is scary having a truck and trailer on the back of the RV with only one tire holding up the big Cummins 300 diesel and a big RV as well. This winter we’ll fix everything that we can’t keep up with 6-9 people in the RV (we had Alec, Hayden, Courtney, Emily, KC, Nick, Tucker, Kristine, and I at one point, and always had at least 6 plus 3-5 dogs, depending on Dane’s, and Emily’s) during the summer.
During this summer KC learned to talk much better and his vocabulary doubled in the past 3 months (he has a learning disorder that has slowed down his speech, while his other skills and intelligence are very high) Tucker learned to walk and is good friends with KC. Kristine blew her knee out somehow and can walk, but that is about it, so needs to figure out how to fix it when we get home. Dane and I got hearing aids from Starkey Hearing’s owner Bill Austin and they are life changers. Dane is a different person with them in. Responsive, and engaged, compared to aloof and seemingly not caring to be involved. It is all about hearing.
I have been fishing and having a great time with that, while fine tuning my skills. I’ll be doing a few bass fishing competitions next year, and fired up to test my mettle against others who also think they are really good at it.
I am fired up to be working on next year’s Jackson Kayak products already. We just launched our Cooler line, Orion Coolers, and think we have a winner there. Dave Olson really drove that project and made it happen. Damon really lead the product development/design team and our production team is figuring out how to make them effectively. Our new kayaks are always a year out… we are just launching the ones today that we started on last year. The new Fun and Zen, the Kraken and Coosa HD, Big Rig Pro, Petrel, etc. etc.. Jackson Kayak made 8 new products compared to the next competitor who made 2… We like to work hard and make a difference where we can. Next year will be the same.. My dad always told me you can beat 90% of everyone just by working harder than them.
I am going to make a cup of coffee and get ready for the day. It is getting light out here in the “land of the Noonday sun” at NOC. Kristine and KC are sleeping, the water has not gone on yet.
Disc Golf, fire in the fire pit, dinner in a big kitchen at a big table with the family, family games in the living room, or out on the deck, swimming in the lake… That will get us started for tomorrow at home!