INTERVIEW: Glorious feeling staring down the beast – Dane Jackson

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

American kayaker reveals story behind 134ft Salto del Maule waterfall drop.

American kayaker Dane Jackson has revealed the story behind his breathtaking 134-foot descent down the Salto del Maule waterfall in Chile, after his paddle over the edge became the second highest in history.

The reigning ICF canoe freestyle world champion grew up travelling the USA in an RV with his family, getting homeschooled by his mother and chasing kayaking competitions with his father, Eric Jackson, an Olympic paddler and founder of the company Jackson Kayaks.

The 26-year-old, who has now completed six waterfalls that are at least 100-feet high, has spent the last decade travelling the planet in search of new places to freestyle kayak as well as dominating the competition scene since he won the Whitewater Grand Prix in 2011.

Here is what the Tennessee native had to say after his latest adventure feat shocked the world:

1. How much research went into identifying this particular waterfall, and what makes it so special?

Whenever there’s a moment where you get shown a waterfall that hasn’t been done, or you come across a photo, it always sparks something that makes you have to answer the question; is it possible? I’ve been shown drops before, but when I was shown Salto del Maule four years ago, it’s the most obsessed I’ve been with a waterfall – constantly looking at photos and videos trying to make up my mind on it. It looks so perfect and the location is breathtaking, but there were a lot of question marks on the depth which is what mainly stopped me from committing to go see it. When I got a message in January showing a good clip of it, I knew it was time to see it for myself and make the call.

2. How do you prepare yourself mentally for something as scary as the waterfall drop?

The biggest thing is making sure to cover all the bases from the line itself, to what could go wrong and where to have safety, and then have an internal discussion on whether or not I have 100% confidence in hitting the line. By covering all of that, feeling 100% on the line, as well as preparing for what could happen and accepting that, it allows me to make sure I am doing it for the right reasons. For Maule the line looked amazing, there was solid safety, and it was a dream drop of mine, so I knew there was nothing else I’d rather be doing then.

3. Can you describe the feeling on the edge, just as you are about to drop?

It’s hard to describe as it happens so fast but, more than anything, it’s the moment where everything kind of snaps into place for me. It’s where it’s time to see if the lip acts like you imagined, or react properly if not. It also is the most glorious feeling coming over that blind horizon and then staring down the beast because most waterfalls you get water in your face and realistically only have clear vision as you are coming over the lip. That’s the moment you remember most and Maule was the greatest I’ve ever experienced.

4. Did everything go to plan, or were there things that went wrong?

In the end, everything from the lip, to my line, to the hit at the bottom went as perfectly as I could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, after I hit, my skirt came off filling my boat with water. Although I did stay in my boat as I popped up, I ended up coming out of my boat after which does take away from it being a perfect descent as I wasn’t able to simply just paddle away from the drop. That being said, with a drop of that power and height, how things turned out is still a win for me. Though things could have gone a bit better, with waterfalls of that size, things could go much worse so I am stoked on how it all turned out.

5. Is it the most adrenaline spiking kayaking experience that you have ever undertaken?

It definitely was one of my greatest experiences. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was another level of adrenaline considering I still had to focus on what I had done before. I also didn’t know the height as I wanted to wait until after I ran it to measure it. I wanted to wait until after because, by looking at it, I felt it looked a similar height to what I have done before. Everything made me really confident in doing the line right, which allowed me to do exactly what I needed to do. If I had measured it beforehand and realised it was the tallest drop I had done, maybe I would have been more nervous or hesitant. I would have still had a great line, but I might not have had the same confidence.

6. Do you ever want to try and beat Tyler Bradt‘s 189-foot Palouse Falls world record?

I wouldn’t call it a pursuit, although I’m sure there is one out there somewhere. It’s going to be hard to find a drop as perfect as Palouse. If I find it, and the opportunity presents itself, maybe I’ll take a look but I’m not on the hunt as I have got lots of other things I want do.

7. What new kayak places are you looking to explore for the remainder of this year?

I just touched down for a two-month trip in Indonesia where myself and a few friends plan to try and run a bunch of new waterfalls and sections. Beyond Indonesia, I’m not very good at planning ahead. My goal for this year is to try to break my usual routine, check out new places and find first descents.

8. How proud are you that you have overcome hearing difficulties to excel in your sport?

I wouldn’t say there was much to overcome as there isn’t much auditory stuff I can’t pick up or need to pick up. Beyond maybe not being able to hear what the plan for the next day is at the campfire, there’s not a whole lot of disadvantages. If anything, it’s an advantage as I am able to read lips, which means I can understand what someone is saying from across the river when describing what’s coming up or what the plan is.

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