2020 Rider of the Year

Presented by

The official logo of title sponsor Red Bull
Most outstanding male all around performance in the World of Whitewater Kayaking. The dude with the most progressive year, inspiring us all to push past our current belief of what we think is possible.

Dane Jackson

With an unreal season, incomparable to anything we have ever seen done previously in kayaking, Dane takes home Rider of the Year.


Dane has been on an absolute TEAR over the last 12 months.. He has won World Championship titles in two different disciplines, has had multiple waterfall first descents over 115 feet, an insanely STOUT first descent of Malupa Rapid on the infamous Indus River, broke course records racing, explored new flooded rivers and tossed in some impressive downriver freestyle in along the way!

Bottom line, he will have more fun than anyone while doing it.

Quarantine has also had him locked down and easy to find, allowing us to track him down and do a Q&A about some of his accomplishments in the past and future plans as well.

Whitewater Awards: Where are you from and where do you live (or would be living despite COVID!)?
DJ: I got a home base in Tennessee with the family, where I am currently spending my time. But I normally am in my RV traveling most of the year.

WA: How old are you?
DJ: I am 26.

WA: How many years have you been kayaking?
DJ: I have been kayaking since I was 2.

WA: How did you get into kayaking? 
DJ: My Dad was already a pro kayaker by the time I came around so he got me into it right away.

WA: What keeps you kayaking? 
DJ: The ability to be able to see some of the coolest places in the world and experience it with my friends and family. 

WA: Who’s in your family #’s of brothers, sisters? Do they paddle?
DJ: Dad, sis, brother in law, all boat. Mom helps make it possible.

WA: How many hours of sleep do you get roughly / ideally? Or SLEEP WHEN YOU DIE?!
DJ: Depends on the day, but I hate naps, save sleep for later, I stay awake as much as I can.

WA: Favorite food?
DJ: Sushi and hot sake, it just doesn’t get much better.

WA: Favorite quote? OR Pickup line?
DJ: Are you from Tennessee? Cause you’re the only Ten I See. 


WA: What is the most significant feat that stands out in your last year of impressive achievements? Of all your achievements?
All of them are special in their own ways. But I mean it’s hard to beat Salto del Maule, as it had been on my mind for a few years. It was one of the only times I have obsessed over something, so it was glorious to be able to make it happen. 

WA: How many first descents do you have?
DJ: There are smaller ones here and there but essentially 5. 

WA: How many World Championship titles do you have?
DJ: 8 golds. 4 in K1, 3 of them in the senior mens.

WA: How many years on the US Team?
DJ: Every year since 2004. 

WA: What is a drop / rapid you’ve walked away from in past that you want to check out again?
DJ: Nothing comes to mind really. For a long time now whenever I have walked away from something it’s usually a set of circumstances that I don’t like about it, not really if I felt good enough to run it. So I think even going back to things I walked away from being better, I probably still wouldn’t like it due to whatever made me walk away in the first place.

First Decent of Salto del Maule, Chile. Dane and buddy Raphael Boudreault-Simard (epic drone pilot and kayaker) made a flash trip to document free falling like never before.

WA: Top 3 rivers?
DJ: Middle Kings, Zambezi, Ottawa

WA: Favorite place you’ve traveled for kayaking? Not for kayaking?
DJ: Japan, snowboarding trip, so sick.

WA: Favorite piece of gear?
DJ: Rope.

WA: Favorite kind of kayaking, freestyle, creeking, racing etc.?
DJ: Depends on the mood. After a little bit of freefall I am ready to do some joy kayaking or freestyle. I think joy laps with half slice boats has become one of my favorite things to do, especially somewhere like the Zambezi.

WA: Is there a boat that changed the game for you / made the biggest impact on you in your career? 
DJ: The Fun1. I mean for years it was my playboat and my creekboat. Whether it was the Nile or South Silver, I was in the Fun1. It just gave me the chance to learn all the tricks I wanted, while also getting to start running harder whitewater with my Dad.

WA: If you could paddle just one boat for the rest of your days?
DJ: Antix, 100%. Still can do all the aspects of kayaking.

WA: Favorite sport other than kayaking?
DJ: I love messing around with lots of different sports but I would probably say Disc Golf.

The Zambezi River.
First Decent of Malupa, Indus River, Pakistan

WA: One word that describes you?
DJ: Stoked.

WA: Who is an inspiration that you look up to in your life in kayaking? Out of kayaking?
DJ: It will forever be my dad when it comes to kayaking, and basically everything in general.

WA: Something unique about you not many people know.. 
DJ: I am 70% deaf, so if I walk by you without responding its not cause I’m a dick, I just didn’t hear you.

WA: Something you’re really good at that isn’t kayaking?
DJ: I’m aight at Disc Golf.

WA: Something you want to get better at that isn’t kayaking?
DJ: Rapping.

WA: What personal qualities do you enjoy most in those who you push yourself with (ie. good humor, grit, perseverance)?
DJ: Optimism.


WA: Do you have a plan / method to get to your best / focused state?
DJ: However nervous or scared I am I make sure to get equally as fired up and stoked.

WA: How do you manage butterflies?
DJ: See above.

WA: What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
DJ: I show to a rapid or drop and can almost always find a line that I can hit. But that has the flip side of also the fact that it makes it harder to walk away from things.

WA: How do you make training sustainable / fun?
DJ: By just enjoying the time on the water, wherever it may be. 

WA: Is there a band or song that’s your go to when you need to get FIRED THE FUCK UP?!!
DJ: Fuel to the Fire by Rationale, or Homicide by Logic.

dane7 New
First D Narnia Falls, Hawaii

WA: Dream river you could design?
DJ: Lower Jalacingo into Little White, into the Zambezi, with Dream Wave at the end.

WA: Professional athlete you’d switch places with?
DJ: Pretty stoked on where I am at. Although Marc McMorris is the GOAT, crushes it.

WA: If you could be a DJ or lead singer in a band who / which band would that be?
DJ: You mean besides One Direction? Always been a Linkin Park fan, Chester was one of the most epic voices out there. 

WA: If you won a million dollars?! Would you invest, travel or get turnt?
DJ: Get turnt with the crew, then fly first class to get to a new country, then heli explore.

WA: Dream vehicle?
DJ: A decked out Raptor that can still pull my RV.

WA: Dream place to live? Or nomadic lifestyle and home is where you make it?!
DJ: Wherever I park my RV.

Home is where you park it.

WA: What is the sendiest thing you’ve done while in quarantine?
DJ: Definitely my current process of rewatching the entire MCU.

WA: SEND. Who is a part of it and how did it come about?
DJ: Adrian Mattern, Bren Orton, Kalob Grady and myself met up in Chile in 2016. I have grown up with Kalob, and had done some competing with Bren like at the Grand Prix, but I had only paddled with Adrian a handful of times. Once we started paddling together we realized we were all like minded, stoked on creating content, and had a dope dynamic on the water. Bren and Adrian had already started creating SEND, but after that trip we decided to make it the 4 of us.

WA: River you want to hit that you haven’t?
DJ: Stikine, way overdue.

WA: Something about surfing a wave between two yachts? 😉 WTF?! So dope bro.. tell us about this project if you can? When will we see it? 
DJ: Yeah I got to make that project happen over the winter, it was so fun and the craziest visual I have ever had. I am hoping the content will be coming out very soon!

WA: Any new or neat projects in the future? Or will we just have to wait and see?!
DJ: Always tryin to brainstorm, but got lots of ideas! Just gonna have to wait and see.

WA: What is your Instagram for the people? Someone on Instagram that is a must follow and you recommend (doesn’t have to be a kayaker)?!
DJ: @danejacksonkayak . If you are not following Kai Lenny or @pashatheboss you are missing out. 

WA: Goals outside of kayaking in the future?
DJ: I think it would be epic to have an album one day, I love rapping and singing.

WA: Words of wisdom to the next generation or those looking to push themselves?
DJ: Always assume you can improve and become better, but also make sure to enjoy every day on the water. No point to any of it if you are not enjoying yourself!

WA: Thank you Dane!







James Byrd

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top