Kayaker Dane Jackson just paddled over a 134-ft waterfall
Yes, it is as epic as it sounds
American kayaker Dane Jackson made headlines this week for paddling over a 134-foot waterfall in Chile. But it didn’t happen overnight. The current ICF canoe freestyle world champion has been planning the drop for years, waiting for the right opportunity.
“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,” Jackson says.
“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.”
Jackson, a Tennesse native, is the son of kayaking legend Eric Jackson, an Olympic paddler and founder of the company Jackson Kayaks. His sister Emily is also a world champion kayaker, who happens to be married to Get Out There ambassador Nick Troutman.
Dane Jackson accompanied Troutman on his recent adventure becoming the first person to kayak over the Detain Waterfall in China, as documented in Get Out There.
Jackson says approaching the lip of the waterfall before dropping 134 feet in a kayak was a sublime and unique feeling.
“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,” he says. “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 a 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.”
Although everything on the descent went exactly as Jackson planned, he wasn’t quite able to paddle away from the drop as he’d hoped.
“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,” he explains. “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.”
Although the waterfall is epic, it doesn’t break the world record for height, which was set by Tyler Bradt on the 189-foot Palouse Falls in Washington in 2009. Yes, that’s 17 feet taller than Niagara Falls. No big deal.
But, Jackson isn’t chasing any records, preferring to find his own adventures.
“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,” he says. “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.”
One thing that makes Jackson unique amongst the world’s top paddlers is his severe hearing loss, with which he was born. But he says it’s something that doesn’t hold him back at all since there isn’t really an auditory component to the sport.
Photo (and lead photo) by Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool
“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,” Jackson says. “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.”
Currently, that plan has Jackson and a few other paddlers ripping through Indonesia and having more adventures.
“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,” he says. “Beyond Indonesia, I'm not very good at planning ahead.”
Jackson is one of the busiest and entertaining kayakers on social media. To follow along on his exploits, check out his Instagram feed.