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What a whirlwind. As I sit here in an awkwardly dark cabin getting ready to touch back down into the US-I can’t help but reflect and think about the sheer chaos of getting to England in the first place. I have been on the road since March. My family and I travel in a 32 foot Keystone Trailer with a big diesel GMC truck pulling it from one river to the next. We have seen almost 20 of Jackson Kayak’s dealer, competed in dozens of events and road tripped from TN, OK WV, VA, MD, PA, NH, Montreal, Ontario, WI, IA, and CO. From CO we wrapped up the GoPro Mountain Games and flew to England from Denver with one last Fun Tour in Fort Collins.

World Championships Recap with Emily Jackson

The trip started with even more challenges that if you had asked me if I could handle it- my answer would have been no. On the Sunday of the Mountain Games my husband Nick was participating in the 8 Ball Event- a boatercross with 8 more paddlers in the river trying to make it even harder to cross the finish line. Nick ended up placing top 3 and mentioned taking a little hit, but within an hour, he was asleep with a concussion and not doing so hot. As we have been exposed to him having concussions more times then anyone ever should, we got him into rest mode which meant I had to kick into superwoman for the next 72 hours. It started with packing up from Mountain Games- driving my grandma to the airport, and heading off towards our dealer, it then meant leading a Fun Tour Day that Nick did assist with but quickly needed to lay down. Once we finished our dealer visit I stayed up till 1am packing for England, as we flew out the next evening. Throughout the night, Nick had a ton of pressure in his head so we woke up, backed the trailer out and drove Nick to the hospital for a CT scan. While Nick was in the hospital I took the trailer to a KOA, did a dump and water, packed the trailer 100%, loaded the car. When the hospital cleared him for flying, I picked him up, dropped the trailer off at our dealer, drove to a parking spot and off to the aiport we went. Keeping in mind he couldn’t do heavy lifting etc and here we are with 3 luggage, 2 boats, paddle bags, small children and more. We somehow ended up paying very little for luggage- a blessing considering the boats, paddles, car seats and 100 JK Shirts.

Once we made it onto the flight I finally felt some normalcy and relaxation, but I still hadn’t shifted into- We’re going to the World Championships mindset. The kids hadn’t had a lot of screen time so I allowed them screens galore on the plane and they didn’t say a peep. With the help of children’s melatonin they also slept at least half of the flight. Nick was supposed to have no stimulation still so he had his ear plugs and face mask on from start to finish. I felt a little like a one man band but I was so grateful that he was with me on the plane as the reality of going alone was something we considered that morning.

We made it to Nottingham after some entertaining off side driving. It was still day and I was itching to get on the water. Tired, jet lagged, dehydrated, we got our necessities for kayaking into the car and zipped over, now with my Dad as well.

The second I was putting my gear on- the excitement of 10 days of training hit me, and my World Championships training had begun!

The first few days I could do my entire routine, but the challenge with this feature wasn’t the moves, as the moves were quite easy, especially to the right, but it was angled so staying in the feature and getting back to surfers right took time, and when you only have. 45 seconds, you need a plan. Thanks to watching and paddling with some seriously impressive paddlers, not to mention getting tid bits from David McClure- I started figuring out how to best speed up my routine.

I always set my routine high, with the hopes of getting through, but knowing that I should get far in the competition even if I don’t complete the full thing. My routine had me at about 1,000 points, I knew it probably wouldn’t be enough to win, but it could and would get me far.

World Championships Recap with Emily Jackson

Dane was meant to arrive for team training, but text messages and tests of athletes that participated at the North Fork Championships came through saying that a ton of people had covid. Dane received the messages once in England- went to his hotel room, and was locked in for the entire week of team training. Had he arrived and tested even one day later, he would have been pulled from the competition. This was hard as now my Mom, KC, Dad and all of us were there together to spend time training, paddling and being all in one place. Luckily we’re all resilient and make the most out of any scenario. So we sent games to Dane and wished him luck- Yahtzee, and numerous other games plus ginger shots, positive vibes and whatever texts to keep him sane. Luckily for us he has a GF so we didn’t feel so bad for him being on his own, and Chloe who also had Covid kept him company for the entire week.

Dad was paddling incredibly well, sometimes he forgot what he was working on but on the water he out paddled so many people a 1/3 of his age. His resilience is something we can all learn from and was a great person to have as a training partner.

World Championships Recap with Emily Jackson

Nick was so happy just to make it there, his laid back attitude brought out some of the best hole boating I’ve seen him do in years. I was so proud of him, even more proud of his approach.

Team Training is when the timed rides start, so each country gets about 3 minutes per paddler- so at about 20+ paddlers we got just over an hour. This is when pressure starts because you recognize how slow or how fast you need to go. Fast between moves, but not rushing the moves themselves is key… as moves that don’t count are a major waste of time.

As a seasoned competitor at the World Championships, I used this opportunity to give positive reinforcement and tips/ pointers to our newer athletes but also to push myself. The Worlds having been postponed for an added year which meant that we had a flurry of new juniors who not only made a huge splash but did incredibly well at the event. The young exciting energy was contagious and gave off the feeling of everyone just being excited to simply be together in one eddy.

I continued to improve my paddling but also spend time everyday doing things that I didn’t intend to add to my routine but simply grow as a paddler, this meant I executed lunar loops, tricky loops, split phonics monkeys and even split tricky woos… (I know freestyle jargon is equally humorous to me too)

Once the event started I spent almost everyday at the course, watching people rise and fall to the challenge, watching people cry, laugh, push, hold back.. its amazing watching the transformation of athletes once they get a thumbs up for their 45 second ride.

One thing I am most proud of was my ability to smile even while anxious, anxious to see, do I still have it…. Can I perform when needed? As photos are getting sent to me now, I am seeing I not only smiled before and after each run, but during my runs. I was calm, composed and truly having fun.

Prelims was my worst round, I rushed the moves and several didn’t score. Quarters I had rides I was proud of, semi’s I had two rides, one counts, and I was not making the cut from 10 to 5 on my first run, my second run I impressed myself with last minute thinking of throwing some cartwheel moves on the buzzer and it paid off! I made it into the Finals. One step further then I had thought I would. I know I could, but I wasn’t sure it would happen. I was so happy to have Dane and I both through into the finals, that at this point it was all joy. But now I knew I could medal.

World Championships Recap with Emily Jackson

When finals came, I did my first ride and I was very proud of it. Two hard tricks didn’t count BUT, if they had all counted (and they were close) it would have been close to a 1,000 pt ride- just the two tricks off left (they were big tricks) I landed in the 600’s and in 4th place. I fought the next two rounds but I had left it all out on my first ride and the other two weren’t pulling together as well. The other girls were having okay but not their best rides either, except for Ottilie who was poised to win from the start. With her training, capabilities and familiarity of pressure, she was always the one this worlds was made for. I barely got bumped off the podium by good friend Marlene Devillez and honestly it didn’t change much for me as my ride was my ride, I was proud of it. The fact that we were so close between 2nd-5th made my realize how much more potential I had at this Worlds BUT I wouldn’t change any aspect of my training or journey to change anything.

The men’s class followed us and I was already having celebratory drinks, and cheering my hardest for the boys. Dane had already proved that he should be in the top 5, from there it was anyone’s games. I truly didn’t think with none of team training, and lower energy that Dane could win, I knew it could place but his competitors were much better prepared. But Dane’s mental game continues to be the strongest of anyone I know, and I cant emphasize the importance, he was cheering harder for his team mates, and competitors than anyone else, he truly wished the best for them all. This approach left him in a very happy and supportive space, which allowed him to lay it all our on his 3rd and final ride. Man what a ride, I cant tell you how much fun it was to yell at him from the banks, a big UP every time he got close to a flush to help him know- you’re still in it. Still in the game.

When he had his ride, nothing else mattered, 1st, 5th- no one can take your rides away, they can only change the placings. Not even the judges really control your rides, they can tell you the scores, but when you are proud of your ride in your heart, it’s the best feeling. You could see Dane’s pride the second the buzzer went. As his older sister and one of his biggest fans, the smile and excitement was contagious and EVERYONE was hyped.

Having it be a winning ride, phew it was emotional- Dad, Mom, Chloe, Nick, all of us were on straight fire. The lessons I learnt from this experience boils down to:
1- Never underestimate your experience- it can be a huge help in scenarios.
2- Those who have the most fun go the furthest.
3- Trust YOUR process, just because its different doesn’t mean it’s not the best one for YOU.
4- Strive to grow, conflict leads to growth, so try to recognize that when things feel hard.
5- People will rarely remember how you do, but how you make them feel- so always remember that through your process.
6- Take time to say thank you to those who help you.

My husband Nick- for being my rock, biggest supporter and fan. Reminding me daily to be proud.

My kids- for helping me daily by reminding me that win or lose doesn’t matter, that it’s about the journey.

My parents, for offering support in every aspect of getting ready, and for raising me to live life MY way and no one else’s. I wouldn’t think I was capable if I wasn’t raised being told I could do anything I wanted.

Dane for supporting me every single ride, and sharing in his thoughts, feelings throughout the journey, made me feel very invested into the event and his win felt like a win for me too.

My adoptive Aunt and Uncles- Aunt Jessie and Uncle Clay and Aunt Andi, for showing me unconditional love, support and chocolate.

My in laws for adding so much adventure to the kids visit to England- I didn’t have the band-with and you guys took a big part in helping me make that happen!

Anna Bruno and Chloe for words of encouragement or comic relief.

David McClure for helping me set up faster.

My work tribe for making the best boats, giving me space and encouragement. (it means more than you will ever know) (Colin, Peter, James, Donita, Bridgett, Will, to the people who built my boat, and everyone else in between)

Melissa Hargrove and Hargrove and Holcombe family for support, videoing, photos and cheers!

Aaron and Rhona for being the best distributors and ensuring so many people had what they needed, the sport is blessed to have you in it, and I can’t thank you enough.

Jacko and Josh for running the event and the ICF Team that did an incredible job with judging.

Lastly, I want to thank ME- for choosing the crazy, unconventional life that has been a wild ride. I am so blessed to have met the people I’ve met, shared and eddy with and I wouldn’t trade it for anything…

THANK YOU for all your support! What an incredible community we have in paddlesports!

Emily Jackson