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For me, being in a Jackson Kayak Dynamic Duo is directly connected with whitewater river racing. My first race in a tandem whitewater kayak was the Ocoee River Race in Tennessee, winning a gold medal with my good friend Sam. From that point on, I was hooked on racing a tandem whitewater kayak whenever I could. Most recently, I’ve raced in the tandem kayak division two years in a row at the Cedar River Slalom Race in Washington State.

I just love the thrill and camaraderie of paddling a tandem river kayak. It requires trust as you’re sharing control of a single vessel. It requires delegation, as the bow person can see what’s upcoming more clearly and build up a lot of momentum and the stern person can have a lot of control in changing direction and doubling up on speed. One of my favorite moments in a tandem kayak was unintentionally surfing Double Suck hole on the Ocoee River and coming out of it unscathed. This occurred during one of our practice runs for the Ocoee River Race and we were absolutely stoked having accomplished that feat of navigating out of a treacherous hole that loves to give folks a ride through a washing machine.

The Dynamic Duo can also be a really good way to introduce your friends and family members to their first river kayaking adventure, if you’re confident in solo navigating the duo from the stern seat. I bought the Dynamic Duo primarily for two reasons: 1) racing and 2) taking my family members on their first whitewater kayaking adventure.

I haven’t quite learned how to solo roll a Dynamic Duo, so I usually coordinate the roll with the other paddler to be back-to-back, where one person initiates a kayak roll and then the other person attempts another roll while the kayak is in rolling motion. Finishing a tandem kayak roll is VERY exciting for me because two people were able to coordinate with heads underwater to complete a kayak roll. It almost feels like a magic trick.

Racing a tandem kayak on a slalom course is highly stimulating, even for a slalom newbie like me. Catching each gate is usually tricky enough for single kayaks that are very dynamic in their ability to do pivot turns, let alone a longer and less agile kayak with two people in it. I am impressed with how agile the Dynamic Duo is at making highly technical maneuvers and spinning around. Slalom kayaking involves gates that must either be navigated while moving downstream or moving upstream. Penalties are assessed if you miss a gate, pass a gate out of order, or any part of your body or paddle make contact with the gate before or while navigating through the gate. This last part is one of the trickiest parts of tandem slalom kayaking and requires making sure each person is able to make it through the gate before starting the next move.

At the Cedar River Slalom Race this year, my friend Jacob and I decided to race in the tandem kayak division. Jacob is an exceptional slalom paddler so I knew we were in for a really fun time. Gate #1 was one of the most nerve-wracking gates, as it involved a quick turn from moving downstream in the right channel of current to moving upstream to attain into the left channel of current. We were able to coordinate an incredible maneuver getting both of us through the gate and spinning the kayak on a dime to move back upstream, all without hitting the gate. From there, we proceeded to navigate 100% of the slalom gates which was above and beyond what I thought we’d accomplish. We did have a few penalties as I didn’t have the same body fluidity that Jacob had when moving around to avoid hitting a gate. At the finish line, we felt excitement and satisfaction with our performance. We also were able to pay tribute to a member of the paddling community who frequently dominated the tandem kayak division in slalom races but sadly passed on to the great rivers in the sky.

If you’re seeing a river race on the calendar, consider hopping in a Jackson Kayak Dynamic Duo to spice things up a bit and enjoy a race with a good friend or family member. Remember to laugh and smile as you accomplish extraordinary things together.