The Reign of Dane Stays on the Grain (Hey, we had to make it rhyme…)  

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Dane, en route to his course record.

It’s been a long time coming, but Red Bull kayaker Dane Jackson set a new course record on his way to a repeat victory at Green Race 2019, finishing with the fastest time ever recorded in the 24-year history of the iconic whitewater race. And Adrienne Levknecht, 31, of Greenville, South Carolina, held on to her title as the race’s most winning female, winning for the 10thtime in 14 races, including the last five years in a row.

Last year Jackson reached one of his career-long goals by winning the annual race, which takes place the first Saturday of every November in the Green River Narrows in western North Carolina. (He tied Eric Dequil in 2015 for first place).

This year, at the 24th annual race, he arrived more focused than ever before and took that concentration to navigate the Class V course faster than 140 of the other long kayakers competing, as well as everyone else who has ever competed in the race’s two-plus decades-long history. Jackson finished with a time of 4 minutes, 4 seconds, beating the previous race record of 4:05.5 set by France’s Deguil in 2017, by one second.

The Green Race is a special race for the paddling prodigy who grew up in Tennessee, only a few hours drive from the stretch of river where the race is held. The steep whitewater and hundreds of diehard fans that hike out to the race make it a special experience.

“This is my tenth year competing in the race and I always look forward to it. It’s one of my favorite days of the year,” Jackson said.

Even Gorilla couldn’t stop Jackson from shaving a second off the previous course record.

Jackson took this year’s race pretty seriously, embarking on a new training regimen in and out of the water, studying his past runs on film, and adding modifications to his equipment. These included using a much lighter kayak for speed and maneuverability. Near-ideal water conditions helped him break the record.

“The water level was a rare in-between level, not too high, not too low,” Dane said when describing the day’s river conditions. “That level gave me the potential to have the fastest time, but also made the moves were harder for the long kayaks, especially in the second half of the course. When I got to the bottom, I knew I didn’t quite reach my goal of a sub-4-minute time but was stoked to have a run without any major mistakes.”

Michael Ferraro placed second in 4:12.8 and Pat Keller in third in 4:20.7

Adrienne Levknecht, 31, of Greenville, South Carolina, held on to her title as the Green Race’s most winning female. She won the women’s race Saturday in 4:33.3. That makes 10 wins out of 14 races, including the last five years in a row. Emily Shanblatt was second in 5:28.5 and Erin Savage placed third in 6:02.4.

 

A Quick Q&A with the Champ:

What makes the Green race so special to kayakers? The intensity and difficulty to put together a smooth run when you only have one chance. The whole vibe and great community surrounding it also sets it apart.

What do you like about the race? I have to train hard, paddle hard on race day, and put all the training into one run. The best part is definitely coming around the corner and seeing the roaring crowd. All you want to do is not eat it off of a rapid called Gorilla right in front of them.

How has your upbringing with EJ put you in a position to succeed? Traveling the world with him and the rest of my family in my younger days, I’ve been around kayaking all my life. The opportunities he gave me, the amount of time he spent teaching me, and the positive way he got me into the sport has had a huge effect on my success.

Your dad never won the faster longboat division…how’s it feel to win, and set a course record on, something he hasn’t? He won the short boat division the year he raced, but he hasn’t ever competed in the long boat category. I’m just stoked to be at the top.