Watch out, young freestyle and extreme race bucks. Fresh from prowling for fish, elder whitewater statesman and four-time World Freestyle Champ Eric “EJ” Jackson, at the ripe age of 53, is now prowling for the podium on the western freestyle circuit, recently qualifying for the USA Freestyle Team for a whopping 25th time.
That result on May 30 and 31 on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colo., was better than his finish in the CKS Paddlefest event a few days earlier, but it's what he was focused on.
“I’ve represented the USA Team for Freestyle at every world championships since 1993, except for one, 2015 on the Ottawa, where I messed up team trials in Glenwood,” he says. “I was hoping to get myself back on the team again this year with a solid performance.”
That he did, saving a bag of tricks, and energy after the weekend's events, to qualify.
For EJ, it was part of the plan all along.
As he posted on his Jackson Kayak blog, “I am driving to Colorado from Wisconsin today, switching gears from fishing to whitewater. I’ve had some great whitewater kayaking this season already, with high water everywhere, but I have four competitions in a row coming up.”
Bracing for some colder paddling temps – “The water at Rock Island is a great temperature for swimming--80 degrees; Colorado’s is in the 40s—I’ll have to get used to that again,” he says -- with his quiver in tow, he’s also prepping for a few Extreme races. “I have two boats I’ll be competing in in Colorado -- the Rock Star and the Nirvana, which I’m excited to race Homestake Creek at the GoPro Games in. It’s a super technical, steep, tough course.”
Stop number one for EJ started with CKS Paddlefest, paddling the Arkansas while, more importantly, using the event to train at the whitewater park for the USA Team Trials May 30-31, with a berth in the World Championships in Argentina on the line.
At CKS Paddlefest, EJ finished 8th in Prelims, with only the top five advancing, so he was out of a podium spot. His 1,550 points in the Prelims placed him behind son Dane’s 2,726, son-in-law Nick Troutman’s 2,543 and eventual winner Hunter Kaitich’s 3,183. But that was fine with EJ, as his main goal was qualifying for the team, which he did for what has to be a record 25th time.
By no means resting on his laurels, he's now preparing for such other events as the Lyons Outdoor Games, Go Pro Mountain Games, Animas River Days and FIBArk event in Salida.
EJ’s Results At a Glance:
1993 World Championships, Ocoee- 1st Place
1995 World CHampionships- Augsburg, Germany- 13th place
1996 Pre-World Championship- Ottawa River, Canada- 6th place
1997 World Championships- Ottawa River, Canada- 2nd place
1998 Pre-World Championships, Taupo, New Zealand- 4th place
1999 World Championships- Taupo, New Zealand- 9th place
2000 Pre-World Championships- Sort, Spain- 1st place
2001 World Championships- Sort, Spain- 1st place
2002 Pre-World Championships- Graz, Austria- 5th Place
2003 World Championships- Graz, Austria- 4th place
2004 Pre-World Championships- Penrith, Australia- 1st Place
2005 World Championships- Penrith, Australia- 1st Place
2006 World Cup- USA/Canada- 1st Place
2007 World Championships- Ottawa, Canada- 1st Place
2008 World Cup- Europe- 5th place
2009 World Championships- Thun, Switzerland, 2nd Place
2010 World Cup- Europe- 4th Place
2011 World Championships- Plattling, Germany- 11th Place
2012 World Cup- North America- 5th Place
2013 World Championships- North Carolina, USA- 8th place
2014 World Cup- didn’t do it
2015 World Championships- didn’t make team