While many of us thought outside the box during the pandemic’s restrictions, few adventurers took it to the level of world champion kayaker Dane Jackson, who got after it both with an impromptu trip to Africa to ride “one of craziest waves I’ve ever surfed,” and even surfing a massive wake behind a pair of 90-foot yachts in Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
When Jackson calls a wave crazy, you should pay attention, given the scale and degree of whitewater that the freakishly talented paddler has made look easy.
The Miami mission brought the 27-year-old kayaker to Florida to ride the wake of the dual yachts, simulating the perfect wave for kayaking. “I did it a couple of a years ago with wake boats, but always felt we could go bigger,” Jackson says. “I was just trying to make as sick of a wave as we could to do some tricks. But it was hard to get it perfect; there were a lot of variables.”
With the help of sponsor Red Bull and pro wakeboarders Parks Bonifay, Brian Grubb and Bob Soven, Jackson motored out into Biscayne Bay to work his magic. In the end, the perfect wave formed when the yachts were 45 feet apart, moving at 11.5 knots in 10-foot waters.
“I’ve never really done anything like this on this big of boats before,” says Bonifay. “Every little variable can change the way the wave is, from speed to how far apart you are.”
Once they dialed in the Big Kahuna, Jackson dropped in. Dropped in that is, via jet-ski tow.
“It was somehow both hilarious and awesome at the same time,” says Jackson. “I never thought I’d surf a wave behind yachts in Miami. It’s one of those cool ‘what if’ things that I’m stoked we pulled off. Luckily, Parks and Grubb were there to help dial it in. If we could’ve gotten into some deeper water we could have made it even better; we might have to follow up sometime.”
Jackson followed that up with an even bigger surf outing on Africa’s Zambezi River at flood. There, he hit a massive wave in the middle of the river’s notorious Rapid No. 9.
“It’s a steep, big rapid and very chaotic at those flows,” he says. “It was one of the biggest, most out-of-control and craziest waves I’ve ever surfed. It was mainly just survival mode out there as it was constantly shifting, greening out and tossing you around. It was pretty insane.”
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“Some of the crashes I had on it rivaled impacts from 100-foot drops I’ve done,” he adds. “We only got a few sessions on it but it was truly one of the coolest, wildest and most insane waves I’ve ever surfed.”
As for what’s next as restrictions slowly ease, Jackson is already concocting other feats of derring-do. “It’s tough to say what we’ll be able to pull off this year, but I do want to do some more exploring,” he says, rattling off ideas in California, Norway and Canada. “It just depends on how things are looking. Hopefully, by fall we’ll be able to get back to some of the projects we originally had in mind for 2020.”
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