Corey Rich Photography

Is Dane Jackson Male Paddler of the Year?

Dane Jackson has been touted as a kayaking prodigy since his age was still single digits. Flashes of brilliance and raw talent have always been Dane staples, mostly in the freestyle discipline, but that's changing. Dane—who recently turned 18—went on a tear in 2011, winning a junior world title at the ICF Freestyle Kayak World Championships (in which he was the first to compete in all four freestyle disciplines, taking home gold in three), the freestyle title in the USACK North American Whitewater Junior Olympics, and beating a field of 28 of the world's best paddlers in big water at the inaugural, cross-discipline Whitewater Grand Prix). From now on he's going to be playing with the big boys. How will he fare? His results already speak for themselves. Here’s a timeline of his unprecedented last year. — Will Taylor

Watch Dane go big here in a clip by Tyler Fox on a monster wave in Quebec called “The Land of the Lost” during the 2011 spring runoff. At 70,000 cfs, Fox called it “without a doubt the biggest, most gnarly wave ever surfed.” Dane throws an airscrew, followed by other impressive surfs from Canadian paddlers Ben Marr, Nick Troutman, and Joel Kowalski. See the full clip HERE.

January: Rung in the New Year paddling the Rio Jalacingo in Veracruz, Mexico. "Best run ever," Dane said.

February: Went to the White Nile in Africa with the family, away from their Rock Island, Tenn. home base. Filmed for upcoming instructional Jackson Kayak playboating DVD and trained for freestyle World Championships.

March: Dane wins the juniors division in the Alabama Mountain Games, the first event of the USA Point Series for Freestyle Kayaking. His junior wave score was the highest of the entire competition—including seniors. He also won C-1. "His ability has been top level for about three years but he just didn't have the maturity to compose his mind," Clay Wright, of Jackson Kayak said. "It's the first year where he thought, 'I'm gonna do well and compete as a junior. I actually want to learn how to win.'"

April: Dane wins the junior division in the USAFK national point series, gets third in the men's division, and gets second overall at the T'Ville Triple Crown. He wins Juniors, C-1, and OC-1 at the NOC shootout.

May: Dane takes the win at the inaugural Whitewater Grand Prix, an event featuring 28 of the world's best paddlers in six events. The event was held over a two-week period in both Ontario and Quebec. Ben Marr took second and Rush Sturges took third. "He definitely came into his own in terms of his creeking ability," Sturges said. "He was out there styling lines as good as anybody or better."

After the event, Jackson stayed and surfed some massive, big-water waves. "He hasn't spent as much time on these big waves like Ben (Marr)," Patrick Camblin, the organizer of the Grand Prix, said. "He was not hesitating at all. He was going as hard or harder than anyone else in the most dangerous spots."

June: Dane wins a trio of gold medals at the International Canoe Federation Freestyle Kayak World Championships in Germany. Jackson won gold in Junior Men's K-1, C-1 and Squirt, plus a bronze in OC-1. "His junior rides would have won the senior men's class," Dane's dad, Eric, “E.J.” Jackson said. "He didn't miss a move. Watching him compete in that class was just incredible. Three golds and a bronze all in one day. He was obviously making history." He was subsequently named the U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete of the Month for June.

July: Dane takes the national title in Juniors, C-1, and OC-1 at the USA Freestyle Kayak National Championships. Dane turns 18 on July 19. He's officially an adult and must now compete as a senior for the rest of his career. "He's always competing against me and the rest of the crew now," E.J. said. "It's the real deal. We'll see how he handles the pressure. I think he'll handle this like he handles everything else: no problem."

August: Spends a month in Ottawa, training and paddling with the family.

September: Goes to Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championships and gets 29th. "It's kind of nice (to not do well). If I didn't get 29th or 13th every once in a while, I'd get full of myself. It gets your mind in the right place to train harder next time."

October: E.J. and Dane sign with Kokatat with plans to deliver a signature line of Kokatat paddling products by 2013.

November: Dane travels around West Virginia by himself in his raised '93 Land Cruiser before heading to Mexico to paddle in the Veracruz region.

"There's good water (in Tennessee) right now," Dane said. "I have nothing planned. I'm just going to hang out at home for a little while."

More Dane? Check out this video promoting the launch of Nikon’s new D4 with footage shot by Corey Rich and featuring Dane.