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ROCK ISLAND, TN – Emily and Dane Jackson, 15 and 12 at the time of the feat, are the youngest male and female kayakers to ever run the mighty Nile and Zambezi Rivers in Africa.
The brother-sister duo tackled the rivers in January under the tutelage and on the heels of their illustrious father, three-time and defending World Freestyle Kayak Champion and former Olympian, Eric â€œEJâ€ Jackson.
First â€˜discovered’ in 1862, it has only been during the past decade that paddlers began unlocking the secrets of the White Nile. Only 50 kilometers of the river are commercially rafted and regularly paddled. Emily and Dane both ran the infamous Kalagala Falls and surfed a giant playboating wave called Nile Special.
Kalagala Falls is respectfully avoided by all but the very best kayakers. It includes a 20-foot waterfall with an incredible volume of water pouring over it equal in force to Niagara Falls. The Nile Special is a big crashing bouncy wave that makes many kayakers’ heart rates go off the scale, but allows the best to perform aerial freestyle maneuvers, which is exactly what Emily and Dane did.
Both teens had impressive maiden voyages on the Zambezi River too. The Zambezi is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s toughest commercially run rivers. Dane performed a freestyle kayak maneuver called a freewheel into the giant hole at Rapid No. 5 (aka Stairway to Heaven by raft outfitters). The gutsy move has been attempted by a few other adult professional kayakers; it involves the paddler intentionally swapping ends vertically in mid-air as they fall off the edge of the drop and fall into the pit of giant hole. Emily surfed at No. 8, a Zambezi classic featuring a drop into the guts of a 15-foot crashing hole called â€œStar Trekâ€.