Emily Jackson — Voices from the GoPro Mountain Games, Episode 3

Voices from the GoPro Mountain Games: Episode 3 

Emily Jackson

Emily Jackson is a professional kayaker and a mother of two. Kayaking is in her blood—her dad, Eric Jackson, is a World Champion freestyle kayaker and more often than not, you can find Emily on the water. Emily’s been competing at the Mountain Games for years, and this year she won all three of her events—a first for her. 

Just as community and competition are a big part of the Mountain Games, so is family. Emily and Gabaccia Moreno talk kayaking, legacy, family support, and making time for it all.

About the series:

Travel with She Explores for a weekend of adventure, art, music, and community at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. Through conversations with four women outdoorists and through the ears of first-time Mountain Games attendee Gabaccia Moreno, listeners have the opportunity to experience the games from afar and contemplate adventure in their own lives. 

This special She Explores miniseries is made in collaboration with the Vail Valley Foundation with support from LifeStraw.

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Featured in this episode: Emily Jackson

Hosted by Gale Straub & Gabaccia Moreno

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Featured in this episode:

Emily Jackson

Gabaccia Moreno met up with Emily Jackson at the Mountain Games for this special episode

Photo by Pat Brady


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TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This special 4-part series is made possible by LifeStraw. LifeStraw makes water safe to drink through their intentionally designed products for outdoor adventures, travel, and home. With every filter and purifier they sell, a child in need receives safe water for an entire school year. GoPro Mountain Games is proud to partner with LifeStraw to help make a weekend of adventure and community possible. Learn more at Lifestraw.com.

Emily Jackson:

Doing things that are inconvenient often while they feel inconvenient. There’s nothing on my list of things that I’m the most proud of. That was really convenient. It’s not like I did this and it was really convenient and I’m so proud. This is really inconvenient. And I’m stoked that I did it.

Gale Straub – Narration:

You’re listening to Voices from the GoPro Mountain Games, a She Explores podcast miniseries made in collaboration with the Vail Valley Foundation with support from LifeStraw. I’m Gale Straub and this episode features Emily Jackson in conversation with Gabaccia Moreno at the Mountain Games.

Announcer at the Mountain Games:

Emily Jackson looks really focused here…

Gale Straub – Narration:

Emily Jackson is a professional kayaker and a mother of two. Kayaking is in her blood — her dad is a World Champion freestyle kayaker and Emily’s been competing for years. When Gabaccia talked with her, she could tell Emily is doing what she loves:

Gabaccia Moreno:

Emily is on fire because she is ready. She’s eager. You can tell that she’s super passionate. I mean, when I was talking to her, I just thought how awesome that there are people in this world that have been doing something for so long and just know in their hearts, in their veins, in their breath, that this is the life that they want, that this is the thing that they can not be without and that’s kayaking for her. So, yeah, when I was talking with her, it was just passion, passion, passion, fire, fire fire.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Emily won all three kayaking events at the Mountain Games, a first for her. Gabaccia was there on the ground and able to watch:

Announcer at the Mountain Games:

…is holding down the second place spot right now with 425 points and just their head or her by just a mere 25 30 points. Emily Jackson with 455 points…

Gale Straub – Narration:

Emily’s whole family joined her at the Mountain Games. Gabaccia shared that she saw families everywhere — cheering on athletes and participating themselves:

Gabaccia Moreno:

There’s definitely a big family ambience. And also you factor in the dogs is just, you know, like the extended families, like you will get the mom, the dad, the, the siblings, and then the pups. Yeah. I would say the majority of people were in family or, you know, or chosen family. You hear too from, for example, Emily Jackson, she was telling me how she’s really grateful that her mom and her grandma are here. So she’s not only sharing the experience with like her, you know, her husband, her kids, but also with the other women in her family and how that, you know, makes it special to be able to share these moments. Um, also because they’re not the competition here is more comradery than, you know, like who’s the best or whatnot. So I think that it really is about those values and sharing. And family’s definitely central to that

Gale Straub – Narration:

Gabaccia and Emily met up in Vail to talk fueling your passion without losing yourself, Emily’s kayaking career, what she loves about coming together at the Mountain Games, and why she believes it’s so important to challenge yourself to do the inconvenient thing.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Hi.

Emily Jackson:

Hi.

Emily Jackson:

Good. Yeah. Another mountain game. So excited to be here.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Yeah. How many times have it been?

Emily Jackson:

Um, my first year competing here was in 2004, actually. So yeah, the girl that I’m competing with in the finals later today was born the first year that I won this event. So that’s wild.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So, so cool. What brings you to the GoPro mountain games this year?

Emily Jackson:

Uh, I always come to the GoPro mountain games if I, if I can help it. You know, I, uh, the first year here was actually in 2003 and I wasn’t able to compete because it wasn’t invitational and it wasn’t even the GoPro mountain games back then. It was a different event. Um, it’s evolved so much, but it’s a lot like coming home for me since I was 13.

Emily Jackson:

My first year here, the hotel books, my room without me calling every year. Anytime there’s a mountain games, I already have my room. I don’t even call it in. And the locals here know me pretty well, just from, you know, coming back again and again. So it is a lot like coming home and seeing family. So if they can help it, I always want to make this reunion.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Oh, that’s so cool. If you could pick one word to describe the vibe of the weekend, what word would that be?

Emily Jackson:

Oh my goodness. One word to describe the vibe one for me, I think his enthusiasm, I feel like there’s a lot of people are so enthusiastic right now, whether it’s to get to be surrounded by people again, and then to be doing something they’re passionate about. There’s just a lot of enthusiasm in the air right now.

Emily Jackson:

People are really excited and they’re carrying it into everything. Maybe whether they’re watching or here just participating in any of the events, they just seem really enthusiastic more than even historically I would say, wow, it’s really good to see everyone out and about and enjoying the outdoors.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Yeah. I think that’s one of our questions. How does it feel to be surrounded by people who share your love for the outdoors and adventure?

Emily Jackson:

Yeah. Um, one thing about kayaking is it really does bring a group of people that all love kayaking. We’re all here because it’s something that we absolutely love and enjoy. And we express that in different ways, whether it’s down river racing or freestyle, different things, being surrounded by people that are really passionate about something really does help bring out the best in you. So I think always it’s so important to surround yourself with people that help bring out the best in you and sports I feel like do that a lot.

Gabaccia Moreno:

I agree. What role does kayaking play in your life?

Emily Jackson:

Kayaking is kind of like the foundation of A lot of, a lot of my life, you know, I grew up in a family where my father was a professional kayaker. And so before I even became a professional kayaker, kayaking was our life. We followed the river, wherever it went. And so for me, I met my husband through pike and my kids are exposed to the rivers now. And for me, it’s just, it’s kind of my guiding light, you know, my path it’s, it’s what, uh, takes me to unique places and unique people. And it also just gives me the opportunity to pursue something that I’m passionate about. So it’s kind of a big platform for me to jump off of.

Gabaccia Moreno:

That’s cool. And you’re competing with the whole family.

Emily Jackson:

I do compete with my whole family a lot. You know, my brother’s here competing. My husband’s here competing. And then usually my kids are in one or two events as well. So my kids are on the eight and four right now. So they’re not as interested in the kayaking events right now because this water is so cold, but, um, they will be soon.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Cool. What are your hopes for Tucker and Parker as they grow up older?

Emily Jackson:

Yeah. What are my hopes for Tucker and Parker? Uh, my biggest hopes for them is that they find something that they’re passionate about. I think finding your passion in something can be a really good guiding light through challenges, mental challenges, physical challenges, anything, um, it gives you a lot of hope. And so for me, I just hope that they find something that they’re passionate about. If it’s not kayaking, I’m totally fine with that. And just to enjoy life and live in the moment.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Oh, I love that. Actually. I have a question about competition because you have this idea of competition that no matter the outcome you really love and enjoy. Can you speak a little bit of how you got to that understanding of it?

Emily Jackson:

Um, I think, uh, you know, when you’ve been competing for a very long time, you start to recognize that for me life, the next day is the same. A lot of people don’t realize that whether you have a title or not, I’m still over there changing diapers. I’m still playing mom and I still have my work and it’s completely, it doesn’t matter how I do in the competition, regardless of how I do. I still want to go out that night and have fun with my friends. And I’ve also learned that a lot of times competing against yourself is the healthiest aspect, because there were times where a lot of women wouldn’t show up and there wouldn’t be a strong, competitive female crowd.

Emily Jackson:

And I noticed that, well, I really need to be pushing, you know, we need to work together. And you know, that the group just makes sure that everyone’s having a really good time. And so that takes an edge off as well. But it also, I think when you’re competing, a lot of people think, well, it’s you against the world? Are you against someone else? Are you against this? But the people that compete for a long period of time are the ones that finally get to the realization that the whole time you’re really just competing against yourself. And so to be nice to yourself, it’s really important to be kind to yourself and know that what you do in a competition, doesn’t define you. A lot of people think, well, if you have this title or not, it’s kind of how you define yourself. And for me, I don’t define myself by my titles.

Emily Jackson:

And so therefore it’s a lot less pressure for me to perform. Now, when I do go out there, I put a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s more because I know that I’m capable and I really want to, and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. And that does happen too. You know, I do mess up and, and it doesn’t feel very good, you know, and mainly because I was disappointed myself, but life goes on immediately. I give myself like 10 minutes, you know, ah, bomber that suck, but I don’t even say that in public, you know, it’s really important for me to grow the sport. And I think just showing everyone that you can have fun regardless and just go out there and be the best version of yourself in that given moment. And while it might not be the best you could’ve possibly done, like I said, it doesn’t define you.

Emily Jackson:

So that’s kind of how it got in there. And I think it’s taken a lot of time to understand that, but also most of the girls that I’m in the Eddy with today, for example, in finals are girls that I’ve coached they’re girls that I taught like most of their things. And so for me, I think one way to also continue to grow as a competitor is to share your passion and that growth with other people because when you watch them, and then you see yourself in that, and you can continue to grow by helping others, I think helping others really helps your own personal growth as well. Cool.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Have you ever been beaten by someone that you’ve coached?

Emily Jackson:

Um, yeah, for sure. Yeah, definitely. I’ve coached a lot of people and then, you know, I compete a lot and, you know, competing is just a given moment at a specific water level with all these different variables that I cannot control. You know, I’ve competed while I was pregnant, you know, I’ve competed here twice, fragging the mountain game, and it’s just different things like that, where it’s just, uh, you know, you have good days and bad days and sure. There’s been people that I’ve coached that I had beat me before. And I, you know, I’m proud of them, you know, I’m disappointed in myself, but I’m proud of them. So it, that helps me a lot.

Announcer at the Mountain Games:

nice move there, just textbooks straight over and over. And that is exactly what the judges are looking for.

Gabaccia Moreno:

There’s anything that you would like to say to how folks can get into kayaking?

Emily Jackson:

If kayaking is of interest to anyone. I think one of the steps is to reach out to your local dealer. So look for a whitewater kayak dealership and say, Hey, you know, I’m in this area, I would love to try whitewater kayaking. Most of the dealers have a school as well. And so the first step to getting into kayaking, it’s definitely to take a course with a school because there are different aspects to it that you wouldn’t think of. And then it’s a really controlled environment. And their only goal is to try to make you feel good and be safe and have fun. And I think when you get into anything, I think they key focus on it should just be to have fun. You know, there’s a lot of physical benefits as well, but the more fun you have the better shape you usually end up in it anyways.

Emily Jackson:

So don’t worry about that aspect. And then, uh, also with afterwards sports, I think a lot of women, you know, get scared at the idea when I have kids at this low down and stop are putting yourselves at risk. For me, I try to stay in a really controlled environment, something that I’m really confident and that I’m not going to hurt myself, but at the same time, um, I think being the best mother and wife and partner that I can be is based off of being really passionate about what I’m doing in a day. Uh, so I try really hard to live my life uncompromised, which means that there are certain things in a day that I try to never compromise. So I pick five things and they’re like my guiding light, you know, they’re my husband, my kids kayaking work, um, an exercise and I’m really passionate about exercise.

Emily Jackson:

And, uh, every day my husband knows what’s important to me. I know it’s important to me and I try to make sure that I’m checking most of those things out the list every day. And by doing that, I feel like it really does create a much happier and healthy household. And then for my mental health as well, you know, I know what I want to do. And I try to do that some days I might not feel like it, but you know, it’s almost like a driving factor, just knowing what you’re passionate about and continuing to try to grow on it can really be life-changing.

Gabaccia Moreno:

I agree. I’m I’m so like happy that you’ve found it so early in life, too, right? Like it was something that kind of came from your parents and you just, it was for you.

Emily Jackson:

Well, I was super lucky to have found, you know, a lot of us at an early age and I watched my dad not compromise on a sky can career at all. And so it kind of made me say, okay, well this is really important and he’s doing it. Um, but at the same time, it evolved, you know, there was a while I was definitely compromising myself by putting my husband and what he was doing in his professional career ahead. You know, I was mom for a bit and I definitely, because it was easier for me. So therefore I was like, just let me take the kids. You go, just let me do this. You go. And then one day I woke up and I was mad at him. You know, I was resentful, which is like a really hard place to come back from. You know, what happened to me? What happened to my career a half into this? You know, I didn’t really go anywhere. I was still doing well, that I wasn’t, um, proud of myself in those moments.

Emily Jackson:

And so I think it’s really important for everyone. You know, sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. And so I did that, you know, just mentally, you know, I took all the pressure off myself, just go out there and have a really good time and myself again. So I think that’s really important if it wasn’t challenging, you know, you wouldn’t be proud of it. So I think, uh, doing things that are inconvenient often while they feel inconvenient, there’s nothing on my list of things that I’m the most proud of that was really convenient. It’s not like I do this and it was really convenient and I’m so proud of it. It’s like, no, this is really inconvenient and honestly hard. And I’m stoked that I did it. I think it’s really important for people to remember that, you know, when you’re making that choice in the morning on what you’re going to do, I think a lot of times it was like, it’s really inconvenient and it’s really easy to get into that cycle.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So I think challenging yourself to do something that’s slightly inconvenient just once a day or once a week, for starters, you’ll start noticing at the end of the day or the end of the week, that you’re a little more proud of yourself. And I think, I think that’s really important for people to see and feel that growth.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Thank you for that. I love it. So when you look ahead to summer, what are you looking forward to?

Emily Jackson:

Well, after this, we’re heading towards Idaho and where we’re going, the water’s really warm. And so I’m really excited to have my kids be in the water more. They’re showcasing a lot of interest in being in the water more. There’ve been Kayaking a bunch lately but they haven’t really gotten to be in warm water yet this spring. And so just to go somewhere where they can just be swimming in the water and not be getting cold really helps their personal growth. So I’m really looking forward to that as a family, but I’m also looking to some downtime after this I’ve been competing for several weeks. My shoulders are a little sore and I’m just looking forward to, uh, some soul surfing and just chilling out, you know, for, for a couple of weeks. And, but I really do love the competition circuit. And so I’ll be sad when it’s sober this year, but I am looking forward to, uh, just some family time by the river.

Gabaccia Moreno:

That sounds really lovely.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This special 4-part series is made possible by LifeStraw. LifeStraw makes water safe to drink through their intentionally designed products for outdoor adventures, travel, and home. With every filter and purifier they sell, a child in need receives safe water for an entire school year. GoPro Mountain Games is proud to partner with LifeStraw to help make a weekend of adventure and community possible. Learn more at Lifestraw.com.

This was episode one of our four part series, Voices from the Go Pro Mountain Games.  All four episodes are available in our feed now. Episode 4 features Arielle Shipe, a yoga instructor at the Mountain Games, a future thru hiker and an outdoor enthusiast.

Big thank you to Emily Jackson for taking time out of the Mountain Games to chat with Gabaccia. Follow along with Emily on Instagram @EmilyJacksonKayak.

Special thanks to our sponsors for making this 4-part series possible.

There’s no wrong way to get Outside – take it from Go RVing. Their platform amplifies the voices of adventure campers, leisure campers, foodies, tailgaters, outdoor enthusiasts, families, digital nomads and everyone in between. Head to Go RVing dot com to find the right RV for your outdoor lifestyle – it’s time to go on a REAL VACATION.

Nature Valley is a proud partner of the outdoors. From creating the first granola bar, meant to be eaten outside, to committing to make all their packaging fully recyclable by 2025, and to their sponsorship of Vail Valley Foundation, Nature Valley provides delicious fuel for our time in the outdoors. Learn more at NatureValley.com

The GoPro Mountain Games is a project of the Vail Valley Foundation.

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