On June 7-12, 2022 we saw a return of one of the paddling community’s favorite summer events: the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. The annual event hosts over 30 competitions spanning 11 disciplines–everything from climbing and slacklining to photography and dog aquatics (yes, you read that right).

It’s no surprise that for us water enthusiasts, the most entertaining parts were the 9 paddlesports events. Here’s a recap of the best action from the past week, in case you missed it.

The Homestake Creek race attracts expert kayakers from all over the world. Photo by Rick Lohre.

June 8 | TINCUP Steep Creek Championships

The first paddling event of the competition–the TINCUP Steep Creek Championships–kicked off on Wednesday morning at Homestake Creek (located just outside the town of Red Cliff, Colorado).

Due to the race course’s steep, creeky character—it’s approximately ¼ mile long and drops a whopping 480′ per mile—this event presents the most hazards of all the kayaking competitions.

13 expert kayak competitors stepped up to the challenge, hoping to take home a piece of the impressive $7,000 prize purse.

Dane Jackson, a welcome and familiar face at the Mountain Games, managed to snag first place with a combined run time of 03:53:70.

See the full results here.

go pro mountain games freestyle trick
Thursday’s GoPro Gore IV Challenge & GMC Kayak Freestyle Qualifiers had the crowds oohing and ahhing all day long. Photo by Rick Lohre.

June 9 | GoPro Gore IV Kayak Challenge & GMC Kayak Freestyle Qualifiers

The Gore IV Kayak Challenge offers a nice alternative for those looking for mellower whitewater than Homestake Creek. This race’s difficulty doesn’t lie in its gnarly features, but in its sheer length. It’s a 4.5-mile race down a class III-IV continuous creek that flows through the village.

The Jackson siblings took first place in both Men’s and Women’s categories. Dane Jackson crossed the finish line with a time of 23:23:37, while Emily came in at 24:55:03. See the full results for the Men’s and Women’s Gore IV Challenge.

Arguably the main–and most visually spectacular–event of the games, is the Kayak Freestyle competition. The world’s best playboaters come together in an old-fashioned throw-down at the Vail Whitewater Park.

Each kayaker has a timed run to throw his best cartwheels, loops, tricky-wu’s, phonics monkeys, space godzilla’s and more in an attempt to impress the judges for the highest combined score.

This year’s competition had a great turnout with 21 men and 5 women competing in the qualifiers. The top 5 women and the top 10 men advanced to the finals. Keep reading to see how they got on.

GoPro Mountain Games Pacifico Raft Cross Event
Two-person teams had the chance to showcase their speed, agility and aggression in a timed qualifying run through the heart of Vail Village on Gore Creek. Photo by Zach Mahone.

June 10 | Pacifico Raft Cross

Fun for rafters and spectators, the Pacifico Raft Cross combines the speed of downriver sprints with the water slaughter of 8-Ball. Two-person teams showcased their speed and agility in a times race through Vail Village on Gore Creek.

“Team Gorbie” (comprised of Dane Jackson and Nick Troutman) took the win with “Team Bush” (comprised of Riley Frank Jacob McConne) close behind in second place. Get the full results from this event here.

Crowds huddle on the International Bridge for the “main event”. Photo by John Ryan Lockman.

June 11 | GMC Kayak Freestyle

Large crowds gathered around the International Bridge in the heart of Vail on Saturday for what many consider the main act: the GMC Kayak Freestyle finals.

Emily Jackson and brother Dane Jackson have dominated the games in the past few years and 2022 brought no surprises in that regard. Both siblings won their respective competitions with impressive final runs.

Dane finished with a combined score of 1415.00–an over 400-point lead on the second-place competitor, Stephen Wright. Emily finished with a combined score of 630 points. Olivia McGinnes came in at second with a score of 600. Get the full results for the men’s category here and the women’s category here.

YETI Down River SUP Sprint
Paddleboarders put their speed and skills to the test in the Gore Creek downriver race against the clock. Photo by Julie Lohre.

June 12 | YETI Down River SUP Sprint

As we can see from the attendance and crowd support this year, the YETI Down River SUP is gaining traction and is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Starting in East Vail, the 3-mile head-to-head race brought standup paddlers into the heart of Vail, where they put their speed and skills to the test on the class II-III rapids of Gore Creek.

Spencer Lacy took home first place in the men’s category with a winning time of 00:20:13.43, closely followed by Miles Harvey in second place with a time of 0:20:19.70.

In the women’s division, Chloe Harvey won her spot at the top of the podium with a finish time of 21:55.87, followed by Reta Boychuck in second place with a time of 22:06.14.

Get the full men’s and women’s here. Catch the Junior SUP results here.


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June 13 | 8-Ball Kayak Sprint

The 8-ball kayak race is the definition of full-contact kayaking. Competitors consider themselves lucky if they get through this one carnage-free.

After floating to the start at the Covered Bridge, a handful of competitors shoved and sprinted their way down a 200-meter sprint course on narrow Gore Creek. Boaters had to avoid being knocked off course by the “8 Ballers”— described by event organizers as, “loathsome kayakers in full body armor waiting patiently to attack the sprinters”.

Emily Jackson nudged, jostled and charged her way into first place in the women’s final—achieving a triple crown title in all her events. For the men’s division, London Aguon won first place, with Nick Troutman coming in second and Dane Jackson securing third.

Get the full men’s and women’s results here.


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