By Charli Kerns
At 18 years old, Jordan Poffenberger has already developed a pretty good paddling resume. Over the last year, he’s made it onto the USA Canoe/Kayak Freestyle Team and raced at North Carolina’s Green Race, Washington’s Little White Salmon Race and the The Steep Creek Championship at Colorado’s GoPro Mountain Games.
Competing at that level at 18 alone deservers kudos, but Poffenberger takes it a step further, paddling all these competitions with a single blade. And when he’s not racing, Poffenberger keeps busy resetting the C-1 waterfall record over and over—including Oregon’s 80-foot Sahalie Falls and 82-foot Metlako Falls. His goal is to keep stomping the record, soon passing into the triple-digit drops.
In a whitewater world dominated by kayakers, one would think Poffenberger handicaps his abilities by paddling with half the blade. His peers, for one, choose to think otherwise. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
Jeremy Laucks, Blackfly Canoes: It was a long time ago, but I first remembered a young kid out paddling with his dad, which was cool. Now I watch him paddle, and I’m impressed with how smooth he is and how far he’s pushing single-blade paddling. He’s one of those guys you don’t think of as a “good C-1 boater” just a “good boater.”
Hunt Jennings, paddling partner in crime and C&K Awards nominee: I first met Jordan my junior year of high school, when we both attended New River Academy together in 2011. Over the past few years, my respect for Jordan as a paddler has grown tremendously. I talk with Jordan quite a bit about how our lines differ, and the technique that he uses, but when we are on the water, to me Jordan is no different. I don’t worry about him or his lines any more than others, and I respect his decisions and trust his skills just as much as any kayaker. If anything, I have learned from Jordan in terms of efficiency and alternate lines. I consider Jordan the best C-1 boater in the world, and he is definitely one of my go-to paddling partners.
Photographer Eric Parker: Jordan crushed it at the Little White Salmon Race. He was the only C-1 boater and had better lines at Spirit Falls than most all the kayakers during the slalom event. Off of Spirit itself, you land on this boil, and you get pushed far right. Jordan had a really good line, which set him up for a good time in the race. It’s incredible to watch him run waterfalls.
Shane Benedict, Liquidlogic Kayaks: When I first saw Jordan paddling, I thought he wasn’t bad for a little punk kid. He is shockingly smooth in all aspects of paddling right now. Having a little C-1 experience, I am a little conscious about moves and lines when I am paddling with a C-boater. I think about how an off-side move is going to go for them. When I paddle with Jordan, I don’t even consider any of that; I don’t think he even has an “off side.” I know he is going to style anything I can run. His freestyle skills are very precise, which reminds me of Barry Kennon (sp). It’s been fun watching him the last couple years really get things honed in for team trials and the worlds. It’s neat to see a guy who is so laid back and yet so driven to paddle hard and compete at such a high level, and still remain a punk kid.
And … Jordan Poffenberger: I have been paddling for nearly 14 years. Yep … since I was 5. I kayaked for about six years before I finally decided to lose my training wheels and become a C-1er. I feel like I have way more control over how my boat interacts with the water. I think I have a lot more contact with the boat, and in turn I have a lot more contact with the water. When ever I jump back in K-1, I feel like there is an extra barrier between me and the river; its kind of like touching a rock with ruber gloves on. You can feel its density and you can tell whether its smooth or rough, but you can’t really feel the intricacies of its texture.