5 Minutes with Christie Glissmeyer
Her royal huckstress
LAST MOTHER’S DAY, CHRISTIE GLISSMEYER DID SOMETHING that would send most moms into cardiac arrest: She hurled her Dagger Nomad off Oregon’s 82-foot Metlako Falls, setting a new women’s waterfall world record. The 30-year-old high school track star and Utah State grad did so without the fanfare of Tyler Bradt’s record-breaking plunge of 186 feet just a month earlier. Here’s her take on being an X-chromosomed star in a Y-dominated whitewater world.
– Eugene Buchanan
When I first saw Metlako after moving to Hood River, I thought it was something I’d never want to do. Then I hiked in about four times to watch different paddlers fire it off, and each time it seemed less intimidating and more fun. A year later I found myself running it.
There are a lot of great boaters up here. Being surrounded by that mindset—and waterfalls and paddlers who run them—creates pretty open boundaries about what you can do. It makes you start thinking about running them too. Guys like Tyler Bradt and Erik Boomer make me push myself further than I otherwise would.
I knew about Shannon Carroll’s 78-foot record, and knew I would set a new one if I ran Metlako. But I didn’t want to have that kind of pressure. I wanted it to be about running it well, not about proving anything. Setting the record wasn’t my main motivation.
At first, I only looked at Metlako straight on. From that perspective, it looks like it comes off at 90 degrees, which wasn’t something I wanted to run. But then I saw a side view, which showed that it was actually a perfect 45-degree ramp. As soon as I saw that, I knew I could do it. I just worked to hold the angle and the waterfall set me up the whole way down.
The hit at the bottom was surprisingly soft. I was waiting for a big impact, but it never came. I let go of my paddle right before I landed and was enveloped by the veil. When I resurfaced, I had so much adrenaline that I popped my hand roll right away.
There’s a great crew of Class V girls here in Hood River. I paddle with Heather Herbeck, Kate Wagner and Lana Young. It’s fun to have a group of girlfriends you can run Class V with and still go on a girls’ night out. None of them were in town when I ran Metlako, but we talked about it later. It wasn’t your typical girls’-night conversation.
I’m not an expert on how guys approach waterfalls, but I use a fun-to-risk ratio. If the fun factor outweighs the risk factor, I usually run it. I don’t run many drops that have marginal, manky lines. For the men’s records, I think the monstrous risk outweighs the fun. I’ll be astonished when any man or woman breaks Tyler’s record. That’s one freaking huge waterfall.
Being a woman in whitewater can be challenging. It takes a fine balance of finesse and power, both on and off the water. Any woman in a male-dominated sport probably spends some time tagging along with the guys. It took me years of this progression before I built up the confidence and experience to plan and lead my own trips. I’ve been lucky to have some badass role models like Nikki Kelly, Tanya Faux and Anna Levesque. I still love paddling with the boys, but I’ve come to appreciate having a good girls’ crew.