Like a glowing amber coal whipped to flame by a sudden gust, veteran local kayaker Shannon Carroll has a new spark in her eye, having recently tied the women’s kayak waterfall world record. On June 8, Carroll made a clean, 85-foot plunge off Metlako Falls on Oregon’s Eagle Creek to match current world record holder Christie Glissmeyer’s May 2009 descent of the same waterfall.
Laying claim to this bold record is nothing new for the Truckee resident and former pro kayaker turned nurse as Carroll was the sole owner of the title for over a decade. She set the previous record in 1998 paddling off the 78-foot Sahalie Falls on Oregon’s Mackenzie River. After her feat on the Mackenzie, Carroll spent several years in the pro spotlight and travelled the world on expedition kayak adventures. She ran several more 50- to 70-foot falls during that time but never contested her own waterfall record… until it was beaten.
‘When Glissmeyer raised the bar last year it definitely lit a fire in me,’ said Carroll. ‘I had always wanted to run something bigger and coming into this spring I felt like I still had the skills, drive, and strength to pull it off.’
Staying relevant for a decade, let alone record breaking, is impressive in any professional sports discipline, and Carroll’s return to form was even more significant considering she has overcome two painful injuries in the last two years. In 2008 she broke her knee snowboarding and in January of 2010 she broke her elbow. She felt no pain on exit from the frothing pool below Metlako Falls, however. The run went all according to plan — minus a broken paddle.
‘I lined up the entrance well and kept a good entry angle getting in about two and half strokes on the way down,’ said Carroll.
‘Popping up without having taken my cockpit to the face or injuring my back was really liberating. When I ran Sahalie Falls in 1998 everybody asked me what it looked like on the way down but I didn’t know because I closed my eyes! This time I kept my eyes open the whole way. I remember seeing the most beautiful glimmering green light– classic Oregon.’
Now 32 years old and having kayaked for 21 of them, the West Virginia native is open to breaking the record outright again, but it’s not her first priority.
‘There are a bunch of 100-foot waterfalls that look good if the opportunity presents itself, but I’m still focused on self-
supported expedition kayak trips and my career as a nurse,’ said Carroll. ‘And if I do go for it, I’ll do it for my own pleasure. I just love big, clean drops.’