One of the pleasures in growing older in a sport is watching the development of up and comers, those young guns who take up the mantels of their predecessors and charge forward. Andrew Morrisey first came to our attention at Dirt Bag Paddlers a few years back, when he messaged us with a sick edit fresh out of the WCKA. Since then he’s caught the attention of the race community, as well as a number of my friends, all who say, “you gotta check this kid out; he’s going places.” I caught up with Andrew in the beginning of December to get to know more about him.
DBP: You are one of our favorite up and comers in kayaking, ever since you submitted a sick edit to the Dirt Bag Paddlers Facebook page. Tell those not in the know a bit about yourself and how you got your start.
AM : Thanks for having me, it feels good to be acknowledged in the whitewater community. I’ve been paddling for about 7 years now and have no intentions of slowing my roll. I grew up in a smaller town that some of you may know, Hood River OR. It’s the promised land, and if you haven’t heard, that’s ok, it’s better off a small town. I got into the sport when I was in the 8th grade with my good friend Nick Dancer. We were the only kayakers in the K-12 school district. During our sophomore year of high school we were both granted an opportunity to attend World Class Kayak Academy (WCKA). My family took a big chance to make this dream come true. That fall semester we paddled some of China’s most exquisite rivers. That experience changed my life in such a way that I can’t even explain.
DBP: You’re beginning to make a name for yourself on the big-boy race scene. Tell us a bit about some of the events you competed at in 2015. What is the next race you’ve got your eye on?
AM : This year was good to me. I was able to race all over the country, and even in Mexico. I started my year with the Rio Alseseca race in Veracruz. Then I did the Northwest Creeking Comp tour that consisted of the Farmlands race, Wind River, Canyon Creek, and the Little White Salmon race. When the Northwest had dried up, I slowly made my way to Durango Colorado, where I was based for 3 months; but not before stopping at the Bigfork race in Montana. In Colorado I competed in the Func Fest on the Uncompahgre River, Immersion Research’s Oh Be Joyful race, and Gore Fest. Colorado was such a treat. When Colorado got dry it was time to keep moving East, making it just in time to enjoy a classic Gauley Fest. I stayed out east for The Green Race then headed home. For 2016, all I want is to be at the North Fork championships and LW race, and trust me I’ll be there.
DBP: You cut your teeth on West Coast treats. What’s your favorite local run? Give us a quick description.
AM: I have so much love for the White Salmon River. It’s the perfect river for any and all kayakers. With glaciers that permit a year round season, provided you like ice, it’s 22 miles can be broken into 6ish sections, ranging from Class 2-5+ depending on flow. But when I’m looking to get a real adrenaline throttling time, I go one drainage west over to the sacred waters of the Little White Salmon, a river that has the respect of all who know it.
DBP: Boating is, for dirtbags like you, me and our readers, is at it’s core a soul thang. Deep down, why do you kayak?
AM: I kayak to get away from people. It’s pretty simple actually, I find peace in places people struggle to go.
DBP: We always love gear talk. Give us a rundown on your current go-to dirtbaggin’ kit.
AM: What you might find in my NRS mesh gear bag will always consist of basic rappelling and safety/first aid gear. But that pretty much just lives in my car for special opportunities. Starting from the top, it didn’t happen if it wasn’t on film: GOPRO. Under that, I wear a sweet strutter, where fashion meets function. For my PFD I’ve been enjoying an old NRS playboating jacket. But if paddling a committing run I wear my Astral Green Jacket. #safetyfirst. Dry gear and sprayskirts are Immersion Research all the way. This company is grass roots, every product they make is quality and they have never let me down. With that being said if you treat your gear poorly you will suffer the consequences. I only use Werner paddles, they have the best construction. The boat thing is tricky because there are so many on the market now. I’ll just keep the answer straight forward. Oldish Dagger Nomad 8.5 with the flip switch outfitting, and Pyranha 9r.
DBP: We also always love tales of WALLACE. Tell us about your gnarliest beatdown.
AM: Ohhh the WALLACE… or as I more commonly refer to them “beater moments.” They definitely happen. I’ve been lucky enough to never have been hospitalized kayaking, and I’ve not really had many beatdowns worth talking about. I will say, when I was fifteen I ran 80ft Metlako Falls, over rotated, landed on my head, and had a violent ejection. When I was sixteen I ran 70ft Sahalie Falls, threw my paddle, then failed to get my hand roll at the bottom, which was just above an unrunnable death gorge. I truly believe Nick Dancer saved my life that day.
DBP: That’s a couple major Wallaces, dude! Hahahah, man… !
This is always my favorite question. Let’s say you’re given unlimited funding, ideal river conditions, and choice of any partners in the world… What are you running and who are you taking with?
AM: This may be your favorite question, but it hurts to think about only because I work for my kayaks and I put together my travel expenses. But, given the opportunity I’d like to go back to China and explore the endless untapped whitewater there. Who might I invite? Here’s my top six: Marcelo Galizio, Colin Hunt, Billy Jones, Wade Harrison, Nick Dancer, and Brier Ben. Everybody here is very different but that’s what makes it fun. Sorry if you didn’t make the cut, paddle harder! 😉
DBP: Paddling equals progression. What is the toughest thing you’ve sent yet? And what do you consider to be “next level” on your personal path?
AM: I gotta say Big Banana of the Rio Alseseca was pretty stout. I never ran all the drops in there. As far as the next level goes, strength is up there on the list, healthy foods and cardiovascular conditioning. That’s how I see myself progressing.
DBP: On the cusp of a New Year, what’s in store for one Andrew Morrissey in 2016?
AM: Man, I’m so broke right now and I don’t want to be a dirtbag forever. 🙁
I’ll be in Hood River working to save up for my next trip, doing Little White Salmon church lap, and maybe hucking Eagle Creek when she decides to come in.
DBP: We wish you nothing but the best as you continue your progression in the community, and thank you kindly for your time. Any final words for your fellow dirtbag paddlers?
AM: Thanks for having me. All I’ve got to say to Yinz is, it’s essential to see the beautiful country we live in. Be a Dirtbag as long as you wish, but also clean yourself up every now and again, the pretty girls like that. 😉
I see the potential in a good job, education, and house. Deep down I’ll always be a dirty kayaker, but I’ll ride a line between sophisticated gentleman and scum kayaker. Life is all about balance. Please enjoy our rivers safely, give thanks and praise whatever higher power you may choose, and get outside and enjoy a tree or something…
Some links to Andrew’s edits-