By Caleb Forbes
Misha Gelnarova ’18 is an extreme person. A veteran of extreme sports, Gelnarova has been addicted to the extreme since her involvement in Fire Sport in the Czech Republic — a sport for volunteer firefighters, and according to Gelnarova, “if you mess up it can crack your skull and stuff.”
In the past, Gelnarova has traveled the U.S. to explore extreme sports as part of a Fischlowitz Fellowship. She now prepares for her possible next adventure, as she has applied for a Watson Fellowship to explore the international world of extreme sports as part of a year-long funded excursion. And as part of Grinnell Extreme Society, Gelnarova will go on an adventure to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons during Fall Break.
Gelnarova described the Fischlowitz Fellowship as “a possibility to go and travel the U.S.A. and focus on any part of the culture … and I naturally did it about extreme sports.”
“I went to California and Hawaii,” Gelnarova said, “and just went to different parts that are super famous for one or the other activity. And there I participated, I talked to people, I hung out with the locals … soaking in the culture.”
Gelnarova visited California as part of the Fischlowitz to rock climb and raft in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, paddleboard in San Diego and surf and skateboard in the U.S. Open of Surfing in L.A. She also sea kayaked, ladder-climbed a mountain and ran a Spartan race in Hawaii. Gelnarova said of the Spartan race, “you run through mud, and through river and you jump over things and crawl under barbed wire.”
Gelnarova’s Watson application seems like the natural next step. “[The Watson] is about exploring any of your passions,” she said. “It can be about whatever, and you get to do it globally, so they give you $30,000 to survive for a year and explore whatever the hell you want.”
The Watson fellowship requires one to travel solely outside of one’s home country. Gelnarova said her iteration of the fellowship involves getting to know, “small young extreme sports entrepreneurs who … make handcrafted extreme sports gear.”
“It’ll be like kind of shadowing and engaging with those people,” said Gelnarova, “those entrepreneurs, and with that I would get then to the local community of whatever the sport I’m going to be doing there.”
The Grinnell Extreme Society also does what it can to participate in extreme sports, the members getting funding from SGA to travel during school breaks to climb mountains and spelunk in the depths of caves.
Their original plan for this fall break was to go whitewater rafting in the Yellowstone River. When Yellowstone decided to close whitewater rafting early this year, Gelnarova said, “they offered us a scenic ride or something, and we’re like … We’re the extreme society and you’re asking us for a scenic ride?”
“It’s usually like we plan it really nicely and then something goes wrong,” Gelnarova said. Now their plan is to go hiking in Yellowstone, as well visit the Grand Tetons to, “jump off of rocks and cliffs into the water, which is going to be extremely freezing but, I mean extreme, there we go.”
“This is like the first time we are actually going to be sleeping inside something that has even a roof,” Gelnarova said. “So we’re going to pack 20 people into a 10-person house, and, yeah, try to survive.” The name of the Airbnb is “secluded cabin in the woods, but we’re like super stoked. It’s going to be extreme.”