Gauley Fest has come and gone. I'm not going to lie... I didn't do right by my younger raft guide roots. *sigh* Somehow over the ruckus, I was in bed mostly early all weekend. I always knew I was a good sleeper, but I never imagined I'd be able to sleep in the middle (literally) of a party that seemingly never ended. Even without being up for the late late night shenanigans, it's still one of the weirdest places I've ever been.
The trip to WV, originally was a trip north, to the Ottawa River. It was supposed to serve as a thank you for Jonah and Liam, who worked hard all summer but had to get back into the school year grind. As scheduling conflicts grew, the trip morphed a few different times, until we decided on Wet, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!
After a lot of texting, phone calls, and emails the group was set... Longtime friends and ONE ambassadors from Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were headed south.
The trip wasn't nearly long enough... The Upper Yough Thursday, followed by the Gauley Marathon (the Upper and Lower), then Saturday and Sunday on Upper. I can't say enough about the whitewater. If you've never been, you should go as soon as you can. Absolutely world class, and I can't wait to get back!
The Gauley Festival is a big fundraiser for American Whitewater. The shear number of people at the festival were staggering. A sea of whitewater boats as far as you could see, everywhere all the time, plates from around the country, with our neighboring countries represented as well. I'd love to see the stats on where people came from and how many attended. Two nights of live music. Tons of food choices. All our favorite gear companies. And people. Lots and lots of people. I think I said that already. The experience gave scale to our niche community.
I volunteered during the festival with Dave Su, and was tasked with trying to get people to become members. If you paddle and aren't a member, then you should be. It's as simple as that. The AW mission is based on access to rivers, river stewardship, and awareness. If you have questions... Give me a shout.
Most likely, you've only kept reading this because I called Gauley the weirdest place I've ever been. It is absolutely true. The vibe, spectacle, and smell (yes... smell) of Pillow Rock and Sweet's on Friday and Saturday was unbelievable (not to mention the party). It is consistent with a rowdy Patriots home game, but instead the crowd is cheering for the biggest carnage instead of the best plays. The energy is unmistakable. Of course, I'm not going to give you all the juice on why you should go, but I know you should.
Life is meant to be lived, and often times I think too many of us want comfort. Perhaps that comfort means we miss out on living life. The people who attended Gauley, don't have that problem.
Get cold, get hot, play in the rain, get UNcomfortable... it may just make you happier.
A FEW BIG THANK YOUs!
Big D & the PYRANHA KAYAKS Crew - First for bringing our new demos to Gauley for us (9R II & Ripper). Second, for fixing a boat at the festival. On Friday, I was super stoked to try out the new 9R II when a rivet in the back ratchet popped on the boat ramp. I rigged it up into a fixed back band position, but I was quite bummed as it wasn't even wet yet. On a busy Saturday night without hesitation they got the parts, made the switch, and the boat was fixed on the spot! Thats service and commitment to their customers! Cheers, All!
ACE ADVENTURE GEAR - In perhaps one of the busiest weekends for this shop, Abbie received a shipment of demo boats for us, saving time, and letting us paddle some freshies in the south. If you are in the area please check out her shop in Fayetteville! P.S. Abbie - you got something coming your way.
AMERICAN WHITEWATER - Thank you for being a staple in our world, and protecting the places that are important for us to get lost in, both physically and mentally.
Some notable quotes:
"I've never seen anything like that before."
"I'm pretty sure I heard the phone ringing from inside the porta-potty."
"Is that a unicorn?"
"I'm pretty sure my face hit that rock."
"Can you catch me?"
"Don't be a Class A Degenerate."
"Usually when people are naked and drinking they get arrested."
"They did what last night?"