It all started in 1983 as a celebration of the derailment of a hydroelectric project that would have disrupted the flow on the Gauley. Now, the celebration has become a whitewater staple and American Whitewater’s largest fundraiser of the year. If you are part of the paddling community (particularly in the Southeast), chances are you’ve attended Gauley Fest before. In fact, Gauley Fest is billed as the largest gathering of whitewater enthusiasts in the world.
It was our first weekend back in the ever-friendly Southeast. We were stoked to see so many old friends from near and far. One of the perks of this job is the community that creates itself around the festivals. Here we are sitting 1,500 miles from home and within minutes of arriving we’re already catching up with friends from back home.It’s no secret that Gauley Fest is just another way of saying “huge rager in the West Virginian mountains with live music, huge giveaways, and some of the best vendors in the business.” Friday was the official kick-off of Vendor Village. We were back under the Blue Ridge Outdoors Tent for the first time since the spring. Did you come see us? We were directly next to the main stage, a.k.a: party central. Sleeping in the van at festivals can be a futile endeavor. Especially when you decide to park it next to a bunch of kegs and partiers hell-bent on staying awake to send the upper Gauley at sunrise. It was an interesting evening.While most of the crowd was up at dawn ready to shred the gnar, drink already in-hand, we decided to wake up slow. Being a vendor at these awesome events is tricky sometimes. We really have to plan out our day to make sure we can play and open the booth on time. After a large cup of coffee, our friend Lauren from MountainWater Apparel (based out of the lovely Buena Vista, Colo.) was kind enough to let us hitch a ride to Pillow Rock where we could post up, join the party, and watch the absolute madness that is Pillow Rock during Gauley Fest. It was a sight to behold and something that you have to see to believe. Humans jumping off the rocks into other human’s rafts right in the midst of the raging class V rapid. Incredible.Our fun didn’t stop there. On Sunday, after we closed up shop, we were invited to raft the middle and lower Gauley with some amazing students from the Outdoor Program at Emory & Henry College. If there’s a more rad college program out there, we haven’t found it. This section of the river is beautiful. With the dam releases from the weekend, you really got a sense of what a wild river the Gauley could be if it were never dammed in the first place. Jaw-dropping country. Again, a huge thanks to the whole crew for taking us along. We had a blast.We’re moving from whitewater to rock. Up next, we’ve got Craggin’ Classic in the New River Gorge on September 22-24.
If you like the gear we’re reppin’, or what we’re wearing, check out some of the sponsors that make this tour possible: La Sportiva, Crazy Creek, National Geographic, RovR Products, Sea to Summit, Mountain House, LifeStraw, and Lowe Alpine.