Though this is the time of the year I would normally be in Europe for the Sickline race, with that discontinued it has given me a chance to check out a race that has been happening on the west coast in Cali for years: Gnarlfest. I had heard stories about the race from the Cali boys and it sounded like just the local grass roots race I needed to check out. I flew from Atlanta to Sacramento with Tad and got picked up by Evan and Hayden in the RV and rallied straight to the river. The put in is on the reservoir by the dam which is also where you camp out which is always a sweet combo. Without phone service or the ability to really do more than one lap on the run, there was plenty of time to just chill in the parking lot with everyone in the mornings and after the lap. The reason you really only do one lap a day there is because the race starts right at the dam where you camp, but the run itself is about 9 miles long, and the shuttle takes just over an hour. Which made things interesting in terms of trying to learn the course knowing I would only have 3 laps before hand, and only some rapids are easy to lap.
My first lap was my first time in a creekboat on a proper creek since like June or July so I felt a little rusty at first. Plus I had been going skin to win or wearing shorties for months, so going back to a drysuit and elbow pads again, thats always a crazy feeling at first. Feels like I am strapped up to go to space it’s so different at first. So my first lap down I definitely felt rusty on the course, but it also took me by surprise how fairly stout the run itself was. The race course was only 2 1/2 minutes long but it has plenty happening.
The race starts with a cool boily lipped boof right out of the gate, then has a few little in between boofs and moves that can definitely cost you some time if you don’t nail. But around the first corner is a rapid I am definitely glad I never looked at out of my boat nor was able to look back up at it. Because it’s a super funky long rapid that the first move is a super weird kind of double drop, with rocks everywhere that want to put you on your face, which many people will learn pretty quickly. I was pretty stoked to make it through this rapid called Mad dog without really any carnage throughout the week, including my race run, especially after watching some footage of the fellow racers. Let’s just say it was laying down some smack downs. But if you make it through Mad Dog without any problems it doesn’t mean you are home free, you still got plenty to come. Right afterwards is a sick 20fter that lands on a shelf on the right side of it and isn’t the deepest in the rest of the landing. But it is also a super boily lip so it can super funky getting a boof. I was stoked to this drop figured out quickly because it was so much fun boofing the crap out of it everytime. Definitely my favorite move on the river. But one of the trickiest rapids happens right after the waterfall, called the Pinch (I think). It’s like barely a boat width wide, and all the water goes through it. It’s not quite steep enough to boof easily. but powerful enough to backender you, and most of the water goes into a big eddy on the left. So you gotta nail it if you wanna do well in the race. Strangely enough the best line for it ending up being just kinda melting it down the middle, and pull a little on your left blade and miraculously your bow comes up, sometimes. I was pretty happy when I had one of my faster lines through here, cause I knew I could just hustle to the finish, which still wasn’t very close. Once the Pinch is over you have a sick boof, then about a minute of little boofs and moves that are hard to nail especially when you are already tired. I ended up having one of my better laps in general down the whole run, and after getting through all the racers, and seeing all the new dents and hearing stories, I am just happy to not have ended up on my face at any point.
Afterwards the party was having everyone park at the rock quarry which made a super dope setting to have the afterparty, which has a very special way of kicking things off. Once the results are tallied there is one more task you must survive. Everyone brings 4Lokos to the awards, and from 1st place down you pick your poison, I was fortunate enough to take the win, so I was able to grab the Gold flavored one, which ended up being probably the best flavor. But you don’t just drink it, you gotta chug it. Everyone starts at the same time, and the “rule” is that you have to finish the 4Loko under your race time or you are disqualified (which are huge btw if you dont know). I had to beat a 2:36, managed to play it safe and get mine down in 20seconds, though Jamboy (Will Griffith) got it down in like 10 or something which was insane. Watching the rest of the crew suffer their way through was pretty hilarious, and I definitely enjoyed this little way of finishing off an awesome race. Cause I took the win I was able to spend the rest of the night in the winners purple jacket, and had an awesome time. I hope I am able to go back next year and try to hold onto the win and the jacket, and just enjoy this awesome little event. Props to Justin Patt for getting it started, looking forward to getting back there sometime soon.
Myself – 2:36 (Course Record) – POV of the run
Galen Volkhausen – 2:47
Evan Moore 2:49