Cali Burn Fest

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A mass start downriver race followed by a beer slalom past the finish line…it can only mean one thing: the sixth annual BurnFest on the Trinity River’s Burnt Ranch Gorge in California.

Even though water levels out West are winding down, that didn’t stop river running revelers from flocking to one of the region’s best dam-release runs. “It was great this year,” says organizer Paul Gamache of Arcata, Calif., who has been putting on the event for six years. “It seems like people are coming from farther distances to attend. This year we had people from Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California.”

Sponsored by Kokatat, CKS, IR, Neosport, Cali Product, Level 6, A Wet State and Farmer Brown Garden Supply (“Who paid for the beer,” says Gamache), this year’s race drew 23 competitors to the mass-start Class V classic, and one “official” raft. It offered free beer and camping at the Burnt Ranch Falls Campground (in no surprise, the music got shut down once the party got rocking), and raised $300 for local Matt Thomas, who was recently paralyzed in a mountain biking accident, and his Project Walk program.

Competitors first headed to the coast for a Big Air Surf Competition, which was handicapped by small surf. But the downriver race through the Burnt Ranch Gorge more than made up for it. “This event was one of the best grass roots events I have ever attended,” says Jesse Becker from Immersion Research. There was a great turn out, plus groupies, great weather, and a really beautiful stretch of river — so there’s a really slim chance of getting skunked on this event.”

Afterwards came the beer slalom, where the gates were beers and racers had to grab as many as they good (a trait most kayakers are natural at). In the end, Dam Menten took first in the longboat class, followed by Charlie Center and Scott Ligare, with Justin Patt winning the shortboat division for the men and Kim Russell taking it for the women.

“Cali Burn Fest, what’s not to like?” says Lisa Kincaid of sponsor Kokatat. “Great water, great friends, great times. We’re happy to support grassroots festivals like the Cali Burn Fest that serve the local paddling community.”