This year the downriver race will be held in celebration of the memory of Rick Gusic. The race, which travels through the Cheat River Canyon, draws hundreds of boaters from throughout the region to the largest mass-start, whitewater race this side of the Mississippi, if not the largest in the US!
Rick’s father, Tony, introduced him to whitewater boating in Junior High School. He fell in love with the sport and quickly became a very good kayaker.. understatement! He also fell in love with the mountains, the valleys and the rocks; the eddies, waves, and the falls and the hydraulics… for Rick it was a love affair with the tumbling water, its beauty and its challenges and he was driven to share it.
He started guiding commercial raft trips on the Cheat while still in high school. He taught kayaking technique at every river venue and winter pool session that he could. Rick led multiple road trips to rivers through the eastern and western US with his best friends for years, great times! Finally, he created award-winning whitewater boating videos must-have classics, for every experienced kayaker!
Friends of the Cheat started celebrating the Cheat River with a festival about the same time Rick took over the race from Rob Voorhees. Rick’s first race participants reconvened at the festival that weekend and the idea was hatched. The informal race should be made formal and become part of FOC’s Cheat Festival celebration. Rick Gusic embraced the idea and managed the Cheat Mass-a-Cre-ence for the next 22 years ~ including this past Spring. The Cheat was to be celebrated by the boaters in a “mass gathering” with “mass interaction” and the Cheat River Massacre-ence was born.
After a valiant battle with cancer Rick passed away in August of 2019 at the age of 52. Family, friends, FOC and the boating community are deeply saddened by this loss. But we are all grateful for his tireless commitment to our Cheat River ~ a commitment which set an example for so many others. His presence will be truly missed but he will be in our hearts and thoughts each May when the horn sounds and a spectacle of the Massacre-ence sets off once more!
Thank you Rick!
After Party ~ Awards ~ Rick Gusic Tribute Information
The race after party will be held on the festival grounds Friday evening at dark – entrance for Friday night will be provided to each racer. In addition to awards and a race recap the night will finish with a tribute to Rick Gusic. Even if you are a non racer, we would encourage you to attend this party. Friends and family will be presenting some of Rick’s trip videos and telling great stories. Prizes and beer will be available at the party.
Racers who pre-register by April 10th will be guaranteed a race shirt, and any folks who would like to purchase this year’s race shirt, which is a tribute to Rick, can do so on our ticket sales website here. Please order by April 10th to guarantee a shirt.