Gusto Time is (almost) Here Again

6 10 gusto Mealanie and Tyler perform scaled
Melanie and Tyler perform. (William Paine photo)



For The Patriot

Late Spring in the New River Valley is an ideal time for admiring the beauty of nature with its majestic mountains and verdant valleys in full bloom.

It’s a time to thank one’s lucky stars for living at such a time and in such a wonderous place as this.

But perhaps even more significantly, in the ensuing days before the first Saturday of Summer, it is a time to train for the 5th Annual Gusto Event with GRAPeJAM paddle board race. For a change of pace, this year’s Gusto starts and finishes at the Rock House Marina on Peak Creek.

Yes, for the 5th year in a row multiple individuals will paddle on a board as hard as they can, for as long as they can, just to claim the title of Master Paddler or perhaps just to place in the top five finishers.

There’s also recognition for the top three finishers in the Young Master Paddler Class (17 and under) at this year’s Gusto, as well as the top three women finishers and the top two Seasoned Class Paddlers (65+).

6 10 gusto Jeff Matthews and Joy
Jeff Matthews and Joy (William Paine photo)

As ever, we have a Canine Companion Award for the 1st to finish with a doggy on board. This year, we will also give a Paddler’s Pet Award for the paddler with a furry companion who wins 2nd Place. If there aren’t two pets in this year’s race, we’ll give the Paddler’s Pet to the best-looking paddle boarder in the competition!

The Gusto Awards Ceremony will take place soon after the final competitor crosses the line. Paddle Boarders will compete in either the five-mile Master Class race, or the 2.1-mile Bona Fide Class race. Both races start in front of the Rock House Marina at 10 a.m., Saturday June 25.

The Master Paddler contest extends 2.5 miles up Peak Creek before returning downstream to finish at the Rock House Marina.

Bona Fide race competitors turn back downstream after rounding a stanchion of the I-81 bridge spanning Peak Creek.

Those who finish the Master Class will earn the top five places in the Gusto but everyone who completes either course will receive a red bracelet declaring that they have, indeed, Grabbed the Gusto.

As the name implies, the 5th Annual Gusto Event with GRAPeJAM is more closely tied than ever to the Greater Pulaski Junior Appalachian Musicians.

This year’s event will feature a post-race musical performance featuring GRAPeJAM students along with some of their instructors. This musical interlude will occur after a donation is presented to GRAPeJAM, which is made possible by the generous support of the 5th Annual Gusto with GRAPeJAM sponsors.

These most excellent businesses are: The Glenn Insurance Company, The Travis Team Realty, MOVA Technologies, Foothills Chiropractic, Now Then and Forever Collectables, Interstate Construction, First Community Bank, Rocky Acres Property Mgmt. and the Law Firm of Gilmore, Sadler, Ingram, Sutherland and Hutton.

Last Friday June 3, one of our GRAPeJAM instructors, Melanie Robinson, showed her talents to the general public by performing at the Fine Art Center’s First Friday Concert series at Maxx On Main. Melanie performed several songs with her fiddle (or is it a violin?) and even sang a little, too.

Melanie put on a great show, adding a good dose witty banter between songs to keep things light.  About halfway through her set, she invited 14-year-old Tyler Simkins to share the stage with her. Tyler, one of the students of the Greater Pulaski Junior Appalachian Musicians, played several banjo tunes, with Melanie joining in to add to the musical flavor of the moment.

Both Melanie and Tyler and some members of the Paine family will be present and performing at this year’s 5th Annual Gusto Event.

The time to register for the 5th Annual Gusto Event with GRAPeJAM is now … or at least sooner than later. If you don’t have a paddle board, call to reserve one with Mountain 2 Island at the Rock House at (540) 980-1488.

There’s always some serious competition in the Gusto. Jeff Matthews, a firefighter from Greensboro, has won three out of the last four Gusto races. At the 4th Annual Gusto, Jeff won with his dog, Joy, on his board. So, he claimed both the Master Paddler award and the Canine Companion award. To say Jeff is “in shape” is a serious understatement.

Don’t worry, most competitors in the Gusto are casual paddle boarders and, in some instances, have never stepped foot on a stand-up paddle board (SUP) before the start of the race.

The Gusto is most definitely a race but for many, simply finishing the 2.1-mile Bona Fide course will be enough for their egos. So, while some will test their physical limits, other less serious competitors will take their time getting to the finish. It’s a good time either way

So, register for the 5th Annual Gusto Event with GRAPeJAM at – It’s $25 and the experience is well worth the cost … and you earn a nifty red bracelet and the new red Gusto moisture wicking race jersey for entering the race!

So, you’ll have that going for you.

But whatever happens, always remember  …

Through Life’s currents both Fair and Foul

Remember there’s no better time than now to…

Go for the Gusto !