Sand enthusiasts flocked to the Oregon Coast the first week of August for the annual running of DuneFest. Billed as the most fun a family can have in the sand, it’s tough to argue after camping out and participating the entire week alongside our fellow duners. DuneFest 2011 ran from Wednesday through Sunday and had a little something for everyone.
Based out of Winchester Bay, MotoUSA was on hand with tons of cool giveaways and raffles and was a popular stop along Vendor Row for all the visitors. Reports have the attendance and vendor participation slightly lower than in years past, but there was still a solid turnout throughout the week as people shook off the poor economy for a few days of sandblasting fun. We joined the rest of the campers with a rented trailer from Luv 2 Camp
, which really allowed us to get the full experience as we cruised around in the 2011 Polaris RZR XP 900
MotoUSA’s booth was right next to the Got Sand display where our buddy Jon Crowley from UTVGuide
was posted up for the week. We immediately headed out for a long ride alongside his sweet Kawasaki Teryx with 916 Muzzys engine and Fox shocks. Our trip took us to Banshee Hill, which his modded Kawi with STU paddles was able to cruise up handily. From there it was all the way to the end of the riding area where Crowley showed us a fun trail along the northern boundary. We fooled around with a bunch of cool GoPro camera
shots, went dune jumping and explored some of the five fingers that overlook Clear Lake.
The Polaris RZR XP 900 is a popular dune toy. We used ours to explore Winchester Bay and catch some sights and big air.
Freeriding on the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area is one of the best parts of visiting DuneFest. Banshee Hill is easily the most popular attraction and riders funnel through the one-lined hillclimb constantly day and night. The landmark is located just beyond the end of the drag strip so it’s easy to get to and a good spot to just park and check out all the different machines. It’s a pretty cool hill because it’s an impromptu drag race at the wide bottom but riders have to keep it pinned or chicken out as it funnels between unforgiving trees. Up top is another good spot to spectate from and see who has the most horsepower and who can wheelie all the way to the top. At night it looks like a candle dripping flaming wax as the headlights trickle down through the woods. We even pulled out the Polaris’ tool kit and fixed a stranded Yamaha Banshee after it conked out and got stuck on the landmark climb.
When riders need a break from the choppy sand they visit Vendor Row which is filled with companies selling gear, clothing and all kinds of tasty carnival-style food. Take a trip down the enticing alley in our DuneFest 2011 Vendor Row Video (sidebar). Some people come just to cruise through the displays and a free shuttle is offered to transport people from off-site parking. The majority of people who attend seem to be camping at the multiple developed sites or out on the open sand. We scored a spot at the Half Moon Bay campground which had great access to the sand but was far enough away that we didn’t have to hear the drag races and general ruckus surrounding the central hub area.
One of the great things about DuneFest is that it attracts OEMs. Four separate manufacturers were on hand with full semi displays and a fleet of ATVs and side-by-sides for demo rides. Kawasaki
, Arctic Cat and Can-Am
all had lines of interested dune riders eager to check out the latest machines. We stumbled across a Teryx out on the trails that was stuck in a deep ditch and looked like one of the demo units. Fortunately our tow strap was tucked in the underseat storage and a few good yanks had them freed up and back on the sand (see the DuneFest 2011 Towing Video
in the sidebar).
Drag racing is a big draw at this event. Sponsored by Modquad Racing, the sand drags are hosted by the Oregon Off-Road Racing Association and use a professional timing system with classes for all ages and machines. We saw stretched quads with wheelie bars that threw towering rooster tails and were so fast it was mind-blowing. There are plenty of other racing opportunities as well including the always popular barrel races for ATVs and side-by-sides as well as a Grand Prix, Quadcross and Last Man Standing competition.
One of our favorite things to do is just cruise around and look at
cool sand vehicles like these. There were some serious drag
racing machines in attendance.
The 2011 Polaris RZR XP 900 is currently the baddest production UTV available, and the XP is a favorite choice of dune enthusiasts, ourselves included. The sign-up sheets for the multiple racing disciplines were loaded with XPs, so we threw down a few bucks and tossed our ring into the hat as well.
First up was the barrel racing. DuneFest has a separate category for side-by-sides and the course was a little wider than the ATV setup. We were a little concerned about the lack of paddle tires on our RZR, but the Sedona BuzzSaw tires actually worked quite well. The dirt tires slid across the torn up, sandy ruts and having treads on the front wheels rather than smooth sand tires helped the AWD pull us around corners.
Riders each got two runs and the best time was counted for their score. The first run was our best at 21.0 seconds, which wound up putting us around fifth. A two-second deduction was given to anyone who wore a cowboy hat so we’ll make sure to bring one next year. That could have been a potential podium!
The following day we entered the Last Man Standing competition. This head-to-head format pitted two riders against each other for three laps around a short TT course. The winner stayed and immediately raced the next competitor while the loser went to the back of the line for another shot. Another loss resulted in double elimination and the driver was forced out. The cycle continued until there was only one man left.
Unfortunately, the side-by-sides were all lumped together regardless of size or modification. Our first race was against a full-blown turbo-charged RZR and we sampled a big faceful of sand. Our AGV AX-8 Dual helmet
was popular for its tinted face shield, but we found out that it doesn’t block all of the airborne sand granules. Some drivers were racing with only sunglasses! The course was tight and one-lined, so it all came down to the start. Whoever nailed the holeshot
Between racing, camping and all the activities,
it's impossible not to have fun at DuneFest.
ultimately roosted their way to winning the heat race. The only time any passes were made they involved contact. One driver in particular bumped and rolled another and followed that up by driving up on the side of the next competitor’s RZR. No one was hurt, but there were some heated words exchanged between drivers.
In our second race we faced off against the eventual winner, Brett Jacobsen and his modified RZR. He was a good sport and even offered up the inside line off the start for many competitors, but Brett had the course dialed, a fast car and made no mistakes as he tore through us and the rest of the field. Both events only cost $10 to enter and it was a cheap way to get some competitive fun alongside the rest of the DuneFest experience.
Throughout the week there was a strong police presence on hand with ATVs, side-by-sides and sand cars. They were on the lookout for ATV registration stickers, drunk riding, unsafe riding behavior and the new ATV safety endorsement card required in Oregon. The safety regulation is kind of like a boater’s safety certification and riders from out of state are affected as well. For more information visit www.rideATVoregon.org
Overall the DuneFest experience was a lot of fun. There were plenty of activities going on around the main stage area, including freestyle motocross, tug-o-war, the MotoUSA drive-in movie night, live music, raffles, poker runs and more. More impressive is that the organization was regimented and we had no problem following the posted schedule of events and getting the most out of our time on the sand. This is one that we’ll definitely be back for in the future.