California Watersport Collective

It was love at first sight for Melissa DeMarie when she took her first paddle strokes down the South Fork American River in the spring of 2005. Diving into the community and culture of Coloma, she spent countless days working and playing in this historic location as a raft guide, photographer and kayak instructor. Fueled by a passion for whitewater and exploration, Melissa traveled all around the world – teaching and guiding on the breathtaking rivers in places like Chile, New Zealand, Norway, Nepal, and Uganda – honing her skills and learning about different cultures and peoples. 

Seven years ago, Melissa married a fellow guide and nestled into the beautiful Coloma-Lotus valley forever. With the desire to give back to the community she loved so much, she founded California Watersport Collective in 2015 as a way to get more women connected and out on the water. 

California Watersport Collective, or “Cali Collective” as it is affectionately known, is a community-building organization and kayak school committed to empowering women and all participants through the development of athletic and leadership skills both on and off the water. They provide kayaking clinics for women in Northern California, Oregon, Idaho, and Chile, integrating elements such as yoga, workshops and farm-to-table meals into their trips. Cali Collective offers private group and one-on-one instruction for women, men and youths, as well as company team building events. And just like the founder, their diverse team has found their way to the Coloma valley for the love of whitewater and have chosen this place as their home for love of the people that they’ve found here.

In recognition of her work in the whitewater industry and beyond, the Cali Collective “Chief Instigator” was bestowed the American Canoe Association “Paddle Heroes Award” in the spring of 2019. The ACA California Executive Council created the California Paddle Heroes Award to recognize and honor members of the California paddling community who prioritize and consistently help share paddlesports by making others feel excited, welcome, and safe, help protect and conserve public waterways and access to those waterways by paddlers and are motivated by a deep love of the out-of-doors and paddlesports.

The next big event for Cali Collective is the Community Celebration on the South Fork American September 14. The festival is a benefit for their new Community Outreach Project, with the goal of creating and holding a space for all people to learn, connect and grow with their community. The Celebration includes a downriver fun race, live music, games for kids, performances by local artists, camping and more! More details on their website including a schedule of events and camping reservations.

For more information about Cali Collective, their mission, and programming visit the website at, email at or call us at 530-426-2820. Follow their Facebook and Instagram for more photos and upcoming events.