Whitewater rafting safety tips

Whitewater rafting continues to grow in popularity. Like so many outdoor activities, people tend to forget that whitewater rafting necessarily entails an element of risk due to the elements of nature. In fact, some might point out that because of the inherent thrill seeking element of whitewater rafting, the sport includes a greater-than-average risk factor.

Whitewater rafting outfitters all over the world have their own unique risks in the trips that they provide. These can range from the easily treatable (someone catches sick on a trip) to the incredibly and exotically dangerous (a rogue hippo attacking rafters on the Zambezi in Zimbabwe). There are several dangers that are involved in all whitewater expeditions, however, no matter how short or how long, or where you are in the world. Here are some tips when it comes to making sure that your expedition is as successful and safe as possible.

Prepare Beforehand:
If you have never been on whitewater rafting trip before, don’t try to shoot the moon on your first trip out. Having a rafter who is unfamiliar with the water is a guide’s worst nightmare, so make sure that if you are going on an advanced run that you are secure in your swimming ability. You should also be honest with yourself and the outfitter you are going with when it comes to your physical ability; not all people can expect to be able to run Class V rapids all day, due to lower physical health.

Listen to Your Guide!
Guides that work for whitewater rafting outfitters are experienced and educated outdoors enthusiasts who know exactly what they are doing and what to expect on the rivers they run. Despite this fact, many people still presume that they know better than their guide what to do out on the river. Don’t make this mistake. Consider that most guides have specialty training that the average person, even the average outdoors enthusiast, will not have the chance to obtain. Guides who run the Colorado River for River Runners in the Colorado, for example, are required to take Swiftwater Rescue training when they take rafters down Class IV or higher sections of rapids.

Betty, of W.E.T. River Trips in California, mentions that guides are also able to help rafters avoid stress injury by offering paddling techniques. “Men and women guides often have different styles of paddling”, so be sure to use the one that is appropriate to your strengths!

Select Age-Appropriate Trips:
Most whitewater rafting trips are available to people of all ages, but both parents of young children and senior citizens should choose the type of rapids they tackle according to realistic criteria. Eileen Datka of River Runners, an outfitter based in Colorado, points out that their trips are limited to people four years old or forty pounds. Kids in this group are restricted to the Class III rapids, and most parents will probably agree that this is more than sufficient for a thrill.

Duke Bradford, of Arkansas Valley Adventures (also in Colorado) notes that his company offers several trips for children as young as two, as long as they are accompanied by their parents. Several outfitters agree with this perspective and offer float trips along easy Class I and II rapids that even young families can enjoy.

Outfitters also note that even older kids might not be suited to all runs. For example, both River Runners and W.E.T. River Trips in California state that during high water, the minimum age on Class IV rapids should be 16 years. Betty of W.E.T. takes the age limit one step further, encouraging those under the age of 18 to defer from going on trips that involve a lot of Class V water.

Safety comes first in any outdoor recreational activity, and whitewater adventures are certainly no exception. To make sure that you have the most enjoyable excursion possible, follow the steps above and contact the outfitter you are going to use before hand to see if they have any additional advice.

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