What Every Rafter Needs to Know
Contains The Put-In Talk
The river is a different world and has it's own rules you need to heed if you want to experience it's pleasures and avoid it's hazards. It's currents can flow up, down, sideways and even upstream. In rafting and swimming you use these currents to speed up, slow down or stop. The depth changes all the time depending on the position of rocks and gravels in its bed. Rapids are caused by changes in the rock types and steepness of the river. The idea in rafting is to get into the currents that go where you want to go and moving off those that take you where you don't want to be. A good current can change personality and become a bad one as soon it encounters an obstacle like a rock, ledge, gravel bar or tree. So the whole idea of navigation on a river is to constantly move the raft side to side to be on the desired current. As you begin rafting more difficult waters these changes become more frequent, requiring faster thinking and stronger paddling. It takes practice and experience for your beginning guide to master these skills and be able to quickly identify river features and their characteristics. Be careful not to let yourself be guided down a river with a guide who is not ready to tackle that level. Each class should be mastered perfectly before moving on to the next. River Classification
Hat, Sunglasses, keeper straps for those in case you fall in and you value them, bathing suit, shorts.
Footwear: Footwear that will not come off your feet - Water shoes, river sandals or old sneakers. (Most sandals give your feet extra floatation) Flip-flops suck in the raft, in the water and on the shore - the worst thing you can wear on the river! If you have to go to shore after having them come off your feet, you will be in the wilderness without foot protection.
Pants & shoes must be tight so the currents can't pull them off. It's hard to swim if your shorts are around your ankles!
Sunscreen: Apply 1/2 hour before exposure and do not put any on the forehead - It will burn your eyes when you sweat (the reason for the hat). Try to do this before arriving at put-in. You should be helping out with the raft equip when you get there. Also, it tends pollute the water if not given time to soak in.
Life jackets: Wear your snugly fitted life jacket at all times while on the river or scouting rapids. (Provided with the rental of raft) Please examine the adjustment and tightening system before you put yours on so you know how to do it yourself. Get help if needed.
Life jackets can rip if you play tug-of-war with the parts when trying pull someone in the water during a water fight.
Do not wear stuff you don't need and can get snagged or get in the way when getting back in the raft, such as belt bags, hydration packs, jewelry, loose clothing, etc.
Towels are not usefull on a raft trip...unless you want to have some wet towel fights.
During colder seasons rafters wear wetsuits, splash jackets and neoprene booties to keep warm. These can be rented at Canyon.
Don't bring any glass containers on the river!
Large hard coolers take up valuable space on a raft and can cause injury. Use a soft cooler. (These are available for rent $1.50)
Don't leave any food or garbage at the river. Your mother doesn't work there! Dropped food feeds rats and mice which reproduce. The next thing you know is an increase in rattlesnakes!
General Rafting Etiquette
If you are the driver of the take-out vehicle, don't leave your keys at the put-in!
Do not have loose stuff in your un-zippered pocket (car keys) that can fall out when you swim.
Make sure the raft is fully floating before you get in it.
You wash the sand & crud off your feet before getting in.
Never tie yourself to the raft in any way. If the raft gets flipped upside down you'll be in a pickle.
Keep you feet inside the raft. If you let a foot dangle in moving shallow water it may get snagged by a rock, pulling you out of the raft. Then the raft can park on top of you causing distress. Dangling feet also causes drag.
A whitewater trip is not a booze cruise. Every beer you drink makes you less intelligent and makes you more likely to try to breath water if you fall out.
Bathrooms are located at least the beginning and end of most trips and sometimes along the way. Try to take care of busines before you launch. These rivers supply drinking water for the place you may go to eat later!
Paddling - Working With Your Guide
The following are very important instructions. After reading each step, close your eyes and mentally picture yourself doing these things. It will help you remember.
Paddlers are the engine that moves, slows or helps turn the raft. Without your paddling the guide can't move the raft forward or back much. A 14' raft with people weighs around 1300 pounds!
You sit on the outside tubes of the raft so you can use the paddle effectively and pull your own weight.
You brace your feet forward and back to help keep yourself in the raft.
Keep your hand over the T grip of the paddle handle so you don't knock out someone's teeth with it. It also keeps the blade properly aligned in the water while paddling.
Don't paddle unless the guide tells you to or you have decided to mutiny. You'll mess up the guides plans. (Hopefully he or she has one)
When the guide gives a command, start paddling immediately.
The guide will give you sufficiently loud commands to move the raft around on the river. They are: Forward!, Back-paddle!, Left turn! Right turn!, and hopefully Stop! after each command has achieved it's purpose. If your guide is not using these, you may need to have a talk. Right! is not a good paddling command; it has more than one meaning!
Don't stop paddling until the guide says so. This helps the new guide learn to give the stop command.
The paddler in the front left is the lead paddler and you should paddle in sync with that person for the forward or back paddle commands.
Put the entire blade in the river, not just the tip.
To get the most from each forward stroke you need to reach forward with your arms and your body. This helps the paddler in back of you stay in sync. The stroke ends somewhere at the hip and then you lean forward for a new one.
To back paddle strongly you must use your hip area as the fulcrum. At the beginning of the stroke, your body is leaned forward, the paddle shaft is held against your upper thigh and the blade is pointed behind you. Then you dip the blade in and lean back pulling with your upper hand. The lower hand does not push against the water. It's all torso muscles at work.
When the guide calls for a turn you should know which way your side paddles. Give it some thought. A right turn command means the right side back-paddles and the other side forward paddles. What happens in a left turn command?
If in shallow water and you are sitting on the downstream tube and the raft is sideways to current, watch out for any shallow rocks that may stop the raft and send you tumbling. Lean in to prevent this. Call out a warning if you see a rock the guide may have missed.
Any time a strong side current slams your side of the raft, you'd be advised to at least lean in some so you don't fall out when the raft gets shoved out from under you.
Preventing Raft Flips
Anything that stops the raft's motion while it is in a current can cause a flip. The upstream tube can get sucked & pushed under water causing the other side to rise up, flipping the raft over or pinning it to the side of the rock.
If it looks like the raft is going to hit a rock or tree branches, avoidence paddling should be happening! If your guide is asleep at the wheel, wake em up!
If you are in moving water and the raft is going to hit a rock sideways, quickly get you ass off the upstream tube and jump over to the rock side of the raft to prevent a wrap.
If you are in moving water and the raft is going to hit a large wave sideways, quickly get your ass off the upstream tube and jump over towards the wave to prevent a flip.
If you are in moving water and the raft is going to hit a large hole sideways, quickly get your ass off the upstream tube and jump over to the downstream side of the raft to prevent a flip.
If you are in moving water and the raft is going to hit a tree sideways, quickly get your ass off the upstream tube and jump over to the tree side of the raft to prevent a flip. Toward the branches - oh yea...
If your guide yells "high side!" like he or she should, do the above fast. If he's frozen in the headlights, do it without him. If someone's not moving, drag their ass over!
Swimming and Rescue
There are two kinds of rafters; those who have fallen out and those who someday will.
Don't panic! Hold your breath until you come to the surface. Pull your feet up to the surface so they can't get trapped between rocks on the river bottom.
If you find yourself under the raft, reach up and push the raft in one direction with both arms until you surface.
Calm pools are deep and rapids are shallower.
Try to hold on to the paddle; if you can.
If you are in moving water, immediately get your feet faced downstream and toes to the surface in the defensive swimming position. Assess your situation.
Don't get pulled back in the raft when the water is fast and shallow; your legs may get banged up or trapped by rocks.
Back stoke some to keep your feet up and slow yourself down. Lowering your head back will raise your butt higher.
Don't get stuck between a rock and the raft; swim hard to avoid that. Don't hold on the side of the raft; it blocks your vision of what's ahead. Put some distance from it.
If the paddle is hindering your swimming you can let go of it or toss it towards the raft.
Time you breathing between waves so you don't take in water.
If you are washing over a drop, tuck your knees up to keep your feet from being driven to the bottom.
Try to get into the deepest part of the channel by backstroking in that direction.
Tree branches or snags form strainers that can trap you underwater; they are your worst enemy. Stay away! You are better off staying in the open river. If hitting branches appears un-avoidable, switch to breast stroke position and try to haul yourself onto and over.
Aggressive self rescue: As soon as you hit deeper water, you can turn onto your belly and swim back to the raft or go to an eddy or shore if that's safe. If the raft is behind you, getting out of the main current will slow you down and allow it to catch up.
Extend your paddle handle to someone in the raft so they can pull you closer. If someone offers you a paddle handle, grab it. Let go of your death grip on it when you get to the boat so it can be gotten out of the way.
If the person you are neart is not pulling you in, say pull me in! Give a good kick to aid your re-entry into the raft.
If the raft is in a rapid, you should get back into your paddling position quickly so you can help. There may also be other people needing to get back in if there are multiple swimmers.
If the raft is empty, you must climb back in yourself. This can be difficult. If you can get an arm or two under one of the cross tubes (thwarts), you are well on your way. Or if you have reached quiet water, you can swim it to shore.
If the raft is upside down, you can climb on top.
Throw ropes: If someone throws a bag with rope out from shore to rescue you, don't grab the bag. Grab the rope and turn on your back with the rope over your shoulder as they pull you to the side. If you go face first you inhale water. Throw ropes are most commonly used from shore below more difficult class 4 & 5 rapids when a safety person is placed downstream below the rapid.
Rescuing a swimmer
Never jump in to save the swimmer. Then there'll be two! You paddle the raft to the swimmer.
Your guide may tell the swimmer that they should stay away and swim the rapid instead. Listen for instructions.
To pull someone in, the water needs to be deep enough so that their legs don't get trashed.
Only one person pulls in the swimmer. If you are the closest to the swimmer then you are the rescuer.
To pull someone in you will need leverage and both arms. Switch to the rescue position with both knees on the side tube facing the swimmer. Grab the life jacket at both shoulders and pull up and back.
The rest of the paddle crew continues to take orders from the guide. The safety of the raft and it's remaining crew may be more important at the moment.
You can extend a paddle handle or grab theirs to get swimmer close to the raft. At that point get the paddles out of the way and in the boat.
Try to not have paddles behind you presenting a crappy landing area. (How paddles get bent)
If you are nearby and watching, you can help clear any paddles out of the landing zone.
I hope this has been enlightening. If you find any of it unclear, sent me an email!