How to Learn the Basics of Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Rafting! You’ve probably seen them on TV – crews of young men and women taking on the rapids with style and speed and of course the occasional fall! If you’ve always wanted to learn the basics of whitewater rafting and join these intrepid explorers in some of the world’s most beautiful locations there are a few fundamentals you need to learn. Whitewater rafting does require some skills such as learning how to paddle and steer and basic water safety procedures but it’s not a particularly difficult pastime in general.

What You Need to Learn the Basics of Whitewater Rafting

* Excellent swimming skills

* Correct safety gear

* A grasp on basic whitewater rules

* Library, video store and bookstore materials

* Good physical health and condition

* Proper water safety instruction

How to Prepare for Whitewater Rafting

1. To get started you need to be prepared. This means understanding both the thrills and the dangers of the sport. So before you head out to the whitewater and break an arm do as much research as you can on the subject. Read as much as you can on the subject, make contact with people involved in the sport and find out about places to get the proper instruction. Begin a search at your local library and online and get hold of some periodicals dedicated to the pastime. Make sure you know all the dangers involved in whitewater rafting and listen to the experts when they tell you what to avoid.

2. Improve your swimming skills. Even if you are an expert in the pool at home, getting caught in the rapids is a very different ball game, make sure your skills are as good as they can be both above and below water. If your boat capsizes (which it probably will!) you need to be a strong and proficient swimmer to navigate those surges of water. You may need to help others too, so practice some rescue techniques with a professional.

3. Find some friends willing to go with you, preferably ones experienced in whitewater rafting. Even if the rapids you will be navigating are low grade, anything can happen on the water, so never go alone. Going in a group is also much more fun!

4. Learn about safety gear and take it with you. The correct floatation equipment may save your life. Your vest should be approved to national standards and fit you properly. Before you leave, do a few practice runs in the pool or at the beach and find out if you can move around comfortably and be relatively mobile in the event of an accident. You should be able to find a good vest at most sporting goods stores.

5. Learn and understand the Rules of Whitewater. All sports have rules and whitewater rafting is no exception. The rules may just save your life in an emergency. Learn to understand the different classes of rapids and how to differentiate between, for example, Class II and Class IV rapids.

Make sure you know what to do in the event your boat overturns. Should you swim across the current or down the current? If you can’t answer these and other questions vital to your safety, don’t go just yet. Read up on the subject or consult videos or professionals to gain an understanding of what to do when everything goes wrong.

6. Whitewater rafting requires the right equipment. Make sure you know what that is. If you are a beginner you may want to contact a tour company and let them outfit you appropriately. They will be able to advise you on everything you need, including your floatation vest.

If you can arrange it, take an experienced guide with you the first few times you go out on the water and listen to his instructions carefully. He or she will be able to judge your skills and techniques and give you pointers on how to improve them. Your guide can also give you advice on how to handle any given situation and offer safety tips.

7. Do some networking. Beginners can benefit from the advice and help of experienced, professionals. Try to find a local whitewater rafting club in your area and connect with the rafters there. They are an invaluable source of information on whitewater rafting locations in the area as well as those you should avoid. Go online and join a newsgroup or message board on the subject. Ask as many questions as possible and make friends who can accompany you on your trips into whitewater country.

8. You might want to consider getting certified in water safety or doing a formal whitewater rafting course. If you do, there a few options open to you. The vast majority of YMCA / YWCA’s and gyms with swimming pools also offer a basic water safety course or life saving class. Contact your local community or call the America Red Cross offices for advice on how to improve your safety skills in the water and help others out of trouble. If you are lucky you may never need to use them, but just think how glad you’ll be that you did, in the event of an emergency!

Once you feel you have learned the basics of whitewater rafting, practiced with a guide or club and know how to get yourself out of trouble, we suggest making contact with other beginners and planning a trip down the easiest class of rapid. Contact a local whitewater rafting club and see if they organize trips for several beginners at a time.

In this case a more experienced member or two will accompany the group of novices into the water to ensure that all goes well. Never tackle any whitewater rafting that is out of your league or experience no matter how much you may be tempted to be a dare-devil.

Whitewater rafting is a thrilling and exhilarating pastime but it does need some pre-preparation to make the most of it.

Be prepared to start off slow and you will be able to build on your skill and advance as you go in safety.

Happy paddling!