Safety tips when going whitewater rafting for the first time
So you booked a whitewater rafting trip? Congratulations, you are about to embark on the most exciting journey of your life! I’m sure you did a lot of research and found the best provider in your area, but now that the trip is getting closer, you may be getting a little nervous. This is completely normal! Having a bit of anxiety and fear is a good thing when it comes to rafting, it means that you have respect for the river and the water. More accidents occur when carelessness and inattention come into play. So, let fear and anxiety hang over us. Read this article and learn how to best prepare for your first whitewater rafting trip.
Whether you’ve booked a half-day or 6-day trip, you’ll likely get a safety briefing on the boat ramp or launch area, but here are some important tips to remember.
Wear your life jacket: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually the easiest way to stay safe while rafting. In Idaho, a rafting provider is required to provide V-type life jackets or personal flotation devices to all whitewater rafting guests. A type V life jacket refers to the density of the foam and the pounds of buoyancy in the device, it is basically the safest type of vest you can wear! So once you’re close to the river’s edge, make sure your life jacket is on and snug. For a life jacket to fit properly, it must fit well. This will ensure that if you jump into the water, your life jacket doesn’t float up and over your head, it must stay down around your midsection to do its job properly. Always wear your life jacket whenever you are near the water or on the raft.
Watch your step: be careful when moving along the riverbank and especially when getting in and out of the boat. The rocks along the river bank are very slippery so take your time. “Low and slow” is a motto river guides use often, walk slowly and crouch when rocks or terrain are particularly treacherous.
Hear from your guide: This is especially important when it comes to a rowboat, where each person has a paddle. The guide will call commands like the right side, the left side, etc. They do it to safely navigate through a rapid, avoid rocks, and make sure you have the most fun!
Sit in a recliner: If you fall into the water and are approaching a rapid, you will want to try to get back to the boat as soon as possible. Sometimes it is not always possible to get back on the boat, you may have to float downstream for a bit before getting back on the boat. This is fine, remember you have a V-type life jacket that will help you stay afloat, all you need to do is sit in a la-z-boy recline position with your feet in front of you and float down the river. This position helps ensure that if there are rocks in the river, you can bounce off them with your feet and not with your head or tailbone. You will also have a clear view of what is downstream.
Breathe above water: Another one of those rules that seems very intuitive and doesn’t need to be mentioned, but it really does need to be mentioned. Many people will go through an initial shock from being in the water and a moment of panic, which can lead to erratic breathing. Take a deep breath when your head is above water and hold it when you are underwater!
Pay attention to your surroundings: There are regional threats to watch out for and your guides will fill you in on the details, be it poison ivy, poison oak, snakes, etc. Just be aware of the land and its threats.
Above all, have fun! A whitewater rafting trip is the best way to spend a hot summer afternoon and if you are lucky enough you are planning a multi-day adventure and will spend 3-6 days on the river. Enjoy every minute, let the sun kiss your nose, delight in the great white waters, leave your watch behind, nail your paddle and live the moment of being in the river.