Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rafting Basics & Tips

By Eugene Buchanan

Can You Handle It?
Rafting’s a sport accomplished while sitting down. But don’t confuse it with couch surfing. If you’re in a paddleboat, the guide relies on you for power, meaning forward and reverse strokes on a moment’s notice. And the strokes have to count--you can’t be lazy when things get rough. Since rafts don’t have guardrails (or the ability to right themselves), swimming--while restricted with lifejacket and in current--is also a real possibility.

Essential Skills
Under the guidance of professionals, you’ll learn the difference between paddle and oar rafts, and such techniques as highsiding (jumping to the high side of the raft to avoid flipping), keeping the boat straight and rigging flip lines to right the boat in the event of a capsize. Your best bet: Sign up for a multiday trip, where you'll also learn the basics of river camping, including the age-old art of setting up the river toilet.

Gear Up 
Tour operators usually provide everything you need, including wetsuits, lifejackets, paddles, and rafts. Don’t become a private river runner unless you have ample space to store your gear and the towing capacity (truck and/or trailer) to get it to the river. Aside from the raft and paddles (or frame and oars), other essentials include a pump, patch kit, and a throw rope and lifejackets for every participants. Other frills include coolers, cargo nets, and drybags.

Speak the Language
Class I-VI: An international scale of difficulty for rating rapids, with I being the easiest and VI being technically unrunnable. 
Highside: Jumping to the "high" side of the raft to level it out and prevent capsizing when it's pinned against a rock or stuck in a hydraulic.
Self-bailer: A modern line of raft with an inflatable floor, allowing water that comes in to flow back out without the need for bailing.

Can You Handle It?
You don’t have to be in top-notch shape to kayak. After all, it’s a sport you do while sitting down. But you should have adequate upper-arm and shoulder strength (best accomplished with pull- and push-ups) and be able to hold your breath for the time it takes you to either roll or bail out. Other muscle groups to develop include the abdomen and lower back; during an average day, you’ll lean forward and backward more than you ever did as a kid on a seesaw.

Essential Skills
Few sports subject newcomers to the school of hard knocks more than whitewater kayaking. Unless you want to spend most of the day swimming, sign up for a lesson. The first day or two should be spent in a lake or pool, without any current, to introduce you to the underworld. Here you’ll learn such concepts as bracing, rolling, and most important, wet exiting. Once you have these basics under your belt, you graduate to moving water, where you’ll learn such techniques as eddy turns, peel outs, ferrying, and surfing.

Gear Up
Whitewater kayaking is gear intensive. The basic checklist reads: boat, paddle, sprayskirt, helmet and lifejacket. Then come the frills, including wetsuit, drytop, booties, pogies (gloves for cold weather), float bags (to displace water in case of a swim), throw ropes, and finally, a large net bag to store it all. Once you’ve acquired this mound of gear, it should last for years without the need for repairs or upgrades.

Speak the Language
Cartwheel: A new-school freestyle maneuver in which your boat rotates end-over-end while remaining in a hydraulic. 
Eddy turn: Finding momentary sanctuary in the river’s slack water (usually found behind an obstacle). 
Eskimo roll: Combining leverage from your paddle with a strong hip-snap to right yourself after capsizing. 
Ferry: Making your way across the river while facing upstream, without losing any ground (often used for catching waves). 
Peel-out: Coming out of an eddy back into the main current.

More Articles on: Whitewater Rafting Termonology | 10 Places to Whitewater Raft

1 comment:

  1. As vacations go, if you love the outdoors and you love excitement, then there's nothing better to do during the heat of the summer than to go on an awesome white water rafting trip in Colorado.

    Colorado River Dory