Safety Tips When Whitewater Rafting for the First Time

43So, you booked a whitewater rafting trip? Congratulations, you’re about to embark on the most exhilarating trip of a lifetime! I’m sure you did lots of research and found the best outfitter in your area, but now that the trip is getting closer, you may be getting a bit nervous. This is completely normal! Having a bit of anxiety and fear is a good thing when it comes to whitewater rafting, it means that you have respect for the river and the water. More accidents happen when carelessness and inattention come into play. So, let that fear and anxiety loom. Read this article and learn how to best prepare yourself for your first whitewater rafting trip.

Whether you booked a half day or a 6 day trip, you’ll likely get a safety talk at the boat ramp or the launch area, but here are some important tips to remember.

Wear your life-jacket: this may seem like a no brainer, but it’s really the simplest way to stay safe while whitewater rafting. In Idaho, a rafting outfitter is required to provide type V life-jackets or personal floatation devices to all guests going whitewater rafting. A type V life jacket refers to the foam density and pounds of floatation in the device, basically it’s the safest type of jacket you can wear! So, once you are near the river’s edge, be sure that your life jacket is on and it is properly fitted. In order for a life jacket to be properly fitted, it needs to fit snug. This will make sure that if you jump into the water, your life jacket doesn’t float up and over your head, it needs to stay down around your mid section to do its job correctly. Always wear your life jacket anytime you are near the water or in the raft.

Watch your step: be careful getting around when on the river bank and especially when getting in and out of the boat. The rocks along the river’s edge are very slippery, so take your time. “Low and slow” is a motto that river guides use often, walk slowly and crouch down low when the rocks or terrain are particularly treacherous.

Listen to your guide: this is especially important when it comes to a paddle boat, where each person has a paddle. The guide will be calling out commands such as right side, left side, etc. They do this in order to navigate safely through a rapid, avoid rocks and ensure you’re having the most fun possible!

Sit in a recliner: if you do happen to fall into the water and you’re nearing a rapid, you’ll want to try to get back to the boat as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s not always possible to get back in the boat, you may have to float down river for a bit before being pulled back into the boat. This is OK, remember you have a type V life jacket on that will help keep you afloat, all you need to do is sit back in a la-z-boy recliner position with your feet out in front of you and float down the river. This position helps to ensure that if there are rocks in the river, you’re able to bounce off of them with your feet, and not your head or tail bone. You’ll also have a clear view of what’s down river.

Breathe above water: another one of those rules that seems very intuitive and lacks needing to be mentioned, but it really does need to be mentioned. A lot of people will go through an initial shock that they’re in the water and a moment of panic, which can lead to erratic breathing. Take a big breath when your head is above water and hold it when it’s under water!

Pay attention to your surroundings: there are regional threats to watch out for and your guides will fill you in on the specifics, whether it’s poison ivy, poison oak, snakes, etc. Just be aware of the land and it’s threats.

Above all, have fun! A whitewater rafting trip is the best way to spend a hot summer afternoon, and if you’re lucky enough, you are planning a multi-day adventure and will be spending 3-6 days out on the river! Enjoy every minute, let the sun kiss your nose, revel in the big whitewater, leave your watch behind, dig your paddle in and live in the moment of being on the river!