Whitewater rafting can be an exhilarating adventure. Your adrenaline is off the charts as you surge through rapids and set off on a one-of-a-kind thrill ride. But with every outdoor activity comes a certain degree of risk.
In this case, you may fall out of your raft and into the rapids. Though this situation is a scary occurrence, you shouldn’t let the possibility deter you from a trip altogether.
Here are a few ways you and your fellow adventurers can take measures to protect yourselves.
1. Bring the Right Gear
This tip is a given, but it’s still necessary to point out. Everyone in your group should wear a life jacket at all times. They’re almost always available to rent from the rafting company. After you choose a vest, put it on to make sure it fits correctly. It should feel comfortable and adjustable, but very secure.
Always keep your jacket fastened and bring an extra if there’s room. Second, wear a helmet. There are often rocks and trees in and around rivers. In case you fall out of the raft, these items combined will protect your head and allow you to stay afloat.
2. Listen to Your Guide
In almost all cases, you’ll have an experienced guide in the raft with you. This fact is true for even the biggest whitewater fans. These trained professionals undergo around two weeks of coursework and must complete 20 successful trips before they can lead a solo excursion.
These guides are top-notch, but it’s up to you to heed their advice. Before the outing, they’ll give a safety talk that you should pay close attention to. On the water, they’ll throw out directions that you and your group need to follow. One of the most crucial steps you can take to protect yourself is to listen to your instructor.
3. Swim Properly
If you do fall out of the raft, it’s not the end of the world — as long as you keep your wits about you. Position yourself downstream with your face and toes pointed to the sky. Keep your backside raised so that you don’t hit any rocks. Grab onto the boat as soon as you can so that someone can lift you up.
Otherwise, if you’ve fallen out of reach and you’re near the riverbank, conduct the proper techniques to make it safely to land. Weaker swimmers shouldn’t attempt this tactic.
Don’t stand up until you make it out altogether, as your feet can get caught in cracks and holes at the bottom of the river. Your guide will go over the correct methods, so listen carefully. This advice can make all the difference if you fall out of the raft. Above all else, stay as calm as possible. Panic won’t get you anywhere.
4. Wear Appropriate Clothing
Whitewater rivers are often frigid, even during the summer. You must wear the proper outfit so that the cold doesn’t drain your strength if you fall into the water. In the spring and fall, wear a wetsuit underneath a fleece or wool coat.
A hat under your helmet will be helpful as well. When it’s warmer out, you can wear a t-shirt and shorts, but make sure you still bring a jacket. Doing so will allow you to focus more on having fun and less on how chilly it is. Proper shoes are also crucial, as they’ll help protect your feet from debris in the river.
5. Always Hold Your Paddle
Another important safety tip is to always maintain control over your paddle. Place one hand on the shaft and the other on the handle. If the top slips from your grip, it can whack someone else in the face.
Similarly, if you or someone else falls out of the raft, you can use your oar to find a way back on. Never let go of it, as it may be the only way you can get to safety. Your instructor may call out specific directions that require you to use your paddle in a certain way. Secure the proper grip and you’ll be ready for anything.
Keep Your Cool
The best thing to remember is to never panic. Instead, remain calm. This is a normal occurrence out on the river. Don’t forget that your instructor’s number one priority is to keep everyone safe, so they’ll do the best they can to grab you if you fall out.
Take note of these five safety tips so that you can have a fun trip you’ll always remember — for the right reasons!