Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to determine if you are an Expert or a Beginner

No matter if it is your first time in a raft or your fiftieth time, whitewater rafting can provide thrills for people of all ages and skill levels. But knowing your skill level is important when choosing your rafting destination.
Knowing how rivers are classified is the first step. Rivers are rated using a class scale to define both the technicality and size of the whitewater. Class I rivers have a slower current, smaller and lower waves, and no obstructions. Often these are labeled as “Scenic Floats”.  Class II rivers feature rapids up to three feet in height with wide channels and high visibility. Some light maneuvering is required. Class III features rapids up to four feet with narrower passages and the guarantee that water will come gushing into your raft. Moderate maneuvering is needed here. Navigating a class I-III rivers are not too difficult and ideal for younger children.
Class IV rivers are longer and feature more difficult rapids, narrower passages, and turbulent waters. Precise maneuvering is required. Class V is the highest level and most difficult with more complexity and larger amounts of water, in addition to the challenges of a Class IV rapid. Class V rivers should only be navigated by experts and many rafting companies will not even take guests on Class V rapids.
If you are already familiar with the classification system, you are probably not a beginner, but you might not be an expert either. Chances are if you have not been formally trained or certified, but you have been whitewater rafting before, you might fall into the moderate or intermediate category. It really comes down to knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Many people who have been rafting before may not want a guide but guides are great for individuals of all levels of experience because they can offer navigation and safety information you may not otherwise be aware of. Tour companies can also give you additional information if you have questions. Using a guide or going on a tour through a company is your safest option, no matter your skill level.
Even if you are an expert, if you are in a group with beginners or moderate rafters, you should be mindful of everyone’s skill level in your group. Most rafts hold 8 people so the skill levels of each individual are important to know before trying to maneuver and navigate your way down a river.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Using Common Sense when Rafting

Whitewater rafting is fun and very rewarding. No doubt you’ll come home with great stories to tell friends and co-workers about your summer adventures. Believe it or not, those stories may not always be about the rapids! You might capture the moment an Osprey glides down and snatches a fish from the stream right in front of you, or share about the moose that was surprised by your multi-colored flotilla rounding the bend. Your guide will likely be able to share many entertaining stories about such wild encounters- rapids or not!
Memories are borne out of unique situations, and running the whitewater is a very unique experience for many. Getting out of our comfort zones is what adventure is all about, but there has to be an element of safety on which to anchor our misgivings about possibly experiencing a bit more adventure than we ventured for. There are safe ways to do most everything - even things that initially seem too dangerous to attempt. For example, most of us use our common sense when speeding at 55 MPH in a car to wear our safety belts. On the river, we buckle up all the buckles on our life jackets. In the shower, we make sure to step carefully to avoid slipping - same thing on slippery river shorelines. Your guide will familiarize you with how to stay safe in what would otherwise be a dangerous environment.
Common sense - your own personal common sense - is one of the most important things to pack on any adventure in life - not just when whitewater rafting. Knowing your own limitations, while also exposing yourself to new things you’ve never tried before is a large part of what living life is all about - not merely surviving. Dare to try new things, but know your abilities and skills for the activity you want to pursue.
Having a great guide, and an outfitter that takes guide training seriously each year, is also a very big part of ensuring a great time on the river. There are no standardized regulations that all outfitters must abide by, so knowing you’ve found an outfitter that makes common sense safety a priority is important. Rafting America partners are chosen specifically because they adhere to common sense safety protocols - above and beyond any minimum requirements.
Choose the right outfitter for the area you want to go rafting, and bring your own common sense on the trip with you, and you’ll come home with just the right kind of wild stories of your own!