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Safety Tips for White Water Rafting

Austin Winder
White water rafting is an exciting sport, but it can also sometimes be extremely unsafe. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself and get out of compromising situations.
White water rafting is a great way to have fun outdoors. It’s also a popular sport in the fall when people can take advantage of the cool weather. Whether you’re going alone or bringing friends along, rafting can check all boxes of those looking for an adventure.
With that said, however, rafting has its inherent dangers. A fun day on the water can become dangerous in a hurry if you’re not fully-prepared for the adventure. If you’re considering a white water rafting trip, here are a few things to keep in mind to keep your friends safe.

Choose A Professional, Licensed Rafting Business

When comparing different white water rafting outfitters, ask how long they have been in business. Every year, few rafting businesses pop up in areas popular for rafting. While they aren’t necessarily unsafe or unprepared, it’s hard to decide the legitimate businesses from those over their heads.
A business that has been around for several years is more likely to have the experience you need. Ask what training the guides can provide. It is important to know that you have a professional ready and able to help if emergency arises.

Wear the Proper Protective Gear

This tip could go for any physical activity - be it surfing, hiking, or riding a bike. And yet you’d be surprised how many people forego the basic safety gear.
The truth is safety measures are always worth the trouble. When it comes to wearing gear while white water rafting, this couldn't be any truer. Even if you plan to ride light rapids, accidents can occur. Wear your helmet always. If you bring children, insist they wear a helmet and other gears.

Keep a Phone With You

Although a phone is likely to get damaged if you fall in water, you should always try to have one with you. Many rivers with white water rafting are by highways or towns, so you’ll get reception more so than you would on a hike.
Whether your boat gets stuck or you fall out and hurt yourself, having a phone could save your life. If you do not have a cell phone plan, it would be worth getting a prepaid plan with limited minutes in case something goes wrong on your adventure.

Keep Life Jackets On

Wearing a life jacket while white water rafting should be a no-brainer. However, just because you wear one, it doesn't mean your life will be saved. Life jackets need to be worn properly to help you. Every buckle should be clipped to fit the jacket snug on your body.
You should be able to breathe easily, but you must not be able to slip out of it. Have your professional rafting guide help you ensure a good fit.

Learn To Hold Paddle Properly

Proper use of the paddle is necessary for safety. To hold it correctly, one hand needs to stay firmly gripped to the base of the paddle shaft. The other needs to always be over the "T" grip at the opposite end of the shaft.
If not, you could end up getting hit in the face with it and a teeth knocked out or a black eye. Your guide can show you the proper technique if you get confused. Holding it properly will let you have maximum control over it.

Pick a Route That Fits Your Skill and Learn to Swim in Rapids

If you wish to ride rapids for the first time, the worst thing you could do is pick a portion of a river meant for experts. Consult your rafting expert if you can; they generally have a guide for finding the right river trip for your skill level.
Swimming in a pool and rushing rapids are two different things. If you fall out of the boat, you must know swimming to reduce the risk of crashing into the rocks. Always swim feet first down the river to absorb the shock when hitting rocks.
If you try to swim to shore, be sure you swim until fully onto the shoreline. Never stand up before you are out of the rushing water or you may end up being pulled back in.

Pay Attention to Instructions

Before you head out, your rafting guide will go over safety precautions and notes on what to do if you or someone else falls out of the boat. It is crucial to pay attention and understand before your experience. If you have questions, ask your guide before leaving the shore.