Paddling Tips and Tricks

If you are interested in some of the tips and tricks to properly navigate your boat down the river, take a few minutes to read some of the things that we teach you just before you get on the river. This is not our complete instruction, but you’ll get some goodies here that you’ll want to hear a bit more about before you take off for your first run.


Well, part of the fun is figuring it out for yourself, but if you are going to get your feet wet, and want to know a bit more about it, here it is.

First you decide on what type of trip: Guided, Group Guide Assisted, or Rental.
Then you choose the length of the trip you would like to try. Usually a full river.
Then you select your boat size and style based on the size of your group.
Then you are ready to go, right? Not yet anyway.

When you get your boat, and you are ready to pile in and make a go of it, there are a few things to consider. The most important is how to position your paddlers. Consider weight and paddling strength as your primary factors. You want to balance the weight and paddling power, so when you call “All Forward”, you go straight, and not left or right. It will be up to the guide, or the boat captain to steer the boat, so if you are fighting an unbalanced boat, its going to make you do a bit of additional work if you are going to keep the boat straight.

You as a guide can use your paddle behind your hip like a rudder on a sail boat. Holding the blade back and forth in the water to move the rear of the boat. When you move the rear of the boat, the front is going to angle also. Remember, it is best to steer the boat, or change it’s direction when the boat is moving, but not under full power. You call “All Forward”, and the boat begins to move forward. You make wide sweeps with your paddle from behind the boat to the side, and from the side of the boat to the rear of the boat when you need to make solid corrections. Minor adjustments can be made using the rudder technique. It is more effective to yell, “All Rest”, and make your correction strokes, then “All Forward Again”. If you need to slow down, you can call “All Back”, and everyone will back paddle to slow you down.

If you really need to turn fast or you want to spin while paddling through some curling waves, you can call “Right Back, and Left Forward”, or you can use the reverse to get the other side of the boat wet.

The basic idea of navigating the river is “Turn the Boat, Paddle Forward, then Turn the Boat and Paddle Forward”. When you are paddling, and you look ahead and see a big rock, you need to get back to the basics. Turn the Boat, paddle forward far enough to clear the rock, then turn the boat back straight, and either rest, or paddle forward. Practice fine tuning your steering, because you never know when you will need to make that precise adjustment.


Well, you can wait until the river goes down, and then get out and carry your raft to the bank! . Or you can helplessly jump up and down in the boat an yell at everyone else for not being in sync with you. Or maybe you pump out a few wise cracks about that extra biscuit you ate this morning. Or you can listen to all of the other rafters passing by that think they have a solution for you. Or maybe some friendly river guide will be passing by and give you a bump. If all of that doesn’t work, then you must be really stuck, and might need a bit more ideas. Well, here they are! Remember that there are two major factors here to consider. One is the weight of the passengers in the craft (not the biggest factor), the other is the location of the rock that is holding you, and last but not least, the water factor. This will work in just about every situation you find yourself in except for the fact that you just floated into the Raft Cradle or the Raft Trap.

Find the location of the rock that has a hold of the bottom of your raft. Move the largest amount of the weight to the other end of the raft. Lean way out of the raft, away from the rock, and use your paddles against the strongest part of the current to pull you off of the rock. Try to twirl it off of the rock.

Don’t fight the water, it always wins. Use the water to help you lift the side of the boat. If you can slowly lift one side of the boat, just enough that you can get a flow of water back under the boat, you can break the suction on the rock and usually break free. Prior to your rafting trip, we will tell you about undercut rocks and foot entrapements. Pay very close attention. These are very real dangers.

If that doesn’t work, someone always ends up getting out of the raft, and giving it a shove or two. Just remember, the rocks are slippery. If you are going to get out of your boat despite the dangers, do it on the up river side of the raft. Never take your hands off of the raft, and always try to keep your torso over the side of the raft. If you slip, you’ll bounce on the raft, and save an unexpected dip in the water. Just remember that foot entrapements are real and you should keep your foot movement to an absolute minimum.
The best option is to wait a few more minutes. There will generally be another boat behind you with a qualified guide to give you a bump, or shove, or even get out of his craft and get you off of the rock.


Well, we will show you the recommended swim position for the river. Lay on your back, feet downstream, and float to safety. Push off of any rocks that might get in your way, and use your arms to paddle to safety. Personally, I turn over on my stomach, and swim back to the raft. What happens if you cannot swim back to your raft? Well, you’ll have to swim to the bank, unless you want to do a bit more floating. Just remember, don’t stand up until you can sit on the bottom of the river keeping your head above water, or you can do a push up on the floor of the river and still keep your head well above the water. Foot entrapment or not, you’ll be Ok. Hang on to your paddle, it might be the last couple of extra inches that you need to get someone in the boat to pull you back close enough that you can get back in. You can always find your raft, and your buddies. But will they let you back in the boat if you have lost your paddle? We’ll tell you how to help a passenger back in the raft using the life jacket as handles. I know what you’re thinking. How in the world can I get him back in the raft? I can’t pick him up! We’ll also tell you a little secret about that too. Just remember what a cork does when it is shoved under the water. On the count of three, just a little shove down into the water makes the feet really start kicking, and they’ll pop right out of the water like a cork. This really works good on Dad’s when they fall out! Don’t you tell him I told you to do that!!

If you happen to get tossed out of the boat at the end of your run, amidst all of the excitement, you might hear someone yell “ROPE”! That’s your cue that help is on it’s way. Many people enjoy setting up at the falls to catch what we call “River Carnage”. When you hear “ROPE”, look up and reach! Someone is throwing you a rope. Just grab onto the rope, pull your hands in close to your chest, route the rope over your shoulder, lay on your back, and hang on. The rope, current, and your weight all work together to quickly swing you to the bank of the river. A quick smile, and a big “thanks” are really appreciated by the rope throwers. Don’t forget, if you take a swim at the falls, we are going to get some really cool pictures of you,, so Don’t forget to come by the Photo Booth, and check them out after your trip. Those pictures are the ones you really want to hang on the wall. They’ll be talking about them for years to come.

These are some of the things that you’ll get in our safety briefing and river instructions, and we make it fun! We cover all aspects of Safety, and try to cover the most likely situations that you might experience while on the river.

The more you know, the more comfortable you will be, and the more you will enjoy the wonderful sport of White Water River Rafting.

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