While white water rafting is well known for the thrills and adrenaline rushes that it offers, it’s also a great opportunity to bond with friends, get an intense upper body workout and connect with nature. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily difficult. Practically anyone can have a good time white water rafting as long as they choose a stretch that matches their skill level and come equipped with all the right information. Read our tips below to prepare for your first white water experience.

Common Questions From First-Time Rafters

If you’re hitting the river for the first time, you probably have some questions. Below is a list of FAQs:

1. What Should I Bring?

As white water rafting is an out-of-the-ordinary experience and space on the boat is limited, you may be wondering what you can bring.

2. What River Should I Chose?

Rafting adventures are rated in terms of difficulty, ranging from Class I to Class V. The majority of guided rafting trips are either Class II, III or IV. When deciding which trip to take, keep your comfort level in mind. Here’s what each level involves:

13 White Water Rafting Beginner Tips

Follow these tips to make your rafting trip safer and more enjoyable.

1. Book Early

Spots on rafting trips tend to fill up fast, so if you want to get a tour with your preferred length and difficulty, it’s best to book as early as possible.

2. Consider Everyone in Your Group

Before booking, speak with other members of your group and find out what they can handle at what kind of trip they would prefer.

3. Pick a Professional, Licensed Outfitter

When looking for a good white water rafting outfitter, ask lots of questions. Find out how long they’ve been around under their current ownership. You should also ask about the training that their guides have received and which government entity is in charge of their training. These answers will tell you whether the outfitter is professional or not. By picking a professional outfitter, you can be certain that they adhere to professional safety regulations.

4. Wear a Life Jacket and Helmet at All Times

A personal flotation device can make any time in the water safer and less exciting.  Just make sure that you wear it correctly, which means that you must clip all the buckles. The jacket should also be snug enough that you can’t pull it up over your head but not so snug that you can’t breathe. To ensure it fits perfectly, asks your guide to fit your jacket.

Regardless of the difficulty level of your rafting course, wear a helmet at all times.

5. Hold Your Paddle Correctly

Holding your paddle incorrectly is unsafe. To grip it properly, one of your hands should grab the shaft at the paddle’s base, and the other should always be over the “T” grip, which can cause serious injury if it hits you in the face. By keeping one hand on it at all times, you can maintain control of the paddle and cushion the blow if it does come flying toward your face. Ask your guide about the correct technique.

6. Be Familiar With Proper Swimming Techniques

Whether you’re taking a swim in the river, fall overboard or just jump in for fun, remember the two techniques for swimming.

One is called the “Down River Swimmers Position,” where you float on your back and keep your head up so you’ll know where you’re going. Your feet should be pointed downstream and your knees should be bent slightly. By doing this, if you are heading toward a rock, your legs and feet can absorb the shock and push you off. Put your arms out to the sides to help maintain control and don’t let your bottom sink too low, as it will be more likely to hit submerged rocks.

The other position, which is more common in rescue situations, involves you floating on your stomach and pointing your head in the direction you want to go. Speak with your guide about when it’s best to use each position.

If you want to swim to the shore of the river, swim all the way there. You should never stand in a river with a current. Even guides do not usually walk in water that comes above their shins. Not walking in a river with a current also prevents “foot entrapment,” a scary situation where your foot gets stuck in a crack on the river’s bottom.

7. Listen to Your Guide

Before setting off on your rafting adventure, your white water rafting guide will give a safety talk that explains how to deal with any situation you may encounter on your rafting trip.

Make sure to give extra attention when they speak about high-siding. This refers to a command your guide may shout to keep your raft from flipping over. While this may seem scary, it is important not to panic. The chances of this happening are rather slim, but on the off chance that it does happen, you’ll be glad you listened to your guide’s safety talk.

High-siding is actually rather straightforward. If your raft collides with a rock, it is typically in a sideways position, which will then cause water pressure to build up on the side of your boat facing upstream. To keep your boat from capsizing, your guide will then shout “high-side,” meaning that you should go to the side of the boat facing downstream and throw all your weight in that direction, which is the direction the river is flowing.

8. Don’t Bring Too Many Electronics

As mentioned earlier, rafting adventures are great opportunities to enjoy the company of friends and the beauty of nature. Instead of listening to your music, listen to the water, the wind and the sounds of the forest.

9. Bring a Camera

Okay, so here’s one exception to the “don’t bring too many electronics” advice. Between the excitement on the river and the campground activities at night, you’ll be participating in a variety of fun activities, some of which you’ll probably want to capture with a camera. Make sure to take along some spare batteries and memory cards.

10. Trust Your Guides

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or have been rafting for years, white water rafting can sometimes be surprising, or even a little scary.  If you find yourself feeling nervous that you had anticipated, just remember that you are being accompanied by trained and experienced professionals who can read the river well.

11. Learn to Read Water Levels

The depth of the river can vary. Calmer rivers with slow rapids tend to be deeper and faster rivers with irregular rapids tend to be shallower, usually under five feet deep. While falling off the raft is not common, if you do end up in the river, use one of the swimming techniques explained above.

12. Work as a Team

Every person in the raft will have to paddle. Make sure to use strong paddle strokes take into account the position of all the other paddlers.

13. Be Ready for the Unexpected

Keep in mind that nothing can fully prepare you for a rafting trip, and you must expect the unexpected at all times.

Book a Rafting Trip Now With Southeastern Expeditions

Southeastern Expeditions offers rafting adventures on the famous Chattooga River and is located just a two-hour drive from Atlanta. You can choose from several rafting experiences, including a Section III trip, which is perfect for beginners, groups and families, and a Section IV trip, which features the most intense rapids in the East. You also have the option to go on an overnight trip, which covers both sections of the river.

Feel free to call us anytime at 1-800-868-7238 or contact us online using our form.