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I'm planning a whitewater rafting trip, and I'm worried what I should do if the raft flips over.

Is there a standard set of procedures I should go through to get back on the raft?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Generally if someone asks this question they don't have a lot of experience and are going with a guide so I will approach it from that point of view.

The first thing to do is bring your feet up to the top of the water and get to the raft as fast as you can. You want to keep your feet up to help against hitting any debris you may be floating over and or getting drawn by hydraulics (basically strong pulling water that is caused by passing over obstacles). The guide will probably crawl on top of the raft and flip it over by grabing a side and using his weight as leverage.

However, if the rapids are particularly strong at this point, its not uncommon to get on the raft upside down and wait until you have reached a more docile point in the river to right it.

Something that may go against your natural instincts, its generally advised not to leave the raft and help others. This may end up in you get separated from the raft and probably the other person.

Biggest things to remember are:

  • Stay Calm
  • Stay with the raft
  • Do exactly as the guide says. He knows the river and knows what he is talking about.
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Before leaving, make sure you know about white-water swimming techniques (float on your back with you feet at the surface pointing downstream).

When you fall in, make sure you aren't tangled up in anything. Your biggest danger is getting something caught in the river bed (like loose rope catching between rocks) and being push down by the current. Where to aim for will depend on the situation, but in general, you want to stay close to, but upstream of the raft so you can't get "squashed" between the raft and any obstacle in the river.

Another good thing to remember is keeping your paddle in your hands. Don't drop it as you fall in. First, you don't want to lose it do you? But mostly, it can help you swim, and you can use it to push off rocks and direct you in a clearer part of the stream. You can use it like a walking stick. Quite handy if you end up walking in waist high flowing water.

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