River Rafting

People whitewater rafting

Extreme Sporting on the Water

The earth is greatly comprised of oceans, rivers and lakes, and people from all corners of the world enjoy spending time on, near or under the water. River rafting is a recreational activity in which participants sit in an inflatable raft and navigate rough waters downstream. Although the sport has a popular following, it is also a common vacation activity and whitewater rafting guides count on tourists and first-time river rafters to sustain their business.

River rafting is about working with the current of the river, not against it. Participants board the raft with life jackets, paddles, sunglasses and, sometimes, helmets. Understanding the motions of the water, which is called river reading, can be helpful, although your guide will do most of the river reading.

The list below is a breakdown of the rafting lexicon and definitions to river reading basics:

  • Chute – A chute is the ideal route between rapids and obstacles. You can determine a chute by looking for water traveling in a “V” pattern, where the water is flowing away from an obstacle to the left and right.
  • Eddy – An eddy is a patch of water that is calm and is sometimes even running upstream. Eddies are a good resting place on the river and are ideal for a mini-break before the next rough patch.
  • Standing waves – A wave that is the result of fast water slowing down is called a standing wave. You typically see standing waves in deep water, which means fewer rocks and obstacles.
  • Backroller – A wave that rolls back on itself is called a backroller.

Expectations of Passengers

Your guide will do most of the work, but you are expected to contribute to the group dynamic and participate in the activity at hand. During your river rafting experience your guide will expect you to:

  • Contribute to the group dynamic by being friendly and courteous.
  • Wear the correct clothing.
  • Follow all safety guidelines and instructions.
  • Row and paddle to keep the raft moving in the desired direction.
  • Openly accept the challenge of river rafting.
  • Encourage others to have a good time.
  • Reveal any medical limitations that may prohibit you from rafting.
  • Be honest about your experience level (most places of business can tailor your experience based on your rafting expertise, or lack thereof).

What to Wear River Rafting

When river rafting, you should bring on the raft the minimal amount of possessions possible. Your attire will depend on the temperature and season. When white water-rafting wear:

  • Bathing suit
  • Clothing that wicks moisture away from the skin
  • Water shoes and socks (or old tennis shoes)
  • Sunglasses (the glare of the water can be killer)
  • Sunscreen

In addition, you should bring a:

  • Dry bag for your belongings (the guide may have a community bag)
  • Waterproof camera
  • Dry outfit to change into after the ride
  • Towel
  • Credit card and/or cash and valid identification

Leave jewelry and expensive electronic devices at home or stored safely in your vehicle. Your car keys can go with you in the dry bag, or left at the business’s front desk (most offer this service).

Additional Resources





  • Paddle Ready, by Aca Canoe-Kayak-SUP-Raft-Rescue, available on iTunes for free
Print Friendly, PDF & Email