How to Stay in the Raft

Posted May 26, 2021 by Gregg Armstrong, Co-Founder

Rafting on a river is a really cool thing to do. It is a fun activity that takes place in amazing and beautiful places. We discovered this in 1962 before rafting was a “thing” and have been at it ever since!

Whether it is your first trip or your hundredth trip, falling out of the raft and into the river is always something that is bouncing around in the back of your head when rafting. Even the most veteran guides are thinking about it! So how do you prevent falling out of the raft? The truth is that you cannot always prevent it… it is part of the adventure, but the pointers below can help you make sure it does not happen too often.

5 ways to help you stay in the raft and out of the river:

1. Don’t sit on your butt.

If you are sitting on the raft in a rapid with most of your weight on your bottom, your chances of going into the river increase dramatically. Rapids consist of drops (going down) and waves (going up), usually in a series and in short succession. If you are sitting solidly on the edge of the raft paddling and it goes down quickly and then up quickly, you can literally be launched off your seat and into the river. (It is okay to relax and sit with most of your weight on the raft during the calms which precede rapids and follow them…Just don’t do it in the rapid.)

River 101 - How Stay in the Boat

2. Keep your weight on your feet.

Many activities cannot be done very well when sitting and paddling through a rapid is one of them. When you shift a good portion of your weight off your buttocks and onto your feet before the raft drops into a rapid, you are anchored and much more agile. This way you can use our legs to flex with the ups and downs of the river and raft.

Cherry Creek - Forward Paddle

3. Use your butt as a strategic balancing point.

While we say “Keep your weight on your feet” we do not mean all of your weight. By leaving some of it on your rear end you create a critical balancing point that can actually help you stay in the raft. Most of life is about balance, and rafting is no different. Having some weight on your feet and some on our butt keeps you balanced.

Guide on Goodwin Canyon

4. Use your paddle.

How can paddling while leaning out of the raft and toward the river help keep you in the raft? By leaning out some and padding hard, you create a third balancing point. A strong paddle stroke anchors the paddle to the river and gives you something you can actually lean on and trust. That is something your mother won’t tell you!

North Fork Stanislaus - Listen to Your Guide

5. Listen to your guide.

Finally, always listen to your guide. We have been rafting California rivers for nearly six decades and during that time we have seen a thing or two and we have learned a thing or two. We can sense when something “big” is about to happen, and when it does it is not uncommon to hear us say: “Prepare for a bump” or “Get down” or even “Hang on!”.
To summarize: Shift a good portion of your weight off your butt and onto your feet when in a rapid. Leave some weight on your butt just enough to create a second balancing point. Create a third balancing and anchoring point by leaning out and paddling hard. And while you are doing all this…keep your ears open over the roar of the rapid to what your guide is saying. Lastly, just so you are prepared for the possibility of being unexpectedly in the river, read what to do if you fall out of the raft.

Hope these pointers give you more confidence next time you charge a rapid on one of California’s 10 most beautiful and exciting rivers!


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