River Guide Commands 101

Posted August 2, 2011 by Jeremy

Every AO guide has their own set of “commands” they use when directing a raft through a rapid. Some are pretty standard, like “forward paddle,” “back paddle” and “left turn/right turn,” but even those vary a little bit. Whether a guide wants to go by the book or throw his or her own little twist to the commands, it’s good to have a rough idea of what they might be yelling in the middle of Satan’s Cesspool or Tunnel Chute.

Besides the paddling commands, there will be instances when the guides decide it’s necessary to make a last-second move to avoid a flip, or getting stuck on a rock. The main command that will come in handy to know is “over-right” and “over-left!” If a guide yells one of these, it’s probably because the raft has started riding up on a rock or another obstacle at an angle that is going to eventually lift it and flip it over in a rapid.

When you hear “over-right” or “over-left,” everyone who is not on that side needs to stop paddling and throw all their body weight over to the other side. You may end up in your friend’s lap, but at least you won’t be swimming! When the weight of two or three more bodies is launched over to the high side of the raft, it adds more weight to it in order to push that high-siding part of the raft back down into the water instead of up in the air.

The other important command to know is “hang on” or “get down!” The only real difference between the two is that if you hear “get down,” that means you literally need to get down into the bottom of the raft and grab on to a rope, a strap, your brother’s hair; whatever will keep you from falling out. The chute on Tunnel Chute is one of the rapids that always has a “get down” call. Sometimes, when a line the raft is hitting is going to be bumpier than anticipated, the guide may call for a simpler “hang on,” where you stop paddling, keep your position, but still grab something inside the raft.

Now you will be armed with some more knowledge before jumping on to an All-Outdoors rafting trip! Be safe, have fun and enjoy the water!


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