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Any White Water Rafting Experts?

I was in Yellowstone National park a couple of weeks ago and I went white water rafting for the first time. I’m not really sure if what I did qualifies as rapids or actual white water. I was on a raft with 12 other hollering people, ranging from age 7 up to what appeared to be age 104.

white water rafting trip

But I watched an entire episode of Twin Peaks once without realizing that a man had only one arm, so I’m not overly perceptive.

For about 45 minutes we drifted down the Snake river. Occasionally the water moved faster. And less occasionally it moved quite a bit faster, but it never lasted. By the end of the trip I was disappointed every time the water slowed down.

I was hooked

I believe that every adult should learn (or re-learn) a sport. For me, that sport is going to be white water rafting or kayaking. I actually don’t even know if there’s a difference, or if it matters. But I’m probably going to buy myself a kayak or a raft for Christmas this year.

Here’s why: in my life I can think of two experiences that absolutely cannot be compared to anything else, by me at least.

1. Riding a horse that is galloping as hard as it can

2. The feeling when the river started racing and I knew that we couldn’t stop the raft

I don’t get to ride galloping horses as often as I’d like (read, ever), but I can get back to the river a lot more frequently. Heading through rapids with a group of friends sounds like heaven to me, adequate preparation and skill levels assumed and acquired.

Do any of you raft? What does a person need to know, in your opinion? How do you get started? Am I too tall for a kayak?

I’d love to put together some sort of White Water 101 type resource here if any of you are interested in contributing.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jenn August 25, 2010, 12:34 am

    I don’t raft but wanted to say amen to riding a horse galloping as fast as it can. It is nothing short of AMAZING.

  • chris August 25, 2010, 5:16 am


    There are three types of whitewater craft

    Raft [inflatable, either propelled by group of persons with single bladed paddle with a t piece type handle, or an oar raft where long oars are used to modifiy direction]

    Kayak [normally decked so legs in side and infront, double ended blade, can be one or two persons although white water tends to be single person craft] these are the most craft on whitewater

    Canoe [can be decked or open, single person or multiple persons, not as common on whitewater but great for touring as their payload is greater]

    There are whitewater sports [slalom, down river racing] slalom in particular is a great way to learn [even if not taken to a high level] the discipline of route picking and technique.

    Any questions?


    • Josh Hanagarne August 25, 2010, 3:53 pm

      Chris, for a kayak, is it recommended that beginners get a two-person kayak and an experienced partner? What should I be looking for when I buy a kayak? I ask because I’m 6’8″ and nothing ever feels like it was designed with me in mind. If you’re going to learn slalom, how do you get started? Is it common enough to find a place to learn in most cities?

      • Sam September 15, 2011, 5:22 pm

        Hey Josh
        To answer your question, the last thing a biginner should do is to get in a two person kayak with anyone. If you are wanting to learn to kayak, take two kayaks (one for you and one for the person who will teach you the basics) and head to a lake or slow river water to learn how to do the basics. Also, before you learn slalom, rent a river runner kayak to learn in because slalom boats are a LOT more tippy and they are some of the easiest boats to flip (also the easiest to do a roll in if you know how) and river runners are very forgiving. To answer your question about what to look for, look up the manufacturers of the kayak you are intersted in and they should show which size of boat would be right for you since boat size is usually determined by weight and not by height. A website you may want to visit is http://www.pyranha.com/kayaks.php
        Also, where you can learn depends largely on where you live. If you live closer to the mountains, it should be easier than eslswhere to find a good place to learn.

  • Todd August 25, 2010, 5:46 am

    Two points for the Twin Peaks reference.
    I’ve never been white water rafting, but it’s been on my bucket list for quite awhile. Of course now I live in TX, and I’m not so sure that there are many rivers with rapids…. maybe I’m wrong.

  • Heather August 25, 2010, 8:49 am

    As a WV native, let me at least say this: rafting is AWESOME and no, I don’t think you’re too tall for a kayak. But OMG practice rolling! Also—come on over to WV to get to know the New. They always come away from a white-water trip from the New River Gorge with one of those “I Knew the New” t-shirts, and that’s some funny stuff.

    First and foremost–take a safety course, and NEVER get in a raft without a life jacket. rapids are also classified in different ways, but I can’t remember what they are. They offer safety and even kayaking courses all over West Virginia, but someone in Morgantown used to do a kayaking course out at Valley Falls in Marion County. Take the safety course first, dude, that should tall ya all ya need. Good luck and have fun!

  • Mike T Nelson August 25, 2010, 1:36 pm

    Yep, everyone should learn a sport for sure.

    I don’t whitewater raft much (when I went it was a blast though), but I have been knowing to go out and put a bunch of hot air into a kite that is about 50 feet across and hang from it with 4 razor sharp lines! hahaha. Actually kiteboarding is generally very safe, just be sure to take a lesson and know the area and weather in the area. It is a blast!!!

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • ami August 25, 2010, 4:19 pm

    No expert – but I went whitewater rafting on the Gauley river in WV during the spring dam release. WOW! Even in one of the extra big rafts (read: almost impossible to sink/flip) with tons of safety gear and experienced guides, it was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. Hanging on for dear life while going over a waterfall, rafting down whitewater, (watching other rafters falling out of rafts and being rescued) – all combine to make PBJs for lunch taste like manna from heaven.

    Our guides also recommended rafting through the Grand Canyon – it’s a moderate difficulty (I think Class III?) but outwardly exciting (comparable to a Class V) due to waves and speed and such.

  • Piers August 25, 2010, 10:02 pm

    Hey Josh,
    Just saw this post. I have a workmate that I’m friends with that was an national representative level competitor in Kayaking and also builds custom kayaks, so I’m sure he’d know a lot ofinfo you’d be interested in about the craft itself, etc.
    I can direct him here or pass along your email, if you like?

  • chris August 26, 2010, 1:58 am

    Hello Josh,

    Where abouts are you [I take it you in US], you could join a canoe club to learn the basic strokes. Whether it is kayak or canoe you just need to try them both, i have known some tall paddlers you just need to get a boat with the right leg, foot room and correct volume.

    You could experience white water with a partner, but you would not be learning much, much better to learn on calm water and build yourself up. I learnt by attending a club and learnt technique in pool [in winter] then on river on summer. For adults sometimes a intensive course is better [these were not an option when i was a child] and you will come on leaps and bounds.

    After you have learnt the basic strokes and moving water fundamentals then you could hone the river skills by finding a slalom club near you and enter a few races, i really cannot recommend it enough as a method to learn river skills.



  • Dennis Hill September 4, 2010, 7:16 pm

    Love the article and definitely agree. Kayaking is great exercise that anyone of any age or skill level can do. Check out my website for paddling and kayak purchasing tips:www.portablekayaks.com. And feel free to email me with any questions. My wife and I love to go on paddling adventures and have a lifetime of knowledge to share!

  • ACE Adventure resort September 23, 2011, 1:42 pm

    What you need to know about Whitewater:
    1. Rocks are bad-they are undercut, they create small areas for you that you cannot swim through, and they scratch you up.
    2. Water is good-if you find yourself in the water, it’s good, your not on a rock. Learn how to swim through currant and roll through an eddy wall.
    3. Boat is best. The goal is to always stay in the boat. You do this by learning how to read water. Look for green downward V’s instead of pour over rocks. Get out and scout rapids you haven’t done. Run the rapid, and scout it again.
    4. Choose who you will go down the river with wisely. Start by rafting/kayaking with people who you know who you trust. Then as you get more confident, you can take other people out.
    5. Always respect the river.