How to Go Whitewater Rafting


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Navigating a challenging set of rapids is the kind of rewarding, soul-stirring adventure that helps remind you you’re alive. What if you’ve never done it before, though? Is it wise just to hop in a raft and charge on down the river? Anyone with a sense of self-preservation would say no.

Whitewater rafting is a more accessible sport than you might think. Guided tours of the most popular rafting spots are simple to book, and because permits are required in many areas, we recommend working through a guide until you understand the logistics of setting up a trip. Here’s how you can get started.

Choose A Beginner-Level Rapid

California, Colorado and Oregon are just a few states that offer excellent rafting opportunities for beginners. Many guides don’t require helmets for class 1 and 2 rapids, which makes this an easy way to get familiar with being in the raft, maneuvering and just the experience. It also makes taking the whole family along less stressful. Rafting is a nice happy medium for those who want to get extreme, but can’t imagine something like skydiving.

If the sport appeals to you, you can easily book a trip for a more challenging rapid that will test your rafting skills. If you discover it’s your sport, there are many opportunities to get out and see beautiful country you might otherwise miss. It’s even been connected to feelings of accomplishment, relaxation and nature appreciation, for obvious reasons. Maybe you’d like to plan a multiday rafting expedition down a longer stretch of river, for example. It’s possible with a little practice.

Be Ready to Get Wet and Wild

Water is right there in the name, and it’s a big part of the whitewater rafting experience. You can expect to come away from your expedition tired and wet, but that doesn’t mean you’ll feel bad. Rafting is fun with the right equipment.

You should dress in synthetic fabrics that won’t pull heat away and will dry quickly when you get out of the raft. As for footwear, trade your flip-flops for a grippy pair of sandals or water shoes. Many rafting injuries occur outside the raft while navigating slippery rocks. Wear plenty of sunscreen, but be sure to apply it everywhere — not just the places you think will see the sun. Failing to do so can lead to nasty burns on a multi-hour rafting trip. Don’t bring anything you aren’t completely OK with getting soaked.

Leave the electronics, wallets and cherished family heirlooms out of the raft. As you ramp up your difficulty level, be prepared to get dunked entirely. Some rides just come with the expectation that you’ll be ejected. Be sure to bring your game face. You can burn just as many calories in a good day of rafting as you would in the gym, so buff up those arms and legs/ You’ll need them to stabilize yourself and steer the raft through challenging bumps.

The Right Whitewater Rafting Experience

As an extreme sport nearly anyone can get out and try, whitewater rafting is really an underappreciated pastime. You might be amazed at how easy it is to get hooked, so sign up for a whitewater adventure today and try it out for yourself. You might get a little wet, but you’ll feel a whole lot better afterward.

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