By: Seth Smith
Everyone loves that feeling of a rush you get while running some rapids. The cool water splashing you combined with the breeze moving over the river is the perfect contrast to the heat in the heart of summer. All these elements create an experience that is unparalleled. Staying safe while white water rafting is certainly a way to keep the experience enjoyable. Here are a few safety tips that we would recommend to ensure you have a wonderful experience while out on the river!
1. Wear Your PFD (Personal Flotation Device) AKA Your Life Jacket
This may seem like common sense, and it is! But wearing your PFD is one of the single-handed most important things to remember while out on the river. It must be worn correctly though to be effective! Make sure all the buckles are clipped and that the PFD fits nice and tight so that you can still breathe, but it cannot be pulled over the top of your head. Never, ever, loosen your PFD while out on the water. If you have any questions when fitting your PFD before the trip never hesitate to ask your guide for help.
2. Besides your PFD, wear all other necessary protective gear
Depending on the season the water could be a bit chilly! Wetsuits, proper river shoes, and splash jackets are great ways to ensure that you stay warm while on the river. When you are thinking of layers to wear with this gear, we always recommend synthetic clothing versus cotton. Cotton tends to get wet and stay wet. Synthetic clothing will help wick off the water and keep you dry and warm. Another very important piece of gear is your helmet! Most companies will require you to wear a helmet whether you like it or not, which you should be grateful for!
3. Hold onto your T-Grip
The T-Grip is the part of your paddle that looks like a T. It’s the handle that you ALWAYS hold onto at the top of the paddle. If for some silly reason you let go of this while going through a rapid the person next to you in the raft may end up with a knocked out tooth or a black eye. Hold on to that T-Grip
4. Choose a licensed professional to go rafting with
When you are going rafting, go out with a licensed professional! When booking your trip don’t be afraid to ask questions on why you should choose them to guide you down the river!
5. Know what to do if you or someone else falls out of the boat
These are all things that your guide should be explaining to you at the beginning of the trip! If you fall out, make sure that you don’t panic, and then find where you are in accordance with the boat. If you are right next to the boat, grab it so that you stay next to it! If you are only a few feet away swim back over to the boat. If you find yourself far away from your boat always look to your guide, they will be able to give you directions on where to swim. There are a few different techniques for swimming when you are in a river. The first position is to lay on your back with your toes and nose up, feet pointing downstream. Your feet will be used to absorb the shock of any obstacles in the river such as rocks or logs. Arms will be out off of your side to help you control yourself. Also, keep that butt up so you don’t hit it on any rocks! The second swimmer’s position is on your stomach swimming like you are Michael Phelps going for the gold medal! Another important thing to remember is to never stand up in the river where there is moving water. You could get your foot trapped and end up doing underwater push-ups on the bottom of the river! Make sure you are all the way to shore before trying to stand up. On the other hand, if someone else falls out of the boat, know the proper technique for pulling them back in. Bend down bracing your knees on the tube of the boat, and grab ahold of their shoulder straps on their PFD. Use your own weight to pull them straight on top of you by falling backward into the boat. This is a big reason to keep the straps on your PFD nice and snug!
6. Listen to your guide
Your guide is guiding you down the river for a reason. If you followed one of our previous tips and found a licensed professional to go with then they will know all the proper safety procedures to ensure you have a great time on the river!
Here at New Mexico River Adventures all of our guides are required to have CPR and First Aid certifications, but many of them step up themselves and also get their Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, or EMT certifications. Before every trip, our guides will give you a detailed safety talk to make sure you understand the protocol for staying safe on the river. We also have wetsuits, splash jackets, PFDs and helmets that you can use free of charge. Our top priority is ensuring that our guests have a safe and enjoyable experience out on the river!