How to Be the Best Paddler on Your Raft
Be a Team Player!
Once you are comfortably seated on the raft, you become a vital member of the raft's engine. This means your guide is counting on you to listen to commands and react effectively, efficiently AND consistently. Imagine if one time you hit the gas pedal of your car and it give you a serge of gas, accelerating you from 0 to 60 in a few seconds and then the next time you hit the gas, nothing. You would quickly loose faith in your ability to understand the acceleration power of your car. This is how the guide sometimes feels about his crew. His ability to judge how hard and when to turn the boat depends on his ability to trust his “engine” will react consistently.
Hold the paddle in your hands at all times. Have a firm grip on the “T” of the paddle with your hand on the inside of the boat. Hold the stem of the paddle with your outside hand. Stray paddle handles flying through the air = no good. (I imagine your rafting partners like their teeth where they are!) Sit with a slight forward lean and listen for your next command.
Understand Your Guides Commands!
At the start of your trip, your guide will explain their commands. Examples of commands are, “All forward three!” which means you make three forward strokes and stop. Things getting a little more tricky with commands like, “Left back two.” which means the left side of the boat does two back strokes and the right side of the boat does two forward strokes. Take a few minutes to think about where you are on the boat and repeat the commands in your head while envisioning your response. This will help you be fully prepared when you hit the whitewater and the guide needs you most.
For a forward stroke, place your paddle in the water with the paddle straight up and down. Insert the entire body of the paddle into the water. Use the hand on the stem of the paddle to pull the paddle back while pushing the hand grasping the “T” of the paddles. This creates a digging motion and effectively propels the raft. Skimming the water with the tip of your paddle does little to move the boat and help your guide navigate the rapids. For a backstroke, place the paddle slightly behind you and pull forward on the stem of the paddle. Again, remember to remain consistent every time your guide barks a command at you.
Following these simple steps will make you the star player in your raft. Lead by example and show your fellow rafters how to make your guide happy and create the best Oregon rafting experience of your life!