"First Camp" by Jason Corneveaux via Flickr Creative Commons

Whitewater Rafting Training

Whitewater rafting and kayaking can be a highly technical adventure that you may have to be in the utmost condition to even attempt. Stamina and upper body strength are the two key points to address when preparing for a trip.

Considering many whitewater trips can take all day, maintaining your energy throughout the day is vital. Be sure to practice paddling for long stretches of time. Your vacation is not the time to find out how quickly you get tired. You will need lots of upper body strength to battle your way through Class IV and V rapids and dodging boulders that come into view only seconds before you pass them. Prepare yourself by lifting weights, jogging, row machines, or push-ups.

Another big issue for rafters is learning to as a group. If one person is lagging or one person is paddling too hard the entire group feels the effect. Having a cohesive team will save loads of energy and allow you to take each rapid with ease.

Smaller rapids, below Class III, don’t need much preparation. If you are wearing safety gear and you fall off the raft there is little chance of being injured. These kinds of trips require only minimal amounts of strength.

Whitewater Rafting Gear

Your tour operator almost always provides a raft, your vessel for your adventure. Very few people own their own rafts. These are inflatable boats, they seat anywhere from 4-10 people, and can take quite a beating. They can withstand the pressure of the water and the jagged edges of rocks. There are rafts of varying qualities and sizes. Most vary in length from 11-20 feet and in width from 6-8 feet.

A PFD, or personal safety device or life jacket, is your most important piece of equipment, even more than the raft or paddle. If you don’t use one there is a good chance of getting a fine, although in third world countries the rules may be relaxed. There are a million reasons why you should wear a life jacket, and very few reasons why you shouldn’t. They come in all sizes, colors, and comfort levels.

Your next important piece of equipment is the helmet. If battling a Class IV-VI rapid there is a good chance of tipping, falling off, or hitting a boulder leading to serious injury or even death. Almost all tour operators insist you where a helmet and will not allow you to raft or kayak without one.

There are various types of kayaks, but only one should be used for whitewater. The so-called Whitewater kayaks are smaller and more round than touring and general recreation kayaks. The short length and stout edges allow the paddler to turn quickly to avoid rocks and rapids, where as a racing or touring kayak is more concerned with speed and ease through the water.

Other equipment worth having around for certain situations are helmets, bilge pumps, a weather radio, flares, dry bags, and a compass.

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