If you ask us, whitewater rafting is the best adventure in Colorado and a must-do activity that will leave you wanting more. AVA Rafting has been a premier rafting outfitter since 1998, and we’ve always prided ourselves in the superior level of training our guides must go through to guide trips. All of our guides are CPR and First Aid certified and average more than 8 years of experience on the river. There are inherent risks with any outdoor activity, including rafting, but we prioritize safety on our trips, which is why we require 3 times more training than the state of Colorado requires for commercial raft guides.
Choose a Reputable Rafting Company It’s really important that you thoroughly vet any rafting companies you are considering rafting with. Make sure you only consider licensed and professional rafting outfitters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company, guide training and safety measures. Check out reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Google and Yelp, as these sites don’t allow companies to make edits or pick and choose which reviews are posted.
Check the Weather While there’s no reason you can’t go rafting in the rain, it’s still good to know what to expect with the weather so you can dress accordingly.
Educate Yourself on Water Conditions It’s good to know how the river is running as water levels can change the nature of your trip. For example, trips in Browns Canyon are typically for ages 7 and up, however, if the water rises above a certain point, the age minimum can go up to 10, 12 and even 15. Even if your group is all above the age minimum, a raising age minimum is an indicator that the trip is running a bit more advanced than usual. It might still be the perfect trip for you, but it also may be more than you’ve bargained for. Check out the latest river conditions and age restrictions for AVA trips here.
Get on the Right Trip Beginner, Advanced, Class IV, No experience necessary – there are a lot of terms used by companies to break down the perceived “level” for a trip. Advanced doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have rafted before. There are a number of things to consider when picking a trip, such as ages, how physically fit everyone is, swimming ability, etc. Make sure you thoroughly research trip options before heading out on the water. Age restrictions are there for your safety, so it’s important that if the age minimum is 15 years old, your 14 year old isn’t booked on the trip. Rapids range from Class I to VI, with I being the calmest and VI being the most extreme and classified as not commercially raftable. Learn more about the rapid classifications and trip levels here.
Wear a Helmet Helmets are very important for rafting. If you fall in the water, you may get pushed into rocks and other obstructions due to the current. Protect your noggin and make sure you’re wearing a helmet and it’s properly fitted to not fall off.
Wear a PFD and Make Sure It’s Fitted Step 1: put on your PFD. Great, now you’re ready to go! Except, not quite. Putting on the PFD is just the first step in ensuring your safety. It’s important to make sure it’s snug and won’t slide up over your head if you do go for a swim. Have your guide check that all the straps are properly tightened before heading out on the water.
Listen to Your Guide Forward one! If your guide calls for a paddle stroke, make sure you are paddling with the rest of the crew. Your guide isn’t calling for strokes just for the fun of it. He/She needs you to paddle so they can steer the boat and avoid obstructions, holes, etc. As long as you followed our first tip about finding a professional rafting company, then your guide is going to be a trained rafting professional tasked with taking you down the river safely.Before your trip departs, your guide will give a Safety Talk and explain the basic commands of rafting, such as how they will call for paddles, what to do if you fall in, how to paddle, etc. Make sure you pay attention and ask any questions you may have.
Know What To Do If You Fall Out Anytime you are rafting there is a possibility of ending up in the water. The main thing to remember if that happens is to not panic. Your guide is going to give you instructions on what to do if you go for a swim, so pay attention to him/her. Keep your feet up and never try to stand up in the water.
Know What To Do If Someone Else Falls Out You’re working as a team with everyone else on your raft, so if a fellow rafter falls in the water, it’s important that the rest of the boat knows what to do to help that rafter get to safety. Your guide will show you how to pull someone back in the raft during the safety talk. You’ll grab them by the shoulder straps of their PFD, give them a small push down to exploit the floating properties of the PFD and propel them up, then pull them on top of you. You can also use the T-Grip of your paddle to bring them closer to the boat. If someone does fall out, your guide will tell them to either swim back to the boat, swim to another boat, or swim to shore. Make sure you know what the guide has told the swimmer so you don’t try to get them back in the boat if they were told to swim to shore.
Hold Your Paddle Properly At the end of your paddle is what’s called the T-Grip. It’s easy to forget to hold on to the T-Grip, but it’s extremely important to keep your hand on the T-Grip at all times. Leaving the T-Grip exposed can lead to black eyes and knocked out teeth if it hits a fellow paddler in the face. Your guide will explain the proper way to hold your paddle during your safety talk.
Wear Sunscreen Even if it’s overcast, you can get sunburnt on your rafting trip. Avoid the pain later and be sure to sunscreen up before your trip. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to do the tops of your hands. The way you will be holding your paddle will put this part of your body at the perfect angle for sun exposure. It’s also easy to forget about the tops of your feet, but if you are wearing sandals, don’t forget to put a little sunscreen on.
Avoid Cotton Clothing Whether or not you fall or jump in the water, you are more than likely going to get at least a little wet on your rafting trip. Cotton clothing doesn’t dry very quickly, so even a splash can keep you cold. Dry-fit materials are great for rafting trips as they’ll dry quickly. You may also consider wearing wool socks or water socks to keep your feet warm as well.
Check out some whitewater rafting safety tips from one of our very own guides.