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WRC 2018
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EC 2018 Series final results:
R4 MenR4 WomenR6 WomenR6 Men

EC Proboj, Serbia
Results; Photos

ERC 2018, Slovakia
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Guilin, China
Results; Photos: -1-; Video: -1-, -2-,

EC 2018 Results so far:

EC Trnavka, Czech
Results: Sprint, Slalom; Photos;

EC Vrbas, BiH
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What did it take to start the international rafting federation?

Project RAFT 1997

As we ready ourselves for our 17th IRF World Rafting Championship, we take a look back at what it took to create this global phenomenon which started 21 years ago and boasts membership from over 50 nations across six continents, runs inclusive worldwide raft race competitions several times each year and can lay claim to hundreds of thousands of clients being safely guided down the rivers of the world each year by IRF qualified raft guides.

Cast your mind back several decades to a time when the world was under threat of annihilation at the press of a button. One man had an idea and that idea was to transcend politics and the cold war between the USA and Russia by getting people from each of these nations together to have fun in the natural and fun world of river rafting. That man was Jib Ellison. His mission saw him approach people in Russia and soon word got round to the right person. Misha – a legend in rafting in his own right. He and Jib set out to make it happen and from this was born Project RAFT (Russian and American Friendship Tours).

Initially they focused on river tours which worked really well. Misha inspired the first competitive event in Siberia and the Americans that arrived to compete were not only amazed that the Russians rafted but that they did some really ballsy stuff on hectic Class 5 in home made gear and sometimes in the strangest of crafts! (bublik) This realisation that these people were like minded spirits created an immediate bond that would transcend language and other barriers and last for many years to come.

A little after Project RAFT started the J&B European Rafting Champs were held for a few years and were televised on Eurosport which brought raft racing to the public’s attention.

Same lifetime but a large continent away, a fun rafting festival was growing rapidly down on the Zambezi River. South African, Tony Hansen, had been appointed as Event Director and was taking it to new heights. He attended Project RAFT’s event in Turkey with the aim of bringing the next one to the Zambezi. Sadly Project RAFT closed down shortly after this and so Tony sought out his own sponsors which he found in Camel. He designed the event to have a a raft time trial, head to head, slalom, downriver and a kayak downriver as well as a fun rodeo. The teams were then invited and subsidised by Camel and from this the first Camel White Water Challenge events were born. The first three events were held on the mighty Zambezi and averaged between 20 and 30 teams from all over the world. The draw of the Zambezi churned up the interest world wide. Camel ensured the entire event was filmed and photographed by the best and the wild footage of the extreme rafting and kayaking on the Zambezi was impressive and attractive to all water lovers. Camel then took the event to more exotic locations like Costa Rica, Augrabies Falls in South Africa and the Futaleufu River in Chile. Despite the growing attraction, international pressure against cigarette advertising forced Camel to run its last event on the Zambezi in 2001.

During these CWWC events rafters from all parts of rafting – racing, touring, commercial, safety, were all hanging out together and forming long lasting friendships. In these discussions there was an agreed notion that there was a requirement for international standards for all of these activities. They could see the need for an organisation to represent all these walks of rafting.

Inaugural meeting to plan the IRF (Augsburg Eiskanal)

The rapid growth in numbers of teams wanting to compete in CWWC and for the event to be given World Championship status; together with the need for commercial rafters to have an international organisation to represent them spelt out a demand for an organisation. Since the Project RAFT days, Lee Porter and Rafael Gallo had been talking about this need, and this was brought to a head during a so-called World Championship where the rules and running of the event left many feeling it was time to form an international organisation to define and run these events. Peter Micheler was part of that group and a strong voice in the competitive world of rafting. Tony Hansen and Sue Liell-Cock were their first recruits.

And so in May 1997 a group of people met in Augsburg, Germany, to formulate the basis of an organisation that could represent the rafters of the world. A Declaration was written, Statutes and By-Laws were created and an Initial Board of Directors and Executive Committee was set up. The purpose of the International Rafting Federation was to unify rafting communities and all aspects of rafting from around the world.

Moving the writing of by-laws outside

To this day, one of the key objectives the IRF strives to maintain at its events is the camaraderie that was born in the days of Project RAFT. Gathering people from all parts of the world who have the same love of rafting to offer a unique platform for building friendships that will last a very long time. These friendships transcend borders, politics and cultures just as Jib had wanted, and as the rafters at these events continue in life many of them will look back and remember how much these events changed their lives.

The IRF has grown since those days. We have welcomed new member federations, developed and continue to improve our Guide Training & Education scheme and respect the values and camaraderie that has developed over the decades to get us to where we are today – the globally recognised facilitator of all things rafting across the world.

And with this in mind, we look forward to the next decades of rafting across the globe, welcoming friends new and old to our rafting family and wish all our teams competing in next months IRF World Rafting Championship, the best of luck.

#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #RiverFamily #WeAreIRF

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