Formation of the International Rafting Federation
A growing need and demand for an official body that could represent and unite the rafting communities of the World stimulated a group of people, led by Lee Porter, to form the IRF in 1997.
The founding group were: Lee Porter, Peter Micheler, Rafael Gallo, Tony Hansen, Sue Liell-Cock, Neil Baxter, Glenn Lewman, Zeljko Kelemen and Thomas Karas.
The initial key areas for this representation were Guide Training & Education and Sport & Competitions.The first Congress was held at the 1997 CWWC, also the first unofficial IRF World Champs. The first official IRF World Champs was part of the CWWC, in Costa Rica , 1998. This is where the rules to govern raft racing were finalised. In 2001 the first IRF World Champs completely separate to the CWWC were held in West Virginia , USA .
Guide Training & Education
GT&E is growing in significance as guides, commercial rafting companies, insurance companies and governing bodies all over the world are starting to demand a more formal and internationally recognised award scheme for guides. This we have created and it has been in use since 1998. It is continually growing in its importance and international recognition.
Sport & Competition
The World Rafting Championship has its origins in the international events of Project RAFT in which up to 50 teams competed in various disciplines including Slalom and Down River . This project was initiated by the Russian and American rafters to override the political animosity between the two nations and to let the sport of rafting join these like minded people. The events were held on the Chuya river, Siberia (1989), Nanthala river, USA (1990), Reventazón and Pacuare rivers, Costa Rica (1991) and Coruh river, Turkey (1993). This is where Tony Hansen became a more involved figure in that he first attempted to get Project Raft 1994 to be held on the Zambezi River, where he was Event Director for an annual fun festival. Unfortunately Project Raft went bankrupt and so Tony went ahead and found his own sponsor for the event in the form of Camel. He also designed the event along slightly more competitive lines, streamlining the events to Time Trial, Sprint, Slalom and Downriver. This was the birth of the Camel White Water Challenge (CWWC) which took place on the Zambezi river, Zimbabwe (1995–1997 and 2001), Reventazón and Pacuare rivers, Costa Rica (1998), Orange river, South Africa (1999), Futalefu river, Chile (2000) and back on the Zambezi (2001). The events from 1996 onwards only allowed one men’s or women’s team per country leading to countries needing to run national selections to choose these teams.
The 1998 to 2000 CWWC events were given the status of World Championships and for this reason the teams had to qualify through selection events at the national and continental levels in coordination with the International Rafting Federation (IRF). In the year 2000 the IRF resolved to hold the World Rafting Championships every 2 years and eliminate the selection events at the continental level to facilitate the development of the sport at the international level. Consequentially the World Rafting Championships have been held on the Reventazón and Pacuare Rivers, Costa Rica (1998); Orange River , South Africa (1999); Futalefu River , Chile (2000); Gauley River, USA (2001); Vlatava River, Czech Republic (2003); Quijos River , Ecuador (2005); Naerinchon River, South Korea (2007); Vrbas River, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2009); Dutch Water Dreams, Netherlands (2010); Pacuare River, Costa Rica (2011) with the 2013 planned for New Zealand, 2014 in Brasil and 2015 in Indonesia.
Besides the World Champs we have also seen Euro Champs happening fairly regularly and the start of regular Pan American and Australasian Champs. There is also the Euro Cup Series which is for clubs in Europe .