Rafting – a team of individuals

When we see rafts racing we see a team striving for its goals, we often forget they are individuals from all walks of life.. That team is often made up of people from different activities like kayakers, C1 paddlers, guides, social rafters and more. All have one thing in common – they are eager for new experiences and thrilled because they are part of a team and they love the fun that it brings. For them the teamwork is the challenge and when they are in the raft they are all collected under that one team name.

Dejan Kralj, Sam Sutton and Mike Dawson on the Adidas Sickline 2012 podium

The experiences gained in competitive rafting, from travel to training to competition, in a weird way, connect disparate people and form them into a new group which is similar to a family. But normally your name is what people know you by, whereas in rafting it is a bit different. Nobody asks: “What is your name?” but instead they ask “Where are you from?” meaning the name of your state or country depending on the level of the competition, or “What club are you from” and this is what makes up your “name” and “surname”.

And lets look at kayakers – they are often used by rafters as safety support when paddling, but they are much more than just that, sometimes they are our buddies in the boat too, trying to adjust to group paddling and are looking for a new adventure. Raft and kayak competitions are generally separated, but still connected in unusual ways. Not so long ago we  read an article about the top kayaker, Sam Sutton, who competed in the “Adidas Sickline” competition (a competition for extreme kayaker’s), and shortly afterwards he was competing “.. in a raft with buddies”. His experience of the new environment and the attitude between rafters and kayakers changed his outlook on rafting.

CWWC 1999

When looking at the photos from the “Adidas Sickline” competition, on the 2012 podium beside him was Dejan Kralj from Slovenia, a well known kayaker who participated in the Camel White Water Challenge (CWWC) events which combined kayak and raft races, and who helped bring his country Gold at those events (’95 – ’99). And while talking about the CWWC – Steve Fisher (of the “Congo the Grand Inga project “) competed at the CWWC ’99 in the South African team. Chile rafting team member (Gold in WRC 2011 H2H) Lorenzo Andrade Astroga participated in the “Whitewater Grand Prix” (8th place overall!). His current occupation is spying out the river for his team for the WRC in NZ. These connections swirl through rafting and kayaking, starting from the early days of the CWWC in the mid 90s leading up to the WRCs 2013 in NZ in November! 

Whitewater Grand Prix – Chile 2012

And besides famous kayakers we can also find famous canoeists at the rafting competitions. 2012 Euro Champs in the Czech Rep saw German, Sideris Tasiadis, C1 Slalom silver medalist – Olympics 2012, paddling for his country. Also Luuka Jones, from New Zealand, introduced through the article: “Advice from slalom Olympian and how to become a team member“, commenting on a similar theme comparing her impressions of participation as an individual and in a team: “in a solo event you make your own decisions, in a raft, everyone must be on the same page … “,” You can have the strongest teams of individuals but if you can not work together it will not work. ” Peter Micheler, IRF Vice-President, represented his country for many years as a slalom paddler and has since added rafting medals to that collection as well.

There are many more paddlers who have combined the two sports or drifted from the one into the other over the years, I immediately apologize to them that I have not mentioned them. But in the end it is not the names that are important, it more is important that in rafting they are all welcome and that the rafting family is more colourful for their being a part of it.

Article by Nada