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4 steps to success – from novice to elite rafting

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Rafting, whether for fun as part of a new adventure or for competition purposes, is something that everyone who enjoys an adrenaline rush can enjoy. To be the best, you need determination, perseverance and to remember these four tips to raise your rafting game from novice to elite.

Wear the right kit
A simple but incredibly important thing to remember. Rafting can be unpredictable, just like the rivers themselves. Wear appropriate clothing designed for use in water that are easy to move in. Rafting is a physical activity, so tight and restrictive or loose and baggy clothes are going to inhibit how much you can do. Also, in raft racing you will be required to wear buoyancy aids (PFDs) and helmets, so make sure both can be worn securely with whatever you choose to wear.

On commercial trips you might consider bringing a camera, but make sure it’s waterproof and can be secured to you – otherwise, it can get lost overboard!

If you’re rafting somewhere sunny, sunscreen will ensure you aren’t the lobster at the end of the day. But remember to wash it off your hands before paddling so you don’t lose grip of your paddle! If you’re racing, avoid sunscreen above your eyes – big splashes and rubs can end up with sunscreen in your eyes! These are things that are going to mark you from newbie to someone who knows what to expect.

Walk before running
A simple piece of advice – it sounds simple but you’d be surprised how many people push themselves to expert level rivers and rapids before they are ready. For one, there are reasons why these rivers and sections are considered ‘expert’. You may be putting yourself and others at risk by making that choice. It is important to practice at your own pace. As this is a physical sport, rushing forward could damage muscles or tendons, as well as mentally being quite discouraging in the long run.

Figure out a schedule. Know your level of experience. Build up at a pace that you and your body are comfortable with. Listen to the opinions of teachers and guides, as they are there to make sure you are happy, healthy and safe.

The IRF is developing Raft Race Coach syllabus which will be rolled out in 2020 – use these steps to assist you in getting ready.

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We’re all between swims
As with all water-based sports, confidence in swimming is incredibly important. Whether that means taking swimming lessons again as an adult or having a weekly routine of going to your local pool, you need to be able to keep yourself above water for as long as possible. There is always a risk with rafting that you may end up out of the boat and as such, you will need to battle the pull of the river until either you can get to the side or help can get to you.

Swimming is also a fantastic form of exercise that will build your body’s strength and stamina. With rafting, this will make a difference, so make sure that training out of the river is also a part of your weekly exercise routine. It doesn’t have to just be swimming – time at the gym will also help to improve your physical fitness, which can make rafting all the more enjoyable. Using a rowing machine is also a brilliant way of training multiple muscles on dry land, most gyms will have them or you can even pick one up to work out at home.

Know the river
This last piece of advice is the most important: knowledge. Whether it’s local or in a far off land, you need to know the river you are rafting. In your local river, this could mean using free time to take a walk beside the river and see what it’s like from outside the raft.

In an unfamiliar location, that could mean travelling with an expert and asking questions, finding out everything you can about the river you are about to travel on. Make sure you trust what your guide is telling you, regardless of the nervous rush you may be feeling at this unfamiliar river, and make sure to follow their advice. After all, you want to know the river as well as they do.

If you know the river, know the potential dangers and know how to approach them, you will find that you will grow more and more confident in your ability to make correct decisions when on the river. You will know how to turn, where to go, where the water may be too choppy and know how to overcome each of these.

The more knowledgeable you are, the more you will be able to do.

Now get out there and get on a river!

#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #StrongerTogether #WeAreIRF