2020 year in review

2020 year in review

As we find ourselves already at the end of January 2021, we look back at out 2020 year in review. Always to be a famous year for reasons we would rather all forget, there was still much to be celebrated throughout 2020.

It was the strangest of years, none of us could ever have imagined. With so many travel restrictions, limited tour rafting and few raft racing events, there have been practically no opportunities for rafters from across the globe to meet face to face. This is such a key part of why many of us love the sport. Throughout 2020 we’ve tried to keep you in up to date and engaged through videos and photos, and hope you have enjoyed seeing the rafting world through our eyes.

The IRF’s 2020 Year in Review


Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF)

  • As directed by the unanimous vote of the 2017 Japan IRF Congress, we continue to work towards fulfilling all requirements necessary for the IRF to attain full membership with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). Among the most difficult tasks is the effort to secure 40 IRF members with National Sport Authority (NSA) or National Olympic Committee (NOC) recognition. This is proving to be extra slow as a result of the pandemic, with some members reporting that these offices have postponed services until the situation has normalised.
  • WADA Code – we have applied to become a World Anti Doping Code Signatory, a necessary step for GAISF full membership. We hope to hear positive results from WADA early 2021.

International recognition and involvement

  • We are pleased to report that excellent headway was made in achieving recognition of rafting as a respected, internationally practiced sport, and of the IRF as the legitimate worldwide federation that governs rafting. These achievements are primarily a result of the IRF’s GAISF Observer Status that was achieved in October 2019.
  • By special invitation, in the last few months we have attended a number of very important virtual meetings and forums involving GAISF, AIMS, IOC, and International Sports Federations (IFs) throughout the world. These invitations and IRF participation has significantly added to the IRF’s acceptance and prestige among our IF peers.
  • AIMS are helping us in our goal to achieve full membership with GAISF and invited us to send participants to the Virtual Youth Festival which was run by United Through Sport. Two of our Judges, Bert Kanora and Jasmina Marčok, represented us and assisted as technical Judges. We thank them for their involvement and representing the IRF at this great event.
  • Some of the other organisations we have been invited to join are Fair Play International and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).
  • We have also recently joined the IOC’s Mountain Sports Sustainability Group. Sustainability as we all know is essential for the survival of our planet and limiting climate change. This is something the majority of us strongly believe in and feel we should be doing more about.

IRF’s Sustainability

  • We have recently launched our Practical Guide to Sustainability for rafters.  This guide is not policy, it is more specifically advice on how rafters, GTE instructors, event organisers, racers, rafting operators and all others involved in rafting can take steps toward being more sustainable. We will be encouraging engagement around this topic from all our followers, and are looking at other ways to increase engagement with all rafters so as to increase sustainability practices in the rafting world.

Uniting rafting

  • Early in 2020 we renewed our efforts to initiate a dialogue with the World Rafting Federation (WRF) leadership in our aim to reunite rafting as a benefit for all rafters. This continues today.
  • We continue working to ensure all nations invested in rafting know who we are, what we have done, and how they can join our common goals of betterment for all rafters.

Guide Training and Education (GTE)

  • GTE workshops were severely impacted this year due to the pandemic, however we did see quite a large number of workshops taking place in the second half of the year as many rafting operations started up again, some having very busy, but short seasons.
  • Due to her other work and family commitments, our long time GTE Administrator, Raewyn Larcombe, has regrettably decided to step down from the role. Raewyn is well known by all our GTE Assessors and Instructors as the point person for this world renowned program. We wish to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to Raewyn for her long service to the IRF.  She will of course continue to remain an important part of the IRF #RiverFamily going forward as we turn to her for advice and counsel during this transition period.
  • In the interim, we have appointed Sean Clarke to fulfil Raewyn’s role until a full time replacement can be found. Sean will be putting his organisation and computer skills to work to modernise and streamline the GTE administration processes as this program continues to grow and expand.

ROA (Rafting Operator Accreditation)

  • The planned launch of the Rafting Operator Accreditation (ROA) system announced during the IRF’s World White Water Rafting Summit in Costa Rica in October 2019 was unfortunately delayed as the vast majority of rafting operators have reported that they were forced to close their doors due to COVID concerns.
  • During the delay, additional effort has been put into refining program documents and we look forward to seeing the program launched as soon as conditions permit.

Para Rafting

  • As we begin to finalise the Rules, Codes and Classification Systems for Para Rafting, the Para Rafting Committee has been appointed to direct and approve the process.
  • The committee consists of a wide range of extremely well-qualified participants who through personal experience are well acquainted with the unique challenges faced by the adaptive rafting community.
  • Once this work is completed, the IRF will be positioned to move forward with meaningful, fully endorsed Para Rafting events that conform to International Paralympic Committee (IPC) criteria and standards.

Sport & Competition

  • The coronavirus pandemic still has the world in its grip. Plans for 2021 races and events, although being made, can never be made with full certainty.
  • At the moment, no 2021 Continental Championships are scheduled due to this uncertainty. The postponed WRC in China is still scheduled as planned, but this will be reviewed in detail shortly as it is very dependent on travel restrictions in all participating countries.
  • The good news is that several vaccines that are proving to be very effective in combating the virus are now being administered in many countries.
  • We are keeping our fingers crossed that the IRF can soon get back on track and put these difficult times behind us, however it is likely the adverse global economic effects of the pandemic will not pass quickly.
  • In the end, we were delighted that we managed to hold a few Euro Cup events in 2020! Thanks to Serbia and Czechia who had to jump through many hoops to satisfy their government Covid-19 restrictions and requirements to run EC races. We sincerely hope this year will be much better!


  • Sean Clarke, our Head of Media & Marketing, has worked hard to keep the interest up in the IRF and rafting through social media by sharing great photos, videos and interesting articles. We havd seen a growth now in people keen to share their media with the IRF. Hopefully this will continue when the world gets back to normal! Sean has also been doing other work to grow IRF exposure with our various media outlets.
  • Website – time away from preparing and organising events has given us the opportunity to update our website to a new, more modern theme! The vast majority of this work was thanks to Sean.

Although we did achieve some great things last year, being out rafting is what we really all love and live for, and we hope we can all get out and do it as per normal this year!

#internationalrafting #strongertogether #weareirf #thisisrafting