IRF President’s Year in Review 2021

President’s Year in Review 2021 – Joseph Willis Jones, IRF President

Joe Willis Jones photoDear Friends,

Wherever you are in the world and whatever your relationship with our beautiful sport of rafting, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a very happy New Year, and that all your hopes and dreams are realised in 2022.

2021 was a year of unanticipated challenge. The global pandemic forced the cancellation and postponement of hundreds of sporting events around the globe among responsible International Sports Federations (IFs) and the IRF was no exception. As you all know, the pandemic caused the postponement, and then cancellation of our World Rafting Championships (WRC) scheduled to be held in China, as well as the cancellation of many other IRF races and events.

Whether at the World Championships, a World Cup or Regional Cup, or one of the dozens of IRF National Champs or hundreds of IRF training and certification events around the world, be assured that we remain committed to operate with full consideration for the health and safety of all participants.

For a sport as social as rafting, perhaps the most difficult part of this past year has been the lack of opportunities for our global family to gather together to mingle, share experiences, laugh, and rekindle friendships. However, rafting requires that its participants be able to overcome mental and physical adversity and the challenges presented both by nature, and by each other. It brings out the best of people, and I am proud to be a part of such an activity and this Federation.

The IRF met the challenges of 2021 with courage and conviction, turning the tide and transforming many of these difficulties into success stories. The IRF was again recognised amongst sporting organisations as the global governing body for rafting. We were proud to be formally accepted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as a Code signatory, and to have our Observer Status renewed by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), among other recognitions.

These achievements serve as testaments to the IRF’s strength as a global organisation, and our deep commitment towards good governance, transparency, and the full and equal inclusion of all rafting athletes regardless of nation, race, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation.

As the world governing body for rafting, the IRF looks after and cares about the impact of our sport over the entire world. We shall continue to strive towards making rafting truly global: through our ever-evolving and growing slate of competitions and events, the expansion of our guide training and education programs, and our ever-deepening involvement in sustainability and river protection objectives.

Together, with all rafting stakeholders, we will continue to build our sport in a way that ensures that the future of rafting is globally sustainable. Our deep, historic ties to sustainability will help to leverage our position in the sports world as a leader in the sustainability movement as more IFs have recently begun to step forward and make similar commitments.

The world is growing more politically polarised and constantly struggles to remain peaceful. Political polarisation has also infiltrated sports, including our sport of rafting. 2022 will be a year of action, but it will also be a year of openness and acceptance as we continue our rigorous pursuit of dialogue and compromise to achieve and maintain global unity within our sport.

Rafting activities naturally encourages cooperation, and lifelong friendships grow from this, helping to form bonds of understanding and tolerance. Things which negatively affects one of us, negatively affects all of all. This has become especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rafting athletes from all cultures, races, religions, and political systems have no problem working, playing, and competing with each other. If only political leaders could follow the examples of cooperation that I see daily among rafters, the world would be a safer, happier, and better place for all of us.

The IRF is a rafting family made from many nations and peoples from around the world, with the desire to work together towards common goals. The IRF is all of us combined, working to take our sport to the highest levels, to teach each other and learn from each other – to make this activity we call ‘Rafting’ everything it can be.

The 2022 IRF World Rafting Championships are scheduled to be held on the beautiful Vrbas and Tara Rivers in south-eastern Europe. It will be a truly wonderful opportunity to re-unite our unique family and sport again in a celebration of rafting and social inclusion. We all need it!

Life is short and full of surprises – dream big and make the most of 2022! Let’s toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s bright future. I look forward to seeing each of you on a river again very soon.

Yours in Rafting,