Costa Rica invites you to the inaugural IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

If your work is related to the river industry at all or even other adventure tourism activities, then we invite you to join us in Costa Rica to engage in dynamic discussions and exchange ideas with a vibrant and forward-thinking community of adventure travel professionals. Come build relationships, meet new colleagues, reconnect with old friends, access cutting-edge professional development, and join together to make the rafting industry worldwide even stronger and safer.

Where and when:
Over 250 participants from more than 25 nations will come together in this inaugural World White Water Rafting Summit to be held in iconic and tropical Costa Rica from 8 to 13 October 2019.

Wilderness Medicine to be a major topic at the IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

Wilderness medicine expert Abigail Polsby will be a distinguished speaker at the first International Rafting Federation (IRF) World White Water Rafting Summit in Costa Rica from October 8 to 13, 2019. Polsby is the CFO and co-founder of Sierra Rescue International in California and directs the Sierra Rescue Wilderness Medical Program. She is an Instructor Trainer for Rescue 3 International and a certified American Canoe Association (ACA) Swiftwater Rescue Instructor. She will address the critical reasons why adventure travel outfitters should go beyond basic first aid and train their guides in wilderness first aid, as well as give practical steps for handling common injuries that happen in remote areas.

“When you’re out in the wilderness, you can’t always call 911 and just wait for help to arrive. You are the help. With a little bit of training and practice, you can actually do things to help someone who is injured,” said Polsby. “It is an adventure tourism company’s responsibility to take care of their clients. Guides need to know not only how to Continue reading Wilderness Medicine to be a major topic at the IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

Julie Munger, world expert on river rescue to speak at the IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

Leading world expert on river rescue and International Whitewater Hall of Fame member Julie Munger will be one of the esteemed international speakers at the inaugural World White Water Rafting Summit of the International Rafting Federation (IRF) from October 8 to 13, 2019 in Costa Rica. Munger, who is CEO and co-founder of Sierra Rescue International and the Western Regional Director for Rescue 3 International in the U.S., will lead a dynamic interactive workshop on the latest innovative techniques in river rescue and wilderness emergency management. She will address the importance of professionalism in guiding and why river rescue should be a part of every company’s everyday rafting practices, like any other risk management and risk assessment.
“River rescue should not just be focused on guides getting certification but should be incorporated into a rafting company’s everyday operations along with planning and prevention. Everyone needs to work together to keep the river environment safe,” said Munger.

Rafting and adventure travel professionals from across the globe will come together at the Summit to share their experience and best practices and to develop plans for Continue reading Julie Munger, world expert on river rescue to speak at the IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

Ken Streater aims to empower the rafting community at the IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

International author, social entrepreneur and raft guide, Ken Streater, will discuss how raft guides and adventure travel outfitters can transform their community and the world to inspire trust, ensure safety, and better the environment.

How raft guides and adventure travel outfitters can transform their communities and the world will be the discussion presented by keynote speaker Ken Streater during the first World White Water Rafting Summit of the International Rafting Federation (IRF) from October 8 to 13, 2019 in Costa Rica.

Streater, who is an international speaker, author, social entrepreneur and adventure travel outfitter from the U.S., is one of many international specialists who will lead powerful, engaging and interactive workshops at the Summit to be held at the Costa Rica Convention Center and the world-renowned Pacuare River. With the purpose of building on safety foundations in the adventure travel and sports industries, the Summit is backed by the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT). Over 250 participants from 25 countries are expected to attend.

“I am pleased to speak to a powerful group of rafting guides and outfitters about their capacity to transform their community and the world. River guides have a unique opportunity and obligation to Continue reading Ken Streater aims to empower the rafting community at the IRF World White Water Rafting Summit

IRF Honourary President Rafael Gallo is paddling a G6 solo and we have his back

IRF President Joe Willis Jones presents Rafael Gallo with his title of IRF Honorary President

Last year at the IRF 2019 Congress held in Tully, Australia, the IRF voted to bestow the title of Honourary President on Rafael (Rafa) Gallo to honour his long and unrelenting support of rafting and in particular, the IRF.  The IRF would like to give back its unrelenting support to Rafa in this, the hour of his need, as he finds himself paddling through a life threatening Class 6  – a rapid on the river of life called Pancreatic Cancer during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rafa is a long time legend in the rafting and conservation world, and one of the founders of the IRF.  Together with Lee Porter, he motivated the key people in the raft racing world at the time to join together to create a formal organisation that would create, maintain and officiate universal race rules and world championships, as well as set standards for rafting guides and raft tour operators. And so the IRF was born.

Rafael Gallo paddles with Project RAFT co-founder Mike Grant at the 1991 Project RAFT Championships in Costa Rica

But before even that, Rafa was captain of the rafting team that represented Costa Rica at the first international rafting competition event held in Siberia, Russia in 1989, and the second event held in Nantahala, North Carolina, USA in 1990, and served as the principle host for the 1991 event held in Costa Rica.  These early events organised by Project RAFT set the stage for the creation of the Camel White Water Challenges, which lead to the first official World Rafting Championships and the birth of the IRF in 1997.

As President and co-founder of Rios Tropicales, Costa Rica’s leading rafting tour company, Rafa has been a leading conservationist, visionary, entrepreneur, and change maker in Costa Rican adventure tourism for over 35 years. Rafa helped to lead the fight to save Costa Rica’s iconic Pacuare River from being dammed,  and sits on a number of boards where he continues to lead efforts to protect and preserve Costa Rica’s rainforests, rivers, and local communities.  A few of these boards include organisations like Fundación Ríos Tropicales, Reservas de Costarricenses, America Outdoors, Explorer’s Club, and various Costa Rican Tourism organisations.

Rafa opening the 2009 IRF World Rafting Championship, Banja Luka 🇧🇦

Rafa has additionally been honored internationally and in Costa Rica with recognition and awards like the Pioneers for Prosperity, International Whitewater Hall of Fame, National Geographic Ashoka’s Changemakers Geotourism Award, TIES Innovation Leadership in Sustainable Tourism Award, and more.

Since the formation of the IRF, Rafa has served various roles on the IRF Board of Directors (BOD) for most of its existence, including IRF President, Vice President, and Chair of the Conservation Committee. He has also served as an IRF Chief Judge, and Assessor with the IRF GTE system. One of his proudest achievements was to host the first-ever carbon neutral sports world championship, the 2011 IRF World Rafting Championship, an amazing achievement.  After retiring from the IRF BOD, his new position of Honourary President has allowed Rafa to continue his ambassadorship for the IRF, his most recent work being that of working as the IRF representative with the United Nations to help train former FARC combatants in Columbia as rafting guides, and again stepping up to create and host the highly successful IRF World White Water Rafting Summit.
Rafael-Gallo-Rios-Tropicales-owner kayaking-Ecotourism-pioneer
Over these past few months, Rafa has been going through cancer treatments in the United States and has responded positively to it. However, with the added challenge of COVID-19 threatening everything, including the health of his rafting company, it has been a hard and daunting path. But what is incredible is that none of this has slowed him down or reduced his amazingly indomitable spirit and initiative.  We salute him as we admire his strength, positive outlook and fierce determination – traits that helped the IRF grow and develop during its formative years, and are sure to help him during his current challenges.  You can hear Rafa speak about these challenges during a recent interview here with #TourismStrong.

The IRF and the world of rafting is eternally grateful for all Rafa has done and continues to do.  For those wanting to send Rafa a message of support, please feel free to do so on

#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #StrongerTogether #oneloveoneriver #raftinggram #RiverFamily #WeAreIRF

Coronavirus COVID-19 Impacts to IRF Events (Update 4)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the international sporting world, and the IRF is no exception. With lockdowns being brought into play throughout the world, borders closing and extreme travel restrictions in place, it is evident that it will be a long while before the sporting world gets back on its feet.

How this impacts our upcoming IRF events and activities:

  • ERC 2020 in Czechia – with heavy hearts we have announced the cancellation of our ERC 2020
  • WRC 2020 in Ziyuan, Guilin, China – China has moved through the peak of the pandemic and practically eliminated community transmitted COVID-19 infections, and Ziyuan has experienced zero cases at anytime making it one of the safest venues for rafting on the globe. However, China has closed their borders to all foreigners to prevent the virus from entering the country and reestablishing itself. No date has been given for when this may change. The IRF Executive Committee and Athlete’s Commission have discussed the fact that COVID-19 travel restrictions, quarantines and curfews around the world have made it impossible for many of our athletes to safely train or make preparations to travel to China. The IRF further believes that our sport must not in any way be a factor that could endanger the health and safety of our IRF family or their loved ones. Therefore, the IRF and the WRC Organisers are discussing the very real likelihood that the WRC may be postponed. We are investigating all options at the moment. We will announce a joint decision as soon as we have found a path through this maze of uncertainty.
  • Balkan White Water Safety Summit in Bosnia and Herzegovina – postponed to later in the year.
  • For all other IRF events and activities – please keep a close eye on the following two links which we will update as we receive information from the organisers and make joint decisions on the future of these activities and events:

As always, the health and safety of the IRF family remains our first priority. The IRF will continue to follow the information and guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the United Nations agency that is leading the world on this issue.

The IRF will act according to the science-based evidence gathered by WHO.  We will not issue blanket proclamations or unilaterally suspend all IRF events.  We support all our event organisers and teams across the globe, and will continue to respond to the pandemic with appropriate measures – without misrepresentation, over-hype, or panic.  Government restrictions placed on event gatherings, which may or may not be based on WHO recommendations, will be followed in accordance to law.

We encourage everyone to keep healthy, get plenty of clean, fresh air, and closely follow the WHO COVID-19 advice for the public. If you are able and allowed to step outside to get onto rivers, please follow WHO’s advice on social distancing and any legal restrictions put in place by government officials.  Let’s remain positive while we focus on our health and safety – the world needs positivity to get us through this difficult time.

Coronavirus Update 4
Coronavirus Update 3
Coronavirus Update 2
Coronavirus Update 1

#RaftersAreAwesome #StrongerTogether #internationalrafting #oneloveoneriver #RiverFamily #WeAreIRF

Coronavirus COVID-19 Impacts to IRF Events (Update 3)

Contrary to rumours being released by IRF detractors, the IRF is still actively pursuing our WRC, ERC, ECs and WCs this year along with our GTE activities.  The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the worldwide international sporting calendar, and the IRF calendar is no exception.  Our immediate concern is for events coming up in the next 8 weeks as government and health authorities react in various ways to contain or mitigate the spread of the virus with protective measures.  The situation is changing daily. Nobody today can say what the developments are tomorrow, what they are in one month, and certainly not several months into the future. The IRF will not be making irresponsible decisions to change our competition calendar based on speculation.  We urge all competitors to stay in touch with their National Federation and to keep watch for updates to this post and to our published calendar.

  • Balkan White Water Safety Summit in Bosnia and Herzegovina – still proceeding according to plans.
  • WRC 2020 in Guilin, Ziyuan China – China (population 1.4 billion) is typically reporting less than 20 new COVID-19 cases a day (all from travelers from abroad). Chinese authorities are now more concerned about infected foreigners entering the country than community spread cases within China.  Ziyuan County, site of the IRF World Rafting Championship (WRC) event, has told us they have zero infections because the virus has never entered their county, making it one of the safest rafting event locations in the world.  We are considering different contingency scenarios, but the IRF WRC is unlike our other events and many other sport championships in that it is scheduled five months away. Local officials in Ziyuan report that they are moving forward at full speed to prepare for the competition as planned!
  • ERC 2020 in Czech Republic – is scheduled for June, when the peak number of COVID-19 cases in Europe are expected to be past.  We will be monitoring the situation carefully, in concert with event organisers and local health authorities.

Continue reading Coronavirus COVID-19 Impacts to IRF Events (Update 3)

Balkan White Water Safety Summit

The Rafting Federation of the Republic of Srpska (Rafting savez Republike Srpske) are proud to announce the first ever whitewater safety conference aimed specifically at the Balkan region. The Balkan White Water Safety Summit will be held in the City of Banja Luka from 18 to 22 May 2020, with a workshop being run on the Vrbas River at the start.
The aims of the conference are to:
  • Promote rafting standards in the Balkan region
  • Unify the rafting industry in the Balkan region
  • Improve the safety on rivers and what the benefits of safe rafting are
  • Cooperation between rafting companies on Balkan
  • Look at floods in the Balkan region and what the role of educated rafting guides in this can be
  • Promotion of the 2021 World Rafting Championship in BiH
  • 18 – 21 May 2020 – IRF Guide and Trip Leader Workshop on the Vrbas River.
  • 22 May 2020  – Conference in the City of Banja Luka (all day)
    • 10:00  Official opening and speakers (Ministries, IRF and Mayors)
    • 10:30 – 11:00 Presentation of BiH’s WRC 2021
    • 11:00 – 11:45 IRF standards and safety on river
    • 11:45 – 12:00 Open discussion
    • 12:00 – 12:30 Break
    • 12:30 – 13:00 ATTA and outdoor industry standards
    • 13:00 – 14:00 IRF standards and the rafting law in Balkan countries
    • 14:00 – 17:00 Different Workshops – more details soon
    • 17:30 Conclusion

Invitations will be extended to all those who are interested in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania. Interested persons are very welcome from regions outside of these regions. Invitations will be extended to key persons in the Ministry of Sport RS and BiH, Ministry of Tourism RS and BiH and Mayors of the City Banja Luka and Foca, as well as companies and authorities from Neretva and Una Rivers, plus the touris boards of all these cities.

Keep an eye on the following website for updates:

U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica gives thumbs up to safe rafting industry

Last Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Sharon Day, showed her support for improving safety in the rafting industry by going rafting on the Pacuare River during the World White Water Rafting Summit finale.

Ambassador Day was one of 207 people from over 20 nations from across the globe who joined together under the banner message of “One World, One River, One Family” for the closing event of the inaugural IRF World White Water Rafting Summit navigating the world-class rapids of the Pacuare River.

The ambassador’s participation is especially poignant since tragedy struck in October 2018, when four U.S. citizens and their Costa Rican river guide lost their lives during a whitewater rafting trip in extreme conditions on the Naranjo River in Quepos. Since that incident, the Costa Rican rafting industry has united to train and certify river guides to international standards by the IRF, to adopt a nationwide code of ethics for rafting guides and companies, to join an IRF pilot project to certify commercial rafting operators, and other measures to improve safety standards.

Tweeting on October 13th, Ambassador Day said: “At the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, we work with the ICT and the Ministry of Health on regulations, inspections and security to increase the safety of adventure tourism for U.S. citizens and all tourists in Costa Rica. I participated in the first World Rafting Summit, in which we analyzed issues such as the best security practices in equipment and rafting.”

“This is a positive message that the government of the United States is supportive of rafting in Costa Rica. That it is not dangerous as long as safety measures are followed. She enjoyed herself with a big smile the whole time,” said Honorary IRF President Rafael Gallo, who joined Ambassador Day on the Pacuare River trip, along with IRF President Joe Willis Jones and other members of the Summit organising committee.

#OneWorldOneRiverOneFamily #AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #guide #raft #rafting #raftguide #whitewater #rapids #StrongerTogether #internationalrafting #RiverFamily #WeAreIRF

Delivering a powerful message: river guides and rafting operators are river guardians

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of the Environment and Energy for Costa Rica

The message from several international speakers during the World White Water Rafting Summit 2019 was loud and clear: river guides and rafting companies should be the guardians of the world’s rivers. Not only does their livelihood depend on clean and healthy rivers, they spend a considerable amount of time on rivers and, with clients in their rafts, are perfectly positioned to spread positive conservation messages.

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of the Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, delivered a powerful message to Summit participants on Oct. 9 that no more dams should be built in Costa Rica. Instead, he pointed to solar energy as the future power source for the country that currently generates 97% of its electricity from renewable sources (primarily hydroelectric dams).

The following day, Ian Ponce, representative of the UN Climate Change Commission, spoke at the Summit to ratify the participation of the IRF in the Framework of Climate Action for Sport. According to Ponce, sports organizations need to play an active part in achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, that is, climate neutrality by 2050.

Both Ponce and Rodriguez were at the Costa Rica Convention Center attending the PreCOP25 international meeting that precedes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Chile in December.

The World White Water Rafting Summit did its part in helping preserve the environment and was awarded the Ecological Blue Flag of Costa Rica in the category of special events. The Summit achieved a perfect score of 100 for implementing all the requirements for a sustainable use of resources.

#OneWorldOneRiverOneFamily #AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #guide #raft #rafting #raftguide #whitewater #rapids #StrongerTogether #internationalrafting #RiverFamily #WeAreIRF