Useful skills rafting skippers have to know


Useful skills rafting skippers have to know

There are not that many group activities which have the insane level of excitement and fun as rafting. Sure, you can say that skydiving in a group is much more extreme, and you would be right. However, you can’t just gather your squad and go whenever you want. Rafting tours on Tara river are available for the entire year and this is the main advantage of rafting adventure. But there is prior knowledge you need to gather if you wish to be safe.

While rafting is a truly unique experience, which is packed with a lot of entertainment, all that fun can quickly turn into chaos if you are not adequately prepared. This is why all of our skipers - the guys who ensure your safety - have IRF licences. They know exactly what to do in the case of an emergency. The training they have undergone is extensive and combined with their experience can guarantee that you will be safe on our rafting tours. However, the first thing you should do is listen to the skipper's instructions. Maybe you are wondering, how does skipper training look like, and what do they learn?

The basics

Before they even consider entering a river, skippers have to master these techniques.


You are probably thinking to yourself – well, of course they have to learn to swim! We don't mean the regular pool swimming. Swimming in whitewater is very different than regular swimming. The first thing that they teach skippers is the defensive position, to roll over and lie on their backs.

This is opposite to the offensive position. Think of your body acting like a boat in a current. It can move faster than the current, and this is called steering. It can move slower than the current, and this is called ferrying. It can also move with the current, and this is called floating. It is important to always scan your surroundings and act appropriately. Be proactive rather than reactive.  

Equipment management

Equipment is more than half the safety and this is fundamental to all extreme sports. You can have a vast amount of experience and the best swimming skills. However, if your equipment fails you are in big trouble. The essential thing is not only to check the equipment, but to learn what is the most effective place for a piece of equipment to be. Also, a skipper needs to know exactly where a piece of his equipment is at all times. In a hazardous situation there is no time to check your pockets.


Essential skills on the boat

These are the skills which skippers have to perfect in order to rescue someone.

Proper throw bag technique

Learning the best way to throw a bag is essential whitewater skill. Most people make the mistake of not leaving enough rope on their hands, this causes them to hold the rope statically which will lead to some party eventually letting go.

The proper way is to leave a tail of rope, at least 15 feet, on the ground and throw the rest to the swimmer. What this does is allow you to hold the rope in a dynamic way, and avoid a sudden jerking stop. When a swimmer gets hold of the rope you should pull it tight and let some of it. Repeat the process until the swimmer is safe.

How to escape a hydraulic hole

Falling into a hydraulic hole can be a really scary experience. You go through all the techniques but it's not up till when you actually find yourself in this situation that you can fully understand the seriousness. There are two ways to get out:

  • Try to swim for the side
  • Try to swim for the bottom

The key is to reach water that is moving down the stream. If you are unable to swim to the side, swim heavily into the current and get yourself curled into a ball. There is a bonus technique if everything else fails. Just relax and if you are lucky enough, you’ll end up safe.


How to quickly coil throw a rope

Time is an important factor in any water rescue. Butterfly coils can be an effective method but there's another alternative known as the true method or the Thompson river University technique. The true method provides a fast, simple way to get your second or third throw out, without risk of your rope becoming tangled or bunched.

Simply take the end of the rope in your throwing hand to begin. With your palm facing out and the Rope pinched between your thumb and your palm wrap the rope under your arm outside your elbow and over your wrist in front of your forearm. Then wrap the rope back around your hand across your palm.

Repeat as many times as necessary to form a figure eight coil long enough to do your rescue. Now just slip the bottom of the rope coil off your elbow, shake out your rope and you're ready for a tangle-free second throw. With practice, you'll be able to do this extremely fast. This can be done quickly and as many times as necessary to complete the rescue.

Communication while rafting

Rafting skippers must always be physically ready, but there are other items. Communication on rafting can be difficult due to the high noise generated by fast mountain rivers . Therefore, there are a number of rules of non-verbal communication, which facilitate communication between skipper and other participants. Also this is a very useful method in emergency situations, when two skippers must communicate with each other even though they are far away in their boats.

These are some examples of how non-verbal communication while rafting looks like, and probably are the most useful signs:

1. Raised hand in salute position means that the swimmer is not visible.
2. Waving with the paddle in a circular motion over your head means you need a helicopter.
3. Raised hands in front of chest, palms outward is a sign to stop.
4. Raised, crossed hands or paddles is a sign that first aid is needed.
5. Left arm with the palm outward or raised paddle means that there is no problem.

These are just some of many useful rescue techniques to help keep you and your paddling partners safe. But don’t be concerned about safety beyond your behaviour and in a case of an emergency, just let skippers do what they are trained for.

Bottom Group