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Handling the Unexpected: What to Do If You Fall Out of the Raft

a person fell out of the raft

When you embark on an adventure, it is natural to think about what to do if things go haywire. If you are considering going on a white-water rafting trip, you likely have some concerns about the safety it guarantees. One of the most frequently asked questions we get is: “What happens if you fall out white water rafting?”, Or even, “Is white water rafting dangerous?”.

We can assure you that white water rafting is not dangerous. There are just some precautions and rules that you need to keep in mind. Falling overboard should not be a concern as long as you’ve got a professional guide by your side and are familiar with the safety procedures. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to be safe on the river in the event of an unexpected plunge. Let’s get started.

Falling Out of the Raft - a Normal Occurrence

While falling off a raft might sound scary, it’s a normal occurrence and happens on the majority of rafting trips. Many rafters consider it to be a fun part of the rafting experience! Rest assured that if you happen to fall out of the raft, you’ll be completely okay.

While it’s true that rafting does incur risks, it’s no more dangerous than many other more common activities such as swimming in the ocean or driving a car. In all of these activities, as long as you stay alert and cautious, you have very little to worry about.

Also, remember that, if you fall overboard, you won’t be left to fend for yourself. There will be an experienced guide and other boatmen who will be there to help you. Also, the life jackets used in whitewater rafting are designed for excellent flotation, providing even more buoyancy than your typical life jackets. In the majority of cases where rafters fall off the boat, they are pulled back in immediately.

Prevent Falls by Listening to Your Guide

It’s crucial to follow your guide’s advice to reduce your risk of falling overboard. Pay attention if your guide instructs you to hold onto the raft firmly with both hands. The only thing you should be doing is holding on tightly; don’t try to take a picture with your phone or overestimate your power. When a rafter goes overboard, it’s frequently because they were holding the raft with one hand while trying to capture a picture or a movie.

There are other times, however, when regardless of how tightly you hold on, your boat might flip over. This situation is also normal and no cause for worry, but you will want to take action to rescue yourself. Recall what your guide taught you during the safety orientation, and either

look out for instructions from your guide (and a rope)
focus on getting back in the boat or swimming to the shore
whichever option your guide thinks is more appropriate.

Immediate Actions After Falling Out

infographic illustrating steps after falling out of raft

If you find yourself in the water after a fall, there are specific steps to take. This includes:

i. Grab the Raft: As soon as you go overboard, grab the side of the raft or, if one is provided, the safety rope. Hold on tightly until you are retrieved by either your guide or a fellow rafter.

ii. Proper positioning: During the rescue, make sure you are facing the raft and the rescuer. In addition to enabling a flexible waist bend, this position makes it easier for you to help by grabbing ropes or other tools. Additionally, it makes it easier to kick effectively in the water, helping you get back into the raft. Your ability to aid in the rescue effort will be hampered if you are facing away from the rescuer or the raft.

iii. Position legs properly: If the current sweeps you away from your raft, bring your legs immediately up to the surface. Bring your feet to the river’s surface with your toes above it. Commit the phrase “nose and toes” to memory, which will help you remember that your nose and your toes should be above the water.
Your feet shouldn’t just be above the water but also facing downstream. You should also have your arms on either side of you, which will help you maneuver and slow yourself down. If someone offers you a paddle from the raft, take it, turn to face the raft, and let them help.

iv. Look out for a rope: Watch for the guide tossing a rope if you have drifted more than 75 feet from your raft. When they do, hold it above your shoulders and secure it. By turning your face away from the raft while being pushed, you can avoid getting water in your mouth.

v. Wait for calm waters before moving over: If the rapids sweep you farther than 75 feet from your raft, you shouldn’t try to swim in the rapid. Instead, stay calm and remain in the floating position discussed above. Every rapid is followed by a period of calm that gives you time to move toward safety.

What Not to Do if You Fall Out of the Raft

vector illustrating what not to do after falling out of raft

In the case of a fall, there are certain things that you should never do. These include:

i. Don’t panic: In the event of a fall, avoid panicking. Panicking can lead to rash decisions that could put you in further danger

ii. Don’t stand up in rapids: Never stand up in the rapids, as this can be extremely dangerous. You risk getting one of your feet caught in the crevices between the rocks, which could lead to serious injury. Even if you’re in a calm section of the river, you still shouldn’t stand. Instead, just swim quickly toward the river’s shore. After reaching the shore, stay there until the rescuers arrive.

iii. Don’t swim against the current: River currents are much stronger than any rafter, and if you try to swim against one, you’ll quickly become exhausted and run the risk of injury.

iv. Don’t let go of the paddle: If you fall in the water, you’re probably not thinking much about your paddle, but if you hold onto it, it will be easier for others to pull you back into the raft.

The Role of the Guide

Your rafting tour guide is essential to guarantee your safety. These tour operators are experienced, qualified specialists who are familiar with the river and its difficulties. You must obey their directions at all costs.

To become a qualified rafting instructor, candidates will undergo 14 days of intense rafting guide training and, upon completion of the course, will proceed to guide commercial rafting trips alongside a qualified instructor. After at least 20 training trips, depending on their abilities, the trainee will become a professional guide by leading their first solo whitewater rafting excursion.

On the river, your rafting guide will often give instructions, some of which must be carried out immediately. For instance, if your boat is about to hit a rock, your guide may call out “bump,” which means the rafters must lean in and place their paddle “T” grips on the boat’s floor, keeping their hands on top of the grip. Thus, make sure you pay attention to the safety training and react quickly and effectively to the instructions being given.

Final Word

Thus, white water rafting is a thrilling adventure that you need to experience at least once. Do not let the fear of falling overboard stop you from trying it out yourself. As we have discussed, it is a normal occurrence that can be easily dealt with.

If you have any questions about this exhilarating sport, feel free to speak with one of our experienced guides, all of whom are passionate about sharing their knowledge. You can reach us at 1-888-RAFT-ONE (888-723-8663).

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