Rafting: our beginners’ guide

Rafting is one of those activities which simultaneously inspires you with wonder while producing a strong thrill. It’s also a leisure activity that is accessible to different profiles of people looking for a de-stressing, sports discipline. Are you tempted to try this experience? Find all the information here to help you start rafting the right way.

What is rafting?

By definition, rafting is an activity which consists of navigating white water (with a strong current) on a non-submersible boat which has to have a flat bottom, otherwise known as a raft. You navigate the watercourse using paddles that enable you to steer the raft and stabilise it, a bit like kayaking.

The crew is generally made up of 4 to 12 people who must coordinate their efforts. This also explains why rafting is one of the most popular team building options.

What are the prerequisites for rafting?

There is one condition you must fulfil when rafting: you must be able to swim. In fact, you might find yourself in the water and knowing how to swim ensures you enjoy a safe experience.
You must be age 8 or over to get in a raft. Even if minors can swim like fish, they need to be accompanied by a responsable adult. Please note that the minimum age may be age 10 or even 16 depending on the river. You should therefore find out before rafting on it.

You don’t need to be really sporty. On the other hand, you need to be in good shape, because it takes a lot of exertion to be able to raft on white water.

You also need to have the right equipment before you start rafting. While rafts can be easily rented from professionals, it’s better to have your own gear available. This way, you know you have the right size and you can always use it for other activities.

So make sure you have a lifejacket ready, and ideally one that is designed for rafting. You should also have a helmet that protects your head without squeezing it too much. You should always try helmets on to find the right fit. Although you can just wear normal clothing, there’s nothing like a neoprene wetsuit to protect you from splashing and changes in temperature.

Add some neoprene shoes to your shopping list, because you may have to jump in the water. These lightweight shoes are designed for watersports and will protect your feet from sharp, rocky surfaces.

There are a few extra accessories that you might find useful if not indispensable. These include, for example, waterproof bags and boxes which are advisable if you’re taking stuff with you such as food, dry clothing, etc. Don’t forget to invest in some sturdy straps to secure your bags and equipment safely. Keeping a knife handy is also helpful, just in case…

What happens during a rafting session?

When you arrive at a watersports centre, explain that you’re a beginner immediately. An instructor will come to equip you and brief you before you start. You will also be informed about the safety measures you need to comply with from the moment you set off till the time you arrive at your destination.

Once they have given you the safety instructions, the guide will assign the roles. This is because the raft has to be balanced. Each participant will therefore receive instructions that they must follow in order to maintain this equilibrium in terms of both weight and propulsion force. That is also why the number of people on both sides of the raft must be the same.

The two strongest crew members will sit at the front, while the guide stays in the rear with their oar. The guide is the one who gives all the directions. You just need to listen to them and immediately follow the orders they give. Remember that to become a guide you need to know the river and have a lot of experience.

So you can trust your instructor fully and do what they say without question, because they are acting in your best interests in terms of safety and trying to give you a great first experience of rafting.
You are now descending the river. Keep your eyes peeled, but above all stay attentive to instructions. You will hear instructions such as “right back!”, “paddle forward!” or “stop left!”. The briefing will have explained all these phrases to you, so you just need to follow them. Concentration is a major asset.

There will sometimes be scheduled stops. Use these to stretch your legs and admire the countryside stretching out before you. Depending on the spot and how long you are stopping for, you can sometimes go swimming or even plunge into gorges from impressive cliffs. If you’re going adventuring for a half-day or longer, you will definitely have a chance to picnic in the heart of some incredible countryside.

At the end of the course, the paddlers at the front get out first and hold the raft steady while the others each get out in turn. The adventure is already over, but don’t worry, you can re-experience the thrills another time and in a different spot perhaps.

rafting

Where and when can you go rafting?

In France, the rafting season is from April to October. The snow melt and the rain irrigates the rivers, which usually makes the water deeper. This means there is less risk of boats grounding on rocky river bottoms. The higher the water level is, the less effort it takes to raft and the easier it will be for you to familiarise yourself with your equipment. Of course, it’s always preferable to go rafting in dry weather.

The Côte d’Azur, the French Riviera, has a lot of rafting spots. You could, for example, go for a guided rafting trip on the outskirts of Nice or in the Var region with Aquareve.  Please note that water releases make certain watercourses available to rafting enthusiasts. It is therefore a good idea to keep updated beforehand. In any case, instructors always take the experience of their rafters into account when they select the watercourse to descend.

Rafting is the perfect water sport to get out and explore the great outdoors. This alternative to kayaking or canoeing will take you through heavenly landscapes such as lush green countryside, mysterious forests and mountain country. Your first experience will be problem-free as long as you comply with the briefing to the letter. Enjoy yourself!