How To

How To Understand Whitewater Rafting Terms and Lingo

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When on a guided whitewater rafting tour there is a guide that will instruct you to do different tasks. When instructing she/he may use some lingo and terms that you will need to know. So before you leave for your trip, learn these key words to help you better understand what you are getting yourself in to:

  • Above – Upriver from..
  • Alluvial – Pertaining to material carried or laid down by running water. Alluvium is the material deposited by streams. It includes gravel, sand, silt, and clay.
  • Back Pivot-Turning the raft from a ferry angle to a stem-downstream position. Used in tight places to recover from an extreme ferry angle, this maneuver narrows the passing space of the boat and allows it to slide closely past obstructions.
  • Bar – An accumulation of sand, gravel, or rock in the river channel or along the banks.
  • Beam – The width of a raft at its widest point.
  • Belay – To wrap a line around a rock or tree so as to slow or stop Slippage. This technique allows one man to hold a line under great pull.
  • Below – Downriver from..
  • Big water – Large Volume, fast current, big waves, often accompanied by huge reversals and extreme general turbulence. The terms big water and heavy water are closely similar, but big water carries stronger suggestions of immense volume and extreme violence.
  • Boil – A water current upwelling into a convex mound.
  • Boulder fan – A sloping, fan-shaped mass of boulders deposited by a tributary stream where it enters into the main canyon. These often constrict the river, causing rapids.
  • Bow – Front of a boat.
  • Bow-In – With bow pointed forward.
  • Broach – To turn a boat broadside to the current.
  • Cart wheeling – Technique of spinning a raft just before a collision with a rock so as to rotate the raft off and around the rock.
  • Channel – A raftable route through a section of river.
  • Chute – A clear channel between obstructions, steeper and faster than the surrounding water.
  • Confluence – The point where two or more rivers meet.
  • Curler – A high steep wave that curls or falls back onto its own upstream face.
  • Double-Oar turn – Rowing technique used to turn (or to prevent the turning of) a raft. Consists of simultaneously pulling on one oar while pushing on the other.
  • Draw stroke – paddling technique of moving a boat sideways toward the paddle.
  • D-Ring – Metal, D-shaped ring attached to a raft and used to secure frames, lines, rope thwarts, etc.
  • Drop/Pitch – An abrupt descent in a river.
  • Easy-rower washer – Large plastic, rubber, or metal washer placed between the oar and frame to reduce friction.
  • Eddy – A place where the current either stops or turns to head upstream. Usually found below obstructions and on the inside of bends.
  • Flood plan – That portion of a river valley, adjacent to the river channel, which is built of sediments deposited by the river and which is covered with water when the river overflows its banks at flood stages.
  • Freeboard – The distance from the water line to the top of the buoyancy tube.
  • Galloway position – Basic position for oar boats; the oarsman faces the bow, which is pointed downstream.
  • Gate – Narrow, short passage between two obstacles.
  • Gradient – The slope of a river expressed in feet per mile.
  • Hair – Fast, extremely turbulent water covered with white, aerated foam.
  • Haystack – A large standing wave caused by deceleration of current.
  • House boulder – A house-sized boulder.
  • Hung up – The side of the raft is caught on an obstacle, but not wrapped around it.
  • Ledge – The exposed edge of a rock stratum that acts as a low natural dam or as a series of such dams.
  • Left bank – Left side of the river when facing downstream.
  • Meander – A loop-like bend in the course of a river.
  • Oar clip – A piece of resilient metal in the shape of a pinched U that is used to hold an oar to the hole pin.
  • Pivot – Turning the raft from a ferry angle to a bow-downstream Position. This narrows the passing space of the boat, allowing it to slide closely past obstructions.
  • Pool – A deep and quiet stretch of river.
  • Rapid – A fast, turbulent stretch of river, often with obstructions, but usually without an actual waterfall.
  • Riffle – A shallow rapid with very small waves, often over a sand or gravel bottom.
  • River left – Left side of the river when facing downstream.
  • River right – Right side of the river when facing downstream.
  • Sandpaper – Small choppy waves over shallows.
  • Scout – To examine a rapid from shore.
  • Sleeper – Submerged rock or boulder just below the surface, usually marked by little or no surface disturbance.
  • Smoker – An extremely violent rapid.
  • Sneak – To take an easy route around a difficult spot.
  • Standing wave – A wave caused by the deceleration of current that occurs when fast-moving water slams into slower-moving water.
  • Stern – Rear of a boat.
  • Strainer – Brush, fallen trees, bridge pilings, or anything else that allows the current to sweep through but pins boots and boaters.
  • Tongue – The smooth “v” of fast water found at the head of rapids.
  • Wrapped – Being stuck behind a rock from being pushed into it by the current.

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