10 Tips for White Water Rafting Beginners

The Colorado Adventure Center offers a variety of trips that are perfect for beginner whitewater rafting participants. Whitewater rafting can be an intimidating activity to get your feet wet. Here are a few tips to help white water rafting for beginners.

group of happy rafters

1. Cooperate with your Guide – The Colorado Adventure Center’s team of whitewater guides are some of the most experienced and well trained on Clear Creek. Listen and follow their paddle commands as you navigate the river. Paddle when they give a paddle command! Don’t paddle unless they give a paddle command! Your river guide is very familiar with the river. Following your guide’s instructions will help to ensure a smooth and memorable beginner rafting experience.

2. Listen & Understand the Safety Orientation Talk – Before every whitewater rafting adventure, Colorado Adventure Center guests will go through a safety orientation talk. The safety orientation goes over many of the risks associated with whitewater rafting. Not only do we address some of the risks that could be encountered on the river but how to react in the scenarios. Although this pre-trip safety talk can seem intimidating, it is crucial that all guests rafting are prepared for the risks of whitewater rafting.

3. Paddle Together – Paddle like a Viking war ship not a drunken spider! Your river guide will call out different paddle commands as your crew navigates the rapids. It is much more effective and efficient to paddle together as a team. The paddlers at the front of the boat will be designated the “paddle captains”. As the guide yells paddle commands, the paddle captains will initiate the stroke in unison. Everyone seated behind the paddle captains will follow their stroke. Paddling skills will be practiced on land before putting on the river.

Bachelor group ready to raft

4. Brace Yourself – If you are a beginner whitewater paddler be sure to find good positioning in the raft. The guests will be seated around the perimeter of the raft. Some positions may have a specific foothold and others will brace themselves using the interior thwarts. By tucking your feet under the thwarts or into the footholds you will allow for a more powerful paddle stroke. Finding a balance between your seat on the perimeter, tucking your feet, and good paddling form can help keep you in the boat through rapid sections.

5. Hands on the T-Grip – Always keep one hand on the T-grip at the end of your paddle. One of the most common injuries in whitewater rafting is caused by your fellow paddler. While going through rapid sections some guests remove their hand from their T-grip to brace themselves. This leaves a hard-plastic object being thrust about the raft in close proximity to other paddlers. Do yourself and your rafting companions a favor. Keep your hand on the T-grip.

6. Gear Up – The rivers in Colorado are generally from snow melt and stay pretty chilly. The water temperature on Clear Creek rarely gets over 40 degrees! A wet suit is included on all our Clear Creek whitewater trips. It is not required on our beginner whitewater section but strongly recommended, especially early season. It is required on all intermediate and advanced rafting trips to wear a wet suit. Additional gear is available for rent. Neoprene river booties are always a good call, no matter what section of whitewater you plan to go on. The self-bailing rafts used at our Idaho Springs Base Camp will have your feet in contact with the water the entire time. The wet suits are sleeveless so a Splash Top will provide additional warmth to your upper body. If your hands get cold easily, neoprene gloves are strongly recommended. Even if you are a little toasty while gearing up for your trip, wait until that first wave hits. You will be thankful for the extra insulation.

7. Don’t Wear Cotton – Do not wear any cotton material while rafting! Cotton is a negative insulator. This means once the cotton layer gets wet, it is going to stay wet and cold. If you put a cotton layer underneath the wetsuit it will not allow the neoprene material to keep you warm. Choose a dry-fit or synthetic material that will dry easily.

Adults rafting in Colorado

8. Hydrate – It is important for any physical activity that you are properly hydrated. If you are visiting Colorado from a lower elevation, hydration is even more important. It may be hard to notice as you are getting constantly splashed through rapid sections, but it is very easy to get dehydrated at higher elevations. This goes for the kiddos too! Encourage everyone in your party to drink twice as much H2O while visiting higher elevations.

9. Sun Protection – Nothing is worse than a bad sunburn on vacation! We encourage guests utilize high SPF sunblock and UV blocking layers. The UV rays at higher elevation can be significantly more harsh than lower elevations. Save yourself and your family members from vacation altering sunburn, use sun protection!

10. Unplug – We strongly recommend everyone leave their cell phones locked in the car. Live in the moment and take in the unbeatable Colorado scenery. White water rafting is an activity that requires your full attention. There will be little, if any, time while on your rafting trip to use your phone. Everything in the raft and on your person is very likely to get wet. Avoid donating getting water damage or donating your phone to the creek by leaving it in your car. The Colorado Adventure Center works with professional photographers that are stationed along the river. Let your personal paparazzi get the action shots and enjoy the ride.

The Colorado Adventure Center team is dedicated to making your beginner whitewater rafting trip an unforgettable positive experience. Do you have more questions about your beginner whitewater rafting trip? Call 877-ZIP-RAFT to speak with one of our friendly Reservation Agents.

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