White water rafting sometimes gets a bad rap for being dangerous. As with any sport, there is a potential for injuries. However, there are a lot of ways to make the sport safer and greatly reduce your risk of injuries. If you practice the strategies below, you can have a great time out on the water while staying relatively safe.
Wear your personal flotation device.
White water rafting companies almost always supply their customers with personal flotation devices. Wear yours from the moment you step onto the raft until you step off. If you're worried that your flotation device won't be comfortable, try it on before you get on the raft. If it's too big or too tight, ask for a different size before leaving shore. If you fall into the water with a personal flotation device on, your risk of drowning is very, very low.
Hold your paddle properly.
Holding your paddle properly is not just a means of getting down the river faster. It's also a safety matter. White water rafting paddles are shaped like a "T." You need to hold it with one hand about halfway down the shaft, and the other hand on the top of the "T." This gives you more control over the paddle so it is far less likely to hit one of your paddling mates in the face when you come into rocks or rough water.
When someone yells "bump," assume the position.
The captain—the person at the front of the boat—will keep an eye out for rocks. When the boat is expected to go over a rock, the captain will yell "bump." When they yell "bump," you need to assume the correct position. This means leaning in towards the center of the boat while placing the far end of your paddle (the handle side) firmly on the bottom of the boat. This gives you stability and helps keep you from falling out of the boat. Practice assuming the position before you leave shore so that the first time your captain yells "bump," you know exactly what to do and don't hesitate.
If you follow the tips above, you will have a safer experience on a white water raft. Remember that this is a fast-paced sport, and it can cause quite the adrenaline rush. It's important to keep your wits about you and keep safety in mind, even when you're feeling hyped.