10 Tips For First Time White Water Rafters

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10 Tips For First Time White Water Rafters

Everything The First Time Whitewater Rafter needs To Know!

1. Pick The Best River For You

All rivers are different and can accommodate different skill and experience levels. There are lots rivers that are good for beginners and for seasoned paddlers alike. Always research the difficulty of a river before you go so you can pick the best adventure for you and your group. We use the International Scale of River Difficulty which uses a Class I -VI system.

Sunny Day On The Ocoee River

2. Unplug

In today’s world we are accustomed to taking our devices everywhere and posting our adventures in real time but, consider turning off your devices. Leave your cell phone in the car. JUST UNPLUG! Most cell phones don’t get good reception on the river anyway. Live in the moment, open your mind to the splash of water, the flow of the river and the chatter of your friends and family. Just be present.

3. Lather Up

Always wear sunblock! Even it it’s a cloudy day. The suns rays bounce off the waters shiny surface and make it easy to get sunburned. If your on a full day trip a second coat of sunblock at lunch is a good idea.


Paddling can be hard work so it’s always a good idea to be properly hydrated before your trip. Taking a extra bottle of water along is handy for hot sunny days. P.S. A hardy breakfast goes a long way to!

Double Trouble Rapid Ocoee River

5. Don’t Bring Anything You Wouldn’t Want To Lose

If you want to keep it, don’t bring it. Each season someone’s expensive camera or cell phone either gets wet in its waterproof case or is lost to the whitewater. Heirloom rings and necklaces are not replaceable so it’s best to leave them at home.

6. What to Wear Whitewater Rafting

Quick dry or athletic clothing is a great option because its light weight, drys quickly and often times has UV protection built in. During early or late season trips wool and fleece are good. If it’s cold, a dry top or wet-suit can make all the difference. If you like to wear sunglasses they definitely help on a sunny day but, remember you could lose them so bring a cheap pair. Water shoes are made for the water so they are more comfortable wet and help protect your feet with the added bonus of drying quickly. Don’t forget to bring a change of dry clothes and a towel for after your rafting trip.

Ocoee Lake and Middle Ocoee Put-In

7. Equipment

Before you set out on the river you will need your equipment (Helmet, Paddle, Personal Flotation Device or PFD, Etc).Your Guide and other staff will be on hand to help you make sure your gear fits properly.  Once you get on the river make sure to always keep your gear on and snugly fastened. That way if you go for a swim your PFD can do its job.

8. Listen To Your Guide

Part of every great rafting trip is being well informed and knowing what to expect. Your guide will go over lots of useful river knowledge like:

  • Safety Tips
  • What to do if you fall out.
  • Paddle Commands
  • River History
  • Points of Interest

The guide will also know whats ahead and where to paddle hard and where to relax. If you have questions at any time just ask, guides are always happy to help.

Team Work Makes The Dream Work On The River

9. Team Work Makes the Dream Work

Rafting is a team sport and never is it more evident then when you paddle. Paddling together as a team makes all the difference when navigating through tough rapids. It provides power and maneuverability for your guide to put the raft where it needs to be. Your guide will go over paddle commands so when you hear them you will know how to stay in sync with your team.

10. Enjoy

Now that you know the basic format of a whitewater rafting trip, you can quit stressing about every little detail and focus on what matters. Your first whitewater rafting trip is always a amazing experience. Enjoy it!

Ocoee River High Five

Jennifer and Grant Outlaw are co-owners of Carolina Outfitters and Carolina Ocoee.  They’ve been paddling whitewater in the Ducktown, TN and Bryson City, NC rivers for years and know how to help you have a great experience.


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