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White Water Rafting, Will I Die?

LardalishLardalish Registered User regular
edited September 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
Ok, so I've been invited to go white water rafting with some friends, apparently they make this trip every year and now Ive been invited. We're going to the Upper Gauley river in West Virginia. Sounds like fun, however, I have never been rafting, white water or other. I am not in the greatest physical condition (6ft or so and 250lbs) and basically Im wondering if I should even go. I tried to look up some stuff about this trip and they use alot of what Im hoping are rafting terms, talking about classes and such. Does anyone have any information that maybe can be transcribed into layman's terms for me? How hard will this be for someone who has barely done anything other than some canoing?

This is the info on the river that was sent to me in an email.
"It's the classic, timeless whitewater gem: The one day Gauley Trip. Whether you're a veteran rafter or brand new to whitewater, as long as you're ready for a serious adventure, this is the trip for your group. It's a steady stream of rapids right out of the gate, with five class V monsters and tons of non-stop class III and IV thrown in between. On this trip you'll raft world famous rapids and drops like the big five: "Insignificant", "Pillow Rock", "Lost Paddle", "Iron Ring", and "Sweet's Falls". You don't need to be an expert to run the Upper Gauley (our guides take care of that), but you do need to be active and have an adventurous spirit. This ain't yo mama's rafting trip!

Upper Gauley

The Upper Gauley River is not for wimps! You'll be challenged by the ultimate in white water ~ including five consecutive MONSTER rapids: Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and Sweet's Falls. Negotiating the Upper Gauley demands quick response to your Class VI professional guide's commands, hard paddling, and a great deal of physical tenacity. Is it worth it? YOU BET! If you're able and willing to do your part, you're in for maximum exhilaration. We'd love to describe the sensation; you've got to feel it to understand it. When there's time to take a look around you, the Gauley River is situated in a beautiful canyon - lots of rocks, rock walls, cliffs and waterfalls. Don't forget to look back upstream to see just how far you dropped! An Adventure Seekers First Choice! One of the world's most popular white water rafting attractions is West Virginia's Gauley River, offering more than 100 major rapids and a 650' vertical drop during its 28-mile course. During the fall 'draw down' (when water is released through the Summersville Dam to bring the man-made Summersville Lake to winter levels) white water enthusiasts come from all corners of the earth to experience the guaranteed world-class white water rafting. This highly anticipated fall attraction is consistently one of the best-attended events in adventure sports."

So, will I die?

Lardalish on

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    EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Can you swim? That's the big one. If you're at least OK at swimming, you should be fine. If you're uncomfortable with swimming, or with the idea in general, you may want to sit out. It can be fun, but the stuff I've done is mild and I felt that it was exciting, but I wouldn't want to do anything more challenging without a guide and some training.

    However, no you very likely will not die. You will get suited up with a jacket and since you're a newbie will likely get paired up well, and put on a good raft. If you're truly scared of the idea, sit it out, as you will probably not have fun being terrified and unsure of what will happen.

    If you're simply wondering if you'll be OK simply because you're a bit big and not in great shape, then go ahead and go. My parents do all sorts of crazy things and are not in any sort of real shape at all.

    EggyToast on
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    SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Class 3 and Class 4 rapids are pretty hardcore for a newb... but I very much doubt you'll die. Just pay attention, be safe, and have fun. Rafting is awesome.

    Sentry on
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    mastmanmastman Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Stay in the boat IMO.

    and if you fail at that, do not ever put your feet down and try to stand. Reason being, that water > you, and if you put your feet down and they get caught in rocks, you will be pushed underwater. Simply float on your back and you will be recovered.


    But seriously, have fun and listen to the dude's instructions.

    mastman on
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    claxtonclaxton ClubPA regular
    edited August 2007
    you'll be fine as long as they're competant. Just don't be the one steering and use commonsense aka don't try and surf. Simply rowing and obeying instructions isn't that hard.

    claxton on
    Its not enough to win. You want nothing left of your enemy but a skull nailed to a fence post so everybody understands the cost of crossing you. -Durga
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Prepare for the upperbody workout of a lifetime. I went to some class II/III rapids in Penn. and had the time of my life. Afterwards, I had the plesant nights sleep of my life.

    you won't die as there (should) be guides in kayaks hovering nearby at all times. Just make sure and pay attention to the instructions in the beginning and to the other people in your raft and you'll be fine.

    Xaquin on
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    ddahcmaiddahcmai Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I just went whitewater rafting for the first time this summer on the Penobscot river in Maine. It is the third most technical river in the US and has the largest rapids in the eastern half of the US. I had an absolute blast; my raft worked well enough together that we didn't flip once (it helped that we were all friends,) and by listening to our guide we were able to do some things that most people never even get to try, like dropping sideways into holes at the bottoms of waterfalls, or paddling up into rapids to "surf" them.
    Honestly, you'll be perfectly fine. You don't have to worry about learning anything specific, your guide will teach you everything before you go and they'll probably even let you practice a bit in relatively still water before taking you down any rapids. Even being able to swim isn't a huge issue, you'll have a life preserver on. Just do what your guide says, let go of your fears, and give in to the rush. It's definitely worth it.

    ddahcmai on
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    PirateJonPirateJon Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Lardalish wrote: »
    So, will I die?

    Only the lucky ones die.

    PirateJon on
    all perfectionists are mediocre in their own eyes
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    NisslNissl Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    From what I remember, III is a bumpy ride with a little maneuvering required, IV requires some of the people in your raft to be pretty skilled, and V rapids should be scouted before they're run as an accident can be dangerous. But I might have lowered the classes a notch (i.e. my description actually fits class VI.) Anyway, as long as you have good guides and are a good swimmer you should be fine.

    Nissl on
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    LardalishLardalish Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Ok, so it sounds like if I can swim and follow orders I should be fine? Whew, I feel a lot better already, cause I can do those!

    Lardalish on
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    GorkGork Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I went for my first trip last year on the Upper Gauley through the exact same course.

    Will you die?

    Probably not.

    Will you go in the river and have some scary moments?

    Probably.

    I myself was out of the boat twice. Once, I came up underneath the boat and had to swim my way out (fun fun). The other time, we weren't paddling hard enough (some people think it's a pleasure cruise) and we got creamed on Postage Due. The entire boat flipped and we lost all our paddles.

    All in all, a lot of fun, just be prepared for the fact that you may end up a little oxygen short at times.

    Gork on
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    WuckFarcraftWuckFarcraft Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Your going to have a blast! I have done it once, and I would recommend it.

    WuckFarcraft on
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    GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    mastman wrote: »
    But seriously, have fun and listen to the dude's instructions.

    This is critical, pay very close attention.

    Gafoto on
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    Nova_CNova_C I have the need The need for speedRegistered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I used to go white water rafting as a teenager every year. There was a class V rapid in the course - one year because of massive flooding the rapid was even more extreme. The raft flipped and it was probably the closest I've ever come to drowning.

    I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. If you can swim and aren't phobic about water, don't miss out. White water rafting is some of the best memories I've got.

    Nova_C on
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    dlinfinitidlinfiniti Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    in my experience, flipping a raft is nearly impossible, but yeah, you should be safe as long as you listen to and trust your guide (ie don't try to steer the thing yourself) and keep your foot in the little flap at all times. Also, don't be one of those macho dudes that thinks wearing a helmet is uncool and stuff

    dlinfiniti on
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    SithDrummerSithDrummer Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    mastman wrote: »
    Stay in the boat IMO.

    and if you fail at that, do not ever put your feet down and try to stand. Reason being, that water > you, and if you put your feet down and they get caught in rocks, you will be pushed underwater. Simply float on your back and you will be recovered.


    But seriously, have fun and listen to the dude's instructions.
    Agree with all of this. Also, I recall being told to float feet-first downriver, so you can see "strainers" (beaver dams and collections of branches across/in the water that will pin you in place and/or pull you under them) ahead of time and avoid them. Also, your legs can absorb the shock of slamming into a rock in the river better than your head and neck can.

    SithDrummer on
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    GorkGork Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Floating down feet first in this particular river is generally a last resort.

    The guide will inform the entire boat of which way to swim in case they fall out of the boat because there are some trouble spots in each of the rapids.

    Gork on
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    CimmeriiCimmerii SpaceOperaGhost Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Class 5?

    I would suggest wearing a helmet. Not just because of the rapids, there are also people with oars.

    Cimmerii on
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    Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I've been twice. Once in middle school, which was fine, but another time in '03, and I will never do it again. We all fell out, everyone, and I was the second to last to make it to the raft. It was frightening. Part of the problem was, we had two in the raft that didn't care to follow directions, and me: who has slight hearing loss.
    I don't think I was ever in fatal danger, but I wasn't far from it.
    I don't say this to discourage you, because facing and pushing through something like that is an incredible feeling. But, don't make the decision lightly! Like everyone else said, LISTEN and FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Since you're going with people who've been before, you're probably as safe as you could ask for. :^:

    Sharp10r on
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    HalberdBlueHalberdBlue Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    The most dangerous thing in white water rafting are other people's paddle handles. I've gone a dozen times and never seen anyone injured from falling out or whatever and have never been injured myself (and I like to fall out, so I don't really avoid it), but I have seen a couple teeth knocked out before because of someone flailing their paddle wildly.

    Be careful with your paddle!

    HalberdBlue on
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    SithDrummerSithDrummer Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Gork wrote: »
    Floating down feet first in this particular river is generally a last resort.

    The guide will inform the entire boat of which way to swim in case they fall out of the boat because there are some trouble spots in each of the rapids.
    Indeed. There were a lot of gaps between each set of rapids on our trip, however, so the guide was saying if you fall out and the current is weak, actively swim back to the boat, but if the current is still pretty strong, he'd toss you a line and you'd pull yourself/be pulled back.

    SithDrummer on
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    Ninja BotNinja Bot Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I went on a trip down New River in WV a few weeks ago and overall it was pretty fun. Just remember to paddle hard and listen to what the guide says. Also if you do fall in just keep your wits about you and swim away from anything the guide mentioned could kill you. Swimming a class 4 rapid is defenitly an exciting experience, but not one I really want to relive. Also I learned to make sure your PFD is really tight otherwise you might have problems with not drowning.

    Also have lots of fun because the Upper Gully is supposed to be even better than New River from what I'm told.

    Ninja Bot on
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    LardalishLardalish Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Ninja Bot wrote: »
    I went on a trip down New River in WV a few weeks ago and overall it was pretty fun. Just remember to paddle hard and listen to what the guide says. Also if you do fall in just keep your wits about you and swim away from anything the guide mentioned could kill you. Swimming a class 4 rapid is defenitly an exciting experience, but not one I really want to relive. Also I learned to make sure your PFD is really tight otherwise you might have problems with not drowning.

    Also have lots of fun because the Upper Gully is supposed to be even better than New River from what I'm told.

    What determines "better"?

    Lardalish on
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    senor_xsenor_x Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I went on the Lower New River trip a few years ago. I went with 3 college friends of mine (all chicks) under the impression that at least one of their boyfriends was also coming. He did not. After a brief tutorial covering techniques and commands, we started to split up to our rafts. We started following little kids and old ladies into a 12-person raft, upon which we were told that we actually were signed up for the Super Xtreme Adventure package, and it would just be us 4 and the guide. D:

    For some reason our raft was designated the lead raft, which was fine until we hit our first class 3.
    This: http://picasaweb.google.com/greg.lacava/Ace/photo#5103586925714525650
    Soon turned into this: http://picasaweb.google.com/greg.lacava/Ace/photo#5103586951484329442
    The rapid is called Surprise - as in "Surprise - you're underwater now".

    We also hit the rocks and spilled out at the class 5 rapids Double Z - which was extra D:. Especially since big rock we hit was identified as an undercut rock which equals death if you get sucked under it.

    Helmets will be required for anything Class 3+. Do you have any idea what size raft you're going in? The larger ones will be more stable and filled with weaklings. Smaller ones are still survivable - as evidenced by my puny self and companions. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the day - which is where most of the tougher parts are.

    senor_x on
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    locomotivemanlocomotiveman Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Who took the photos for you Senor X do they just have someone set up at that point whenever someones coming along like at Six Flags or something??

    locomotiveman on
    aquabat wrote:
    I actually worked at work on Saturday. Also I went out on a date with a real life girl.


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    senor_xsenor_x Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    They had the pictures set up to capture you entering the first set of real rapids and the aftermath. I think there are packages where they take photos or video of the whole trip.

    senor_x on
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    locomotivemanlocomotiveman Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Great idea I hope whoever thought of it is making a bundle (I'm studying Recreation Mgt).

    locomotiveman on
    aquabat wrote:
    I actually worked at work on Saturday. Also I went out on a date with a real life girl.


    Can you like, permanently break the forums?
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    LardalishLardalish Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Well, its three 6 man rafts.

    I know there will be a video camera somewhere cause there will be a DVD, though it might just be a slideshow of pictures.

    Lardalish on
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    GorkGork Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    The river comapny I went with has someone in a kayak who gets ahead of the groups and video tapes the boats going through the rapids.

    Generally, this man will be the most insane person you will meet on the river.

    Gork on
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    TrowizillaTrowizilla Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I loved rafting when I went. My advice: wear sturdy shoes, water shoes with thick soles at the very least. I fell out at the beginning of a set of class IV rapids and got fished out on the other end; my back and rear had huge bruises from going over the rocks, but it would've been much worse if I hadn't hit things feet-first with boots on.

    It's a great rush, though. Good luck!

    Trowizilla on
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    drhazarddrhazard Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Like others have said, if you can swim and follow instructions, then you're golden.

    I've only been rafting once, but I spent most of middle and high school canoeing or kayaking at least once a month. When we went rafting, they told us to elect a captain--and the girl who had the idea to go rafting thought that, well, it was her idea, she should be captain! And then the guide said let the person with the most experience in the water be captain. That would have been me, but I thought we'd be fine if she just paid attention.

    One Class III rapid, a sprained ankle for our 'captain', bumps and bruises for two others, and one split lip for me later, I got 'elected' captain. :P From there on out, the only person who fell out of the raft was me, and that was to get unstuck off a rock.

    So, seriously, follow orders from the one with the most experience, even if your pride tells you otherwise.

    drhazard on
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    LardalishLardalish Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Ok, so I drive up to WV tomorrow but I have just realized I will need somesort of strap for my glasses so I will be able to have em on the raft. I dont want to loose em, but I do want to see whats going on. Also somethin to keep the fog outta my glasses would be nice.

    So what should I look for? Is there maybe a specific kinda strap I should get or somethin? What about the spray? I know I used somethin when I went snorkeling.

    Lardalish on
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    TrowizillaTrowizilla Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Just a plain old glasses strap will work well if you fasten it tight behind your head. You ought to be wearing a helmet on top, anyway. I did a system of glasses-strap under tight bandana under helmet, and I'm wearing the glasses I went down the rapids with.

    They're going to be wet; don't worry, you'll be able to see okay. Everyone else will have water in their eyes, too.

    Trowizilla on
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    FallingmanFallingman Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    You'll love it.
    My first time I went down the Kaituna in Rotorua, NZ - at the time it had the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world (might still be...?).

    The point is that the operators will never allow you to do anything life threatening - they'd be sued faster than you can say "criminal negligence". You'll have a helmet and a life jacket.


    In the immortal words of the guy that took me over the 7 meter fall "if you fall out, roll into a ball, and think like a cork!"

    Fallingman on
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