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Old 01-08-2015   #11
Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1966
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 427
FWIW, my first raft was 10.5 feet long -- was VERY easy to manage while I was deciding (on day trips on easy water) if rafting was for me. (It was pretty easy to sell after a season or two -- I'd still have it but $ and space are issues.)

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Old 01-08-2015   #12
East MT, WestMT, Both sides of the Yellowstone
Paddling Since: 09
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,112
Much agreed with the small boat. WTF was I thinking selling my spider? But really good advice around here for sure, nice folks too minus a few we wont mention. Small boats are light and nimble and easy to re flip.

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Old 01-08-2015   #13
crested butte, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 29
I think that everyone is making good points from different points of view. They are all right. Its just the order of operations that we need to figure out.

I think that a lot of it has to do with what you are looking for?

If you want to progress and be running Class IV/V within a couple of years find a really great guide school

If your young and want to hang with a bunch of 20-somethings and have access to the amazing world that is commercial whitewater guiding...... go to guide school

If you are looking to be a private boater then just make sure you fall in with the right crowd and learn good habits.

Another thing about going to a guide school and being a weekend warrior is that your company will/should give you access to boats, you spend the season with lots of mentoring and the next summer you usr your pro-deal and get yourself a boat!

If you play your cards right that first season of guiding can pay off guide school and pay for your boat.

just don't go the teach-your-self/ease into method.. no need to reinvent the wheel!
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Old 01-08-2015   #14
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Gypsum, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 458
Take a swiftwater rescue course! Best bang for the buck. This course will make you an asset to everyone you boat with and having the respect of the people you meet on the river will get you invited on their trips.
Why does Pluto walk on all fours, drink from a dog bowl, and get treated like...a dog, while Goofy drives a car, wears clothing, and speaks in English?
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Old 01-08-2015   #15
crested butte, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 29
Taking a swr/wrt course is a great idea. Especially if you don't plan on doing a guide school. Most guide schools will be a mini swift water course and a lot of that info is best learned after you have a bit of experience /context
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Old 01-08-2015   #16
south lake tahoe, California
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 95
Get a raft, call me and we'll float the Truckee, East of Reno. Super mellow, plenty of time to get a feel for what you're doing and we can catch trout

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Old 01-08-2015   #17
OTR, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 224
I would buy a boat, and take it out on easy runs in my ability level year one, and then take the course year two. I enjoy the adventure of independence and knowing how to stay in my limits most of all, and also appreciate some good solid instruction second. If you take this approach be sure to take it slow and find some good literature on river safety. Or feel free to drop me a line or post a thread with questions.

If you feel more comfortable with a structured approach then start with guide school. There are definitely many benefits to this as well as outlined in many previous posts.

Just think about how you have approached your other interests and outdoor pursuits and go from there. And be safe!
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Old 01-08-2015   #18
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
I got lucky, my dad took me growing up and his group became mine. The last 10 years most of them have stopped or moved away, so I got involved in a club to meet new people. I've been using it as a dating service, and to further my abilities. When I mean dating service, I mean I invite other boaters in the club and they go with me. Some of them I have boated with once, and I can't remember their names. Some of them are my buddies now, and they are going to be lasting relationships. I don't have to like everyone in the club. Our club has 2 very important, heavily discounted safety courses every year. A swift water rescue course, and a wilderness first aid course. These are great ways to learn, and meet people within our club. I'm with a lot of these guys on boats, start small. I raft because I have a wife and kids I take a lot, but I started in an inflatable kayak when I was a teen. An inflatable kayak doesn't require much commitment or gear to get down the river. No spray skirt, no roll, no oars, frame, etc. You can a get good IK for what a shitty raft costs. You will also learn more about rivers in an IK. Good luck!
Wishing I was on the river instead of surfing the web...
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Old 01-08-2015   #19
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ebbing, flowing..., CO, NM
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 239
Take a guide school.
Like some folks have said, not only does it start you off on the right foot with learning some basic skills (& it's super fun!) But it really does put you in touch with the boating community and can also get you in touch with a pro deal for next season! (Seriously, best of All world here.) And yeah, you can spend all season on the water in company boats, learning lots, having a blast & putting yourself in a better position to buy the boat you want. Just sayin'... Totally agree with the 12' recommendations too btw, it's a good sized boat. Welcome to the addiction!
Journeys of a River Mamma Blog "Ever onward, ever forward, ever down the River!"- Ed Abbey
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Old 01-09-2015   #20
over the horizon
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Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 267
Originally Posted by johnovice View Post
I'll tell you what I did; it may or may not work for you.
I bought a small raft that I could push up onto the roof of my car (with a simple frame and oars).An
old-timer rafting guy I know suggested I put it on a lake and get a feel for how to move it around -- especially how to row in a straight line. I did not take his advice (which is not to say it might not be good advice).
I put the raft on a tame section of the river that I had canoed and kayaked before (so I knew the river section). Right or wrong, I went w/o other boats (but this was not especially remote). I should mention that my wife was with me.
After I did that a couple of times and felt ready for it, I took it on a section that required a bit more maneuvering and was a little bit remote (still no whitewater). I took it very gradually, but had my own boat and a whole lot of fun for a season or two.
So this strategy works if there are river sections in your neighborhood that you could be comfortable/safe on.
I should add that later I took the NWRC class III school on the Rogue; a week later I ran a borrowed 16' bucket boat for 7 days on the Green River (Desolation/Gray Canyons).
I guess I'm pointing out that you don't have to start with guide school or even hooking up with other rafters if you have some easy river sections that would also be gratifying for the time being. (I'm fortunate that the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park is both accessible and gratifying.) I wanted to have my own boat and be able to use at will -- LOVED it.
Just my 2 cents.

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