Rafting Safety/Rowing Courses - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-26-2007   #1
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Rafting Safety/Rowing Courses

Hi all, I'm sure this has been rehashed by you guys a thousand times so I apologize....(when you put in "safety course" into the search about a thousand hits come up )

A rafting pal and myself are looking to do a whitewater safety and/or rowing class this spring and I was hoping to get some recommendations from the experts. We don't kayak at all, just oar rigs on 14' rafts. We've done a lot of one-man cats and have been rafting about a year but want to improve our skills and make sure we are prepared just in case.

I appreciate your help! Cory

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Old 01-26-2007   #2
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Golden, Colorado
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if you want to step up your rowing skills i'd reccomend taking a raft guide training course from a commercial outfitter. there's usually a pretty decent focus on safety & rescue, depending on the company. in my opinion, a lot of private rafters who have never worked as a commercial guide or gone through a formal training process have pretty weak skills.

also, you should take a swiftwater rescue course.
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Old 01-26-2007   #3
Join Date: Dec 2006
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River guide school in Chile

I believe there is a River Guide School Course coming up in Chile on the Rio Futaleufu:


From what I hear it is intense and on the expensive side.
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Old 01-26-2007   #4
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Raft guide school is a great way to go. I would add, however, that many outfitters focus primarility on guiding paddle boats. The outfitter I work for, and the area we are in, 90% of trips are paddle boats, so we spend 90% of our time on that. I would suggest trying to find an outfitter the relies heavily on oar boat trips to do your training with, if that is what you are most interested in.

FYI- I don't know firsthand what kind of whitewater skills they have, but I do know that fishing guide outfitters do zero paddle boats, but they still have to cover all of the state training requirements that whitewater guides have to take. You may be stuck learning about fishing holes, but at least up here in the central mountains, you would get fully oar-centric practice and training.

Check out these guys: http://www.flyfishingoutfitters.net/raftschool.htm

Maybe your best bet would be to look for a whitewater company that also does flyfishing. They may have a more whitewater oriented oar training class. Most fishing guides try to avoid all the good stuff!
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Old 01-26-2007   #5
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Eagle County, Colorado
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Oh yes, and take Mike Mather's SWR class.
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Old 01-26-2007   #6
Grangeville, Idaho
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The National Outdoor Leadership School has some classes


So does Outdoor Adventure River Specialists

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Old 01-26-2007   #7
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Oar Guiding

Echo Canyon in Canon City does about half paddles and half oars in their training program circa 2000. I think some of the outfitters on Shoshone do a fair bit of oars as well.

Ditto the advice to take a Swift Water Rescue class.

If you don't do guide training you could always buy a guiding book and then devise river exercises to practice. Stuff like upstream and down stream ferries, punch-in and pull-in eddie catches, and every other skill you can come up with. Part of getting to be a better boater is looking for a really hard line in an easy rapid and trying to make it instead of taking the easy way every time. Try to get really close to a big rock but don't touch it, make cross river ferries using eddies behind rocks or behind hydraulics, take one of your main oars and rig it as a second spare and practice getting it out and in place in the shortest time possible. Flip you boat over and practice getting it flipped back over quickly and safely (flying oars are scary).
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Old 01-26-2007   #8
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thanks for all the great responses so far and keep'em coming! I really appreciate it.

Sounds like maybe a guide course (like the one WL linked to) plus a swiftwater rescue course might be the way to go. I emailed Mathers for details on his trips. Those NOLS and OARS classes look cool but man the cost and time would be prohibitive.

As you can probably tell from my name fishing is actually most of what we partake in as well as family whitewater trips. I've done almost all of the Ark, Fork, and CO as far as whitewater goes as well as more flat fishing sections of various other rivers. I feel pretty solid in my rowing skills but know I could learn more and definitely need more hands on rescue skills. I've been through all the river rescue, guiding and technical whitewater books I can find but that can only get one so far.

What we are really looking to do is to be ready to step up to some of the big stuff and long, multiday trips.

thanks again, great info
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Old 01-26-2007   #9
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I put my son through the Buffalo Joe's guide training school..........We both thought thought he got quality training from them. River Runners has some quality training guides also.
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Old 01-27-2007   #10
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It's great that you're looking to improve your skills but I would frankly warn you against going the guide school route. It sounds as if you already have some basic skills and probably aren't interested in enduring the hardships of raft guide training. As an alternative I would recommend joining a local paddle or rafting group. You could also hire an experienced guide to train you during the slow spring months. This state is chock full of guides with 10+ years experience and most are starving to death during the spring. Either of these approaches offer the benefit of allowing you to learn on your own gear , at your own pace, and on the rivers/sections that best match your specific interests.

Best of luck!

PS - I know a few capable guides who might be willing to do that sort of work and you are welcome to drop me a line if you're interested.
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