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Discussion Starter #1
I'm tired of hearing commercial guys tout safety records over private boaters. It is true commercially guided trips are statistically safer. It is important to understand why, and the reasons may surprise. Foremost, the majority of commercial runs are repetitive whitewater day trips with a boat ramp at each end. You can't really compare that with private boaters who specialize in non-repetitive multi day trips. Consider the following:

Death and injury statistics for non-motorized river boaters

  • Most injuries involve feet and ankles, happen on shore, within a few feet of the waterline, while stepping to/from a boat loading/unloading gear, and during launch/landing along rocky shorelines.

  • Most non-waterline camp injuries happen in the kitchen (cuts and burns).

  • By a wide margin, the safest portion of a river trip is the whitewater. (I suspect this is because people are seated, focused and wearing PFDs)

  • Most injuries on river happen on flat water, usually the result of horseplay, water fights, leaping and falling onto frames. Famous last words "HEY THROW ME A BEER!"

  • Most drownings happen in flat water. (I can't remember but it is something like 70%)

  • Most Injuries involve alcohol.

  • Most deaths in the river corridor do not involve water. (stuff like anaphylaxis, heart attack, falling off cliffs and believe it or not, trees falling into boats, which one year accounted for 2 of 13 accidental rafting deaths nationwide. Or was it 2 of 17 in 2013? Regardless, TREES!)

  • Drownings on river result from not wearing a PFD, or three of the following: intoxication, solo boating, cold water, diving into shallow water, compromised state of health, over age 70, continuous swift current and falling in while peeing at night. Exceptions are rare. (there has actually been some study into why backcountry deaths typically involve three compromises, and knowing this is a powerful indicator of when to be on guard)

  • On many rivers, the greatest threat to health is environmental exposure: heat injury, dehydration, hypothermia, envenomation and intestinal illness (ingesting untreated water and poor hygiene in the kitchen).

As you can see, the majority of risk doesn't apply to day trips, and of the risk that does, the majority doesn't apply to paddle rafts or whitewater. It also explains why commercial overnight trips are statistically safer than private overnight trips... because they don't let clients on the boats or in the kitchen! I rag on commercial guides but truth is, they are good at what they do. Sheepherders.

Next time you hear somebody pontificating about helmets and whitewater rules, or how private boaters are unsafe, you can be sure they don't know much about river safety. Helmets are great and I encourage their use but it's down my list of concerns. Proper footwear is much more likely to prevent injury. Where you park your boat is more important than what line you take. Swimming whitewater is scary but it's rocks on the shoreline that will buy you a medivac. That is where you're going to slip and smack your head. Capsizing is scary but a raft at camp is more likely to injure you.

When you are on the water, wear your PFD. Statistically speaking, all else is moot. Ignore the egos and enjoy the river because fact is, the drive to and from is the most dangerous part. Float on!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It's easy just to tune them out. Preaching about wearing a helmet while rafting class 3.
We had a party member cancel last minute and was somehow replaced by a commercial paddle guide. Obviously I wasn't TL but whatever, we needed an oarsman.

So this dude shows up with a perception that private boaters are a soup sandwich destined to come out the other end wrapped in Tear Aid and gauze cloth.

Picture the scene: a guy who has run some overnighters on a little river in CA steps in with highly experienced experienced boatmen, and straight away tries to take lead... on a river he has never seen before... in a boat he has never run before... in water that is way bigger than anything he has seen (this was a GC trip).

Of course we all ignore him, which he takes as sign of weakness and opportunity to appoint himself the health and safety officer to which he demands strict obedience all the while complaining that we should be paying him for his service. It wasn't funny at the time. It was a nightmare.

His daily lectures evolved into heated verbal assaults. He was making people cry. Others were afraid to leave boats at camp. He became so determined to prove private boaters are inferior that he began sabotaging gear and procedure. We cast him off to finish the canyon alone... which I guess pissed him off because he drove back to Flagstaff and sabotaged member cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
A lot of assumptions here. Pretty easy to say until you have an accident.
It's actually list of stats from relevant data I compiled a few years back from an amature study of risk assessment pertaining to accidents I've been involved with on river. But hey, least you get to savor the irony.

Now, if you're saying I assume to know what happens on commercial trips then yes, I have never been party to a commercial trip. But I do camp next to commercial groups, and I do have eyes. And did you really make a new account just to say that? Welcome to the Buzz, I guess.
 

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Of course we all ignore him, which he takes as sign of weakness and opportunity to appoint himself the health and safety officer to which he demands strict obedience all the while complaining that we should be paying him for...
I’ve had a group member like that. The funny thing about our “pro” was that he didn’t know there were two other former guides on the trip who’s couldn’t stand his bs either. Kind of like some of the threads around here where someone prefaces their inanity with “as a guide...”
 

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I have boated a fair amount with both former guides and with folks who have always and only been private boaters. I would say that a lot of the best read-and-run boaters were the private folks. They never had the luxury of running something over and over to the point that they never had to really think about reading water. Not shitting on guides at all...there are some phenomenal boat handlers out there that came up from guiding, but a little bit of humility regarding your experience goes a long way.
 

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Life is a bell curve. There are people who love to hear themselves talk in all walks of life. There are also some very cool folks that just like to have a good time. Boat alone and you will not have to hear any noise. But then again there are safety issues I guess. Just a thought
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I would say that a lot of the best read-and-run boaters were the private folks. They never had the luxury of running something over and over to the point that they never had to really think about reading water.
That is very insightful and honestly, makes me feel sorry for commercial guys. They don't get to experience the magic of intimacy that comes from, not knowing a river, but understanding water. I mean, a lot of guys learn how to read water but they don't cross the threshold into understanding why it does what it does, of being able to visualize the 3-dimensional fluid dynamics and how it exerts force on oars and boats. It's quite similar to aviation.

It's one of things I love about running river. Nobody truly understands, there is always room to grow. I remember when I learned that boats always capsize upstream. Most are not aware of that basic fact. I've even had some argue saying they see boats flip downstream all the time. Nope, never. Perceptions are funny things.
 

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That is very insightful and honestly, makes me feel sorry for commercial guys. They don't get to experience the magic of intimacy that comes from, not knowing a river, but understanding water. I mean, a lot of guys learn how to read water but they don't cross the threshold into understanding why it does what it does, of being able to visualize the 3-dimensional fluid dynamics and how it exerts force on oars and boats. It's quite similar to aviation.

It's one of things I love about running river. Nobody truly understands, there is always room to grow. I remember when I learned that boats always capsize upstream. Most are not aware of that basic fact. I've even had some argue saying they see boats flip downstream all the time. Nope, never. Perceptions are funny things.
A simple Google search will show you that while rare, rafts do indeed flip downsteam.
 

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I’ve noticed that river guides and people that do cross fit are very similar. Both of those groups will tell you within 10 minutes that they’re a guide or what cross fit gym they belong to.
From an old post on MB -

How do you know when a raft guide walks into a bar?

Don't worry, he will let you know he is a raft guide.
 

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I did private boating for five years before I started commercial guiding. When I was a private boater, I thought commercial companies sucked. They thought they were better than everyone else. After having done commercial work, I see a different side. There's good and bad boaters everywhere. I know a lot of cool commercial guides, and some w/terrible egos. Same is true for the private boating community.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
A simple Google search will show you that while rare, rafts do indeed flip downsteam.
I was unable to find such an example using Google. From reading I suppose it is possible for a paddle rafts to experience dramatic weight shift in a rapid, but that's an example of people pulling a boat over, not a wave.

If you found a video, I'd love to see it. I don't think it's possible. Energy discharge in a breaking wave is always in the direction of travel, which in the case of moving water, is upstream.

It's easy to visualize if you think of shore break on the ocean. Ocean waves and river waves are similar. They both move through water. In the ocean, the water is still and the waves move. In a river, the wave is still and the water moves. Seeing a raft flip downstream would be like seeing that same raft in shorebreak flip towards the ocean. Never happen.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I did private boating for five years before I started commercial guiding. When I was a private boater, I thought commercial companies sucked. They thought they were better than everyone else. After having done commercial work, I see a different side. There's good and bad boaters everywhere. I know a lot of cool commercial guides, and some w/terrible egos. Same is true for the private boating community.
Some of the coolest cats I've met were commercial guides. In particular I'm thinking of the boys with Northwest Rafting Co and Grand Canyon Dories, which is run by Oars unfortunately. Of course if I worked with GC Dories, I'd be cool too!

And the slickest, sickest move I ever saw on river was some guide running a funky raft up onto the deck of a trailer backed into the current. This was on the Snake in Tetons NP. I've never felt so inadequate in my life. Of course the dude has been making that same move for 20 years but it was amazingly fluid and perfect. You would've had to seen it. I was in awe.
 

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....or like having a certified NOLS dude (or gal) on a trip. To offer unsolicited leadership hahahaha. But in all seriousness, going on private floats with groups of guides that were not on duty jumped my learning curve ahead quicker. 90% of my boating has been private, 10% sheep wranglin’ hahaha. Those guides who try to manage or 1 up on a private trip are most likely a pain in the a#% to work with for fellow guides. Probably not cool to change a flat tire with for that matter either. Usually the older crusty guys don’t get into other’s business too much unless to mitigate an obvious hazard. But, to dignify the thread....it does CERTAINLY happen. And it really sucks to have to remind someone that they are way out of order when trying to have fun.
 

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Indeed I have been paddle crew in a raft that flipped downstream. Guide trip on Gore Creek. We broached and all high sided too hard and flipped right over the top of the rock. No shit.
Also Of Course commercial trips are safer. We participate in all those lunch beach safety meetings for just that reason.
 
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