ABCs of Rafting

A - Ammo Cans: To most rafters, ammo cans are practically their own form of currency. Whether it’s your captains box, or your crap-tain’s box, your rig isn’t complete without several of these.

Poo with a view. Picture courtesy of Jack Brown.

B - Bowline: The essential marine boating knot that few river folk actually know how to tie. It’s really useful, if you can remember which way the rabbit runs around the tree... Here's a link to video about how to tie one from

C - Chicken Line: Made from 5/8” braided polypropylene rope
or 1” Tubular Webbing, this is what swimmers grab on to when they are unexpectedly ejected from the boat. Also known as a “perimeter line” for those who respect its function.

Chicken Line

D - Dump Truck: “I fought the wave, and the wave won”. Just like the bed of a dump truck, your boat stands straight up and relocates the entire crew to either your lap or off the back of the boat.

See ya.

E - Electric Inflator Pump: Make life easier. You shouldn’t waste all your paddling energy blowing up your boat by hand, especially if that hand could have a beer in it instead.

F - Foot Cup: Or “ankle-breakers” as the old crusty guides say… It’s a love it or hate it kind of thing, but they’ve proven to retain your front paddlers in most situations...

G - Guide Stick: A raft’s rudder - Most guides agree that longer is better...

We promise there's a guide stick in this photo.

H - High Side: Clambering across a wet raft to the side that is out of the water amidst the chaos of getting surfed in a hole in hopes that your puny 160 pounds of body weight is going to tip the scales and prevent flipping. As Brian Fantana would say “60% of the time, it works every time…”

I - Improvise: “Plan B” (or C... or D...) when your line in a rapid doesn’t go to plan! Always have a backup plan and know at what point in a rapid you need to adopt that plan if things aren’t working out.

J - Jerry-Rig: Makeshift repairs made with only the tools and materials at hand. Usually involves cam straps, duct tape, or aquaseal, depending on what you need to fix.

K - K-Pump: It’s way better to bring a K-Pump on the river for topping off than a full-size barrel pump! No hose, no problems!

L - Layover Day: The coveted one day of a multi-day trip where you stay put, rather than packing up, rigging, rowing, and unpacking at a new campsite. Beach games, mimosas, and sunburns a-plenty! Good luck making it to dinner without a nap...

Layover in Hell's Canyon. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bentley.

M - Maytag: Generations-old term that refers to getting worked in a hole like your raft is stuck in a Maytag washing machine!

N - "Not going Anywhere” - The (important) final step to tying a boat down on a trailer or your roof rack. *Tugs Cam Strap* “Well, that’s not going anywhere!”

Flat tire + properly strapped boats = really not going anywhere.

O - Oar Rights: Many boaters look at oar rights like training wheels on a bicycle. At some point you’ll ditch them and learn to feather oars, but when you first start you couldn’t imagine rowing without them.

P - Party Barge: The only reasonable way to cover large distances of flatwater with a big group when you have all afternoon to kill. Just add a motor rig and you’ll actually get to your destination before dark.

Party Barge! Photo courtesy of Ari Kosel.

Q - Quick Lap: The art of squeezing in your town river lap during your lunch break. Also, the art of explaining why you’re half an hour late getting back.

R - “Rig to Flip”: Every boater has a moment in their career where they learn the meaning of this phrase, often just after they needed to know it. Do yourself a favor and throw a cam strap or two through all your gear, because that sleeper you didn’t see when you let your guard down at the end of a class III shouldn’t mean your kitchen box ends up at the bottom of the river.

S - Salida: A far-away land where boats must be securely tied down prior to departing for. “Should we throw another strap on that kayak? Nah dude, it’s not like we’re going to Salida”

T - Technical: Generally means a rapid has a lot of rocks in it, and therefore a lot of moves. Technical rapids require finesse, rather than speed, and usually have a huge consequence for not making a required move!

Photo courtesy of Nick Gilbert

U - Upstream: Where you look at the end of every rapid unless you’re the sweep boat!

V - V Wave - Typically a clean line in a rapid is through the bottom of “downstream V’s”. If the bottom of the V points at you instead, you’re probably about to hit a rock and you’re going to have a bad time.

W - Wetsuits - The winner of the “most awkward garment to take off when it’s wet” contest. Wetsuits stink (literally) but they are a necessary part of boating!

Photo courtesy of Amanda Castle + Shawn McFarland.

X - X, The Universal “Not Okay” signal - While tapping your helmet means “I’m Ok”, oftentimes most boaters want a “not okay” sign. Crossing your arms over your head to make an “X” if you need help gets the point across nicely. Not reciprocating the helmet tap is also acceptable, as arms are often used for swimming, too…

Y - Yaw! - Cowboy-inspired exclamation often shared among boaters at the end of a big rapid.

Z - Z-Drag - Come on, what else were we going to use for “Z”? Owning the parts to a Z-drag kit is one thing… remembering how to set it all up when you need it is another!

Photo Courtesy of Sallie Holmes.

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