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What to do if you fall out while white water rafting

What To Do If You Fall Out While Whitewater Rafting

Falling out while white water raftingOne minute you are rippin’ and rompin’ down the river, having a great time. The next thing you know, you’re bobbing along next to the raft. While this may be scary for anyone, it’s especially terrifying for beginners. 

The best way to fight fear is with knowledge. If you find yourself outside the raft, be ready to take action. Read through for some tips on what to do to avoid this, as well as what to do if it does happen. 

If you are thrown from the raft, remain calm. Panicking makes a bad situation worse. Pay close attention to your guide’s safety talk before the trip. They’ll tell you what to do if someone goes overboard. 

Continue reading for helpful tips and information that will keep you safe as you enjoy your whitewater adventure.

Taking the Plunge - What to do When You Fall In Rafting

Many people are scared to fall out, which is understandable, especially if you are inexperienced. Knowing what to do if it happens can help alleviate some of that fear. 

In most situations, falling out isn’t as scary as you’d think. Some people even think it’s fun. If you follow the proper procedures, you will be back in the raft or on the riverbank waiting to be picked up by your crew.

First Thing's First - Don’t Freak Out!

Keep your wits about you when you fall out of the raft. Although your first instinct may be to panic, don’t! 


  • Listen to your guide. They know how to get you back to safety quickly.
  • Stay calm! If you panic, things can go wrong very quickly.

Grab the Raft

Grab the chicken lineThe first thing you should do the very second you hit the water is grab for the raft. Most of the time when you are thrown from the raft, you will still be right next to it. If you’re able to, grab the line that goes around the perimeter of the raft. This line is sometimes referred to as the chicken line.

Keep Your Legs Up

If you find that you are unable to grab the perimeter line in time, the next thing you need to do is bring your legs up and point your feet downstream. 

  • Do this anytime you are in the river to avoid rocks and other obstacles that you can become ensnared in or slam against in rough conditions. 
  • Keeping your legs up and feet pointed downstream will help you float with the current until you can get to a safe place. 
  • Your face will be out of the water and reduce the risk of you being pulled under. 

Look for a Rope

As you are positioning yourself, keep your eyes peeled for a rope. If you are within 50-75 feet of the raft, you can grab the rope and your fellow rafters can pull you back to safety. 

Face the Raft

Always face the raft during a rescue. Keeping your face toward the raft as you are being pulled in is the safest and easiest way to get back in. 

It is extra hard to pull someone into a raft with their back turned to you. The life jacket causes the one being rescued to float and bob around rather than cling to the raft.

Wait for calmer waters

So you missed the chicken line and couldn’t reach the tow rope the crew threw out to you. What do you do now? 

Wait for calmer water after the rapids

  • Remember what we discussed about keeping your legs up and feet pointed downstream. 
  • Now you need to float with the current until you can get to a calm spot at the end of the rapids, before the next rough section. Once you have reached the calm spot you can get back in the raft. 
  • Never try to swim across rapids if farther than 50-75 feet from the raft. Relax and float downstream to calmer water.

Don’t Try to Stand or Walk in the Rapids

Although some rapids may seem shallow and unintimidating, you should never stand or try to walk through rapids. 

It does not take much water to knock a person off of their feet when it is moving quickly. Be sure you are in a calm area with slower-moving water before you try to stand or walk around. 

Now that you know what to do if you fall out of a whitewater raft, we will discuss things you can do to prevent that situation from happening.

White Water Rafting Safety Tips

How to Avoid Falling Out of the Raft

Firstly, it is important to know that it is likely that you will exit the raft unexpectedly at one point or another. 

Falling out is just part of the experience, so you may as well embrace that fact and be prepared for when it happens. This section may help to reduce the likelihood of it occurring. 

Tripod Position

Keep your butt in the right spot, your feet in the cups or under the tube in front of you, and use the cross tube as support by leaning your inner leg into it as you are paddling. 

Paddle With Purpose

Paddle with purposeWhitewater rafting is no time to gently paddle along and admire the scenery. This is the time for action! Dig into the water and paddle hard to stay in the boat, it stabilizes you and helps to keep you from falling out.

Listen to the Guide

I can’t stress this one enough. Whether you are in or out of the raft, always listen to what your tour guide is telling you. Be sure you are familiar with whitewater lingo so you understand what instructions are being given. 

Falling Out is Preventable, But Not Completely Avoidable

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