Are you ready to overcome your fear and get out on a rafting trip? For many people the thought of whitewater rafting is a scary thing. If you’re nervous about whitewater rafting, you’re definitely not alone.
Rafting can create a lot of fear in people. We’ve written an entire blog on the 10 Most Common Rafting Fears - And How We Address Them which tells you how common it is.
The Kicking Horse River in Golden, B.C. is the real deal. Fast flowing, lots of rapids and big whitewater - we understand the thought of floating down this in an inflatable boat can make you super nervous.
Any fear you’re facing isn’t unique to you. People chat with us about their fears and hesitations all the time.
We know the ins and outs of the Kicking Horse River and safety is always our priority. We want you to be comfortable and have the best day possible. If you're planning a rafting trip in Golden, B.C. (or anywhere else for that matter), here are 15 things you can do to feel more at ease if you're nervous about whitewater rafting.
15 steps to be Safer and feel More at Ease if you're nervous about whitewater rafting
1. Listen to the intro talk
When you arrive at our rafting base in Golden, B.C. the first step is listening to the introduction talk. The intro talk sets the guidelines and expectations for the day and will provide the first pieces of important information.
It will cover where you’re going, the classes of the rapids, what to wear, what to bring and how to deal with past or current injuries. If you have any initial questions this is a good time to chat with a guide or staff member. Getting any questions you have answered right away is a great first step to putting yourself at ease.
2. Wear the appropriate gear
When you’re rafting on a glacial fed river, which the Kicking Horse River is, it’s very important to wear suitable clothing and river gear. We’re going to give you everything you need for on the river, which includes a wetsuit, neoprene jacket, splash jacket and neoprene boots. What you wear underneath this is equally as important.
We recommend wearing a bathing suit because you don’t want bulky layers between the wetsuit and your skin. You absolutely don’t want to wear anything cotton, as cotton strips heat away from your body when it gets wet. If you don’t have a swimsuit a layer of polypro or wool is also okay.
We have lots of layers available and we’ll guide you on the day about what you should take.
Sunglasses and sunscreen are must haves on a sunny day too. People get sunburned easily with the reflection off the river, and you don’t want to be squinting all day.
3. Listen during the safety briefing
Before you get on the river the guides will go through a thorough safety briefing.
Think of this as the airplane talk. It can be a bit alarming because they go through everything that can happen (even though it likely won’t). They give you all the information you may need just in case.
Being aware of what to do is reassuring, and being familiar with this information is an important step to staying safe on the river. If you have questions about anything they mention all you have to do is ask.
4. Make sure your life jacket and helmet are on correctly
Everyone will get a high float life jacket and helmet before getting on the river. The guides will go over how to wear them, and they’ll check you over before you get in your raft.
Your life jacket should feel like a tight hug, and your helmet should be snug without being too tight. If you’re unsure how to put something on, any of our staff will be happy to help!
5. If you’re feeling nervous about whitewater rafting, let your guide know
Letting your guide know you’re feeling nervous about whitewater rafting will help put you at ease right away. You won’t be the first one to mention this - they hear it everyday.
Our guides are VERY familiar with nervous rafters and they're true professionals. They'll do everything they can to put you at ease. Chances are you have other nervous rafters in your boat too!
6. Sit at the back of the raft
The back of the raft is the best place to be if you’re feeling nervous. This way you’re closest to the guide and you won’t be taking the full brunt of the whitewater rapid hits.
If you mention to your guide that you’re feeling nervous about whitewater rafting, they’ll recommend a seat in the back anyways. As you get more comfortable throughout the day you’ll have the option to move up if you want to.
7. Make sure you can hear your guide
Your guide has your best interests at heart. They’ll let you know what you need to do as you make your way down the river, and they’ll issue commands throughout the day.
You need to be able to hear them to know what to do, so this is an important first step (and another benefit of sitting closer to the back). If you can’t hear them ask them to speak up.
8. Listen to your guide - all day!
Now that you can hear your guide, make sure you listen to them all day long! Your guide is looking out for your safety and they’ll tell you what you need to know to keep you safe and having fun.
Hang on when you’re supposed to, get down when they say so and paddle until they tell you to stop.
Our guides go through extensive training. They've been guiding on the Kicking Horse and/or other rivers around the world for A LOT of years. Your guide is a professional and they will give you the info you need. Nervous guests tend to be the best listeners, so great job!
9. Hang onto your paddle correctly
Paddles are one of the most dangerous parts of the whole rafting trip. If people stop paying attention to how they're holding their paddle, someone may get hit.
It’s important you always hold onto the t-grip (your guide will show you how), and to make sure everyone else doing the same. You’ll hear your guide reminding you about this throughout the day.
10. If you’re unsure about something - ask!
Your guide - and all the rest of our staff - are here and happy to help you out. If you’re unsure about something, nervous about something or just want a bit more info - ask!
We know that for many people, your day with us is your first rafting experience. There are no dumb questions and we want to help you out in any ways we can.
11. Start with a gentler trip and work your way up
One of the best things about the Kicking Horse River is that it starts out calm in the morning and builds to bigger whitewater in the afternoon. If you’re feeling nervous and don’t want to commit to the big rapids, start by booking on the Family Adventure Trip.
This is a gentle float with a few splashy sections which will give you a taste of what the Kicking Horse is all about. It’ll let you get comfortable in the raft and familiar with your guide.
If you’re feeling up to it you have the option to upgrade while you’re out on the river. Let your guide know you’d like to carry on and they’ll make it happen (provided we still have seats available). If you upgrade to enjoy the rapids, you'd then be on our Full Day Whitewater Discovery Trip.
12. Bring any medications you’ll need (or might need) throughout the day
Once you get out on the river there’s no chance to pick anything up. Make sure you bring any medication you’ll need - or will potentially need - throughout the day.
A common item people should bring (but sometimes forget) is their epipen. If you have any allergies at all please pack it along. Asthma inhalers are important, snacks if you’re diabetic, or any other pills you might need.
There's a first aid kit in every raft so your guide will have a safe and dry place to put it.
13. No drinking or drugs beforehand
Hopefully this goes without saying, but being under the influence of anything is not a smart idea. If you’re feeling nervous about whitewater rafting, chances are this is already a no brainer.
We need everyone to be in top form, so leave this for your own time, after your rafting trip is over.
14. Choose a company that’s focussed on safety and has a good reputation
The company you choose to raft with is as big a consideration as any. The BCROA regulates all rafting companies in British Columbia, but companies do have different protocols, safety procedures and levels of experience.
Safety should always be the priority for the company you choose, so if you’re unsure of where they stand, ask!
Safety is always our priority and you can read more about our commitment to safety on our Safety Page here.
15. Read Some Reviews from Past Guests
There are lots of people who’ve been in your shoes exactly. They wanted to join their family or friends for a day of rafting, but they were really nervous! We’ve taken tens of thousands of guests down the Kicking Horse River so we can guarantee you’re not alone.
We find that the people who are the most nervous at the start of the day tend to be the most pumped when they get back at the end. Many of them have written reviews of their experience and here are a couple from the end of last season.
Pamela had a lot of fears and hesitations - likely many of the same ones as you. She wrote a review of her experience in the days after her rafting trip, and you can read her thoughts here:
This is an impressive set up. I was terrified when I arrived because I realized I had booked the extreme rapid trip instead of the sedate family float!! The first thing I was scared of was squeezing my oversized body into a wetsuit, so I told the guy at check in. He just laughed and told me not to worry. I should not have worried because they have so much gear - all categorized in various sizes - and the guides are expert at gauging which will fit you best. The guides are extremely reassuring, and funny, and they go through the safety instructions. This is scary because they tell you what to do if you fall in! They also explained that level 4 rapids are about as big as you can do and that we were going to do them. I was bricking it! I’ve never done anything like this before. Anyway our guide, Jose, was just fantastic. He trained us for a few minutes in the calm water and was quite masterful with us when we got it wrong(!) which was reassuring. We practiced how to not smack each other in the face with the paddles and how to get down safely, hanging onto the ropes. Then the adventure began! It was fabulous in the rapids and I was so impressed with myself that I could do it. We barrelled down the Kicking Horse and got down on a number of occasions. The guides are just wonderful and they gave me so much confidence. Just do it, if an old wimpy fatty like me can do it - anyone can do it!
Pamela A, TripAdvisor, July 2019
Feeling nervous is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s completely normal when you’re trying something new, or doing something that’s out of your comfort zone. You’re definitely not going to be the first nervous rafter we’ve had, and you won’t be the last.
Here’s a review from another guest who was also feeling nervous prior to rafting the Kicking Horse River.
This company is so good - if you are in Golden you have to go rafting with them! It was our first time rafting but definitely not the last. I was a little nervous beforehand, as they tell you all the things that could happen and what to do if you fall out...it is a little bit scary. But, I really don’t have one bad thing to say about this company - everything was perfect! They are professionals and it felt like you can really trust them.
Bet Oved, TripAdvisor, July 2019
If you want to read more about the most common fears we encounter, take a look at our blog on 10 Most Common Rafting Questions - And How We Address Them.
Knowledge is power and we want you to feel as informed as possible before heading out on the Kicking Horse River.
If you're still feeling nervous about whitewater rafting, have questions about anything you read, or are looking for more information on rafting the Kicking Horse River, please get in touch.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.
You can also check out our FAQ page which answers many common questions we get.
We hope to spend some time with you on the river soon.
Cheers from all of us here at Glacier Raft Company