3 Key Whitewater Terms

whitewater rafting termsWhile spending my summer at ACE Adventure Resort, I have realized that the whitewater world speaks a language all its own, perhaps not the New River itself but its people definitely do. And by people, I mean the unique group of thrill-seeking individuals working as raft guides. The more times you go rafting, the more of the whitewater terms you begin to pick up from them. There are probably books full of whitewater terms such as hydraulic, pour-over, punchy, reactionary, guide ejectors, undercuts, eddy and so forth. While the raft language is never ending, there are three whitewater terms that stick out in my mind as being rather important for any rafter to understand.

These three terms are “high side”, “eddy” and “hydraulic”. High side comes into play on a rafting trip when the raft either encounters a large rapid or rock sideways and goes up on to one side. In order to prevent the raft from flipping, it needs weight put on the side that is up in the air. There will already be rafters seated there, but when high side is called, this is code for the entire boat of rafters to make it to literal high side and fast.

The next whitewater term, eddy, usually refers to a type of safe haven for rafters or their boat. An eddy, depending on where in the river it is can take different forms. However, the safe haven eddy I am referring to, is the one that is usually behind a large rock, to either the left or the right of the river near the shore. Guides will often pull a boat into one of these eddies after making it through a large section of a rapid to sort of reconvene with the other boats or to make sure each makes it through successfully. Because the large rock is preventing the water from continuing downstream, it has created a placid pool. It’s a nice place to take a few moments before or after the big water hits. And any fisherman knows, this is where the fish hang out.

Hydraulic is the next term that it frequently splashed around on the river. As a rafter, it doesn’t matter what section of the whitewater you are running, you will be seeing hydraulics all day. A hydraulic is simply a wall of upstream current created by water flowing over a rock. Essentially, this is a wave that can pack a punch. Sometimes hydraulics are safe to “hit”, sometimes not. However, you can be assured that your guide will always point these out to you, and if they are runnable will be yelling “all forward” as you approach.

Our guides always teach you the most important whitewater terms you need to know while rafting with ACE; however, see if you hear any of these terms while on your next trip. I bet that if you find yourself in a raft frequently you will have already picked some up!

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