The Gauley River Guide To The 5 Golden Paddle Commands


If you go whitewater rafting on the Gauley River in West Virginia, you’ll have to know 5 things in order to get down the river safely.

Those 5 things are called Paddle Commands, and they’re what your guide uses to tell you what to do and when to do it.

Here’s what you’ll need to know:

1. All Forward. Every guide in paddle rafting history uses some variation of the All Forward command. It means exactly what you think; everyone in the boat paddles forward at the same time.

2. All Back. You guessed it; everyone back paddles. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be back paddling. A lot of really good guides use the backward momentum to set up. It takes a little more finesse, but you’ll know it if it works.

3. STOP! On the Gauley, not paddling is just as important as paddling. Making sure you’re doing it at the right time means listening carefully for your guide. Some variations you might hear are “drift,” “take a break,” and “STOP! STOP! PLEASE IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT’S GOOD IN THE WORLD, STOP PADDLING!”

4. Left Turn/Right Turn. Yes, you get to help maneuver the boat. The trick is remembering what side of the raft you’re sitting on. Basically, it works by having one side of the raft to paddle backwards while the other side paddles forward. Or something like that.

5. Highside. Highsiding is an evasive maneuver that you’ll do to rapidly shift the weight around in the raft. If you hear the highside command, move yourself rather quickly to the actual higher of the two sides of the raft. That way, the raft will stay upright and you and the rest of the crew will merrily make your way gently down the rest of the stream.


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