Rafting

One of the first adventure disciplines that conquered the public's taste, and that nowadays enjoys great popularity is rafting. It's a sports modality that consists of descending a river of fast waters, where the current impulses the ship. It's directed by a guide, while the rest of the crew help from the lateral seats with their oars. The word "rafting" derives from the English term "raft" which means raft.

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The historical background of rafting lies with ancient rafters, which used the logs of trees they had felled as a transport media in the river. It was also a simple form of carrying the materials to the sawmills.

Rafting at Reventazon River

The first record of a rafting descent goes back to 1869, when John Wesley Powell, one of the most important expeditionary in American history, organized an expedition to the Grand Canyon to travel the Colorado river in wood ships. Each year a descent trial is held on this river to commemorate this date.

In 1909 the company of Julio's Stone Grand Canyon initiated descents for tourists. The search for a boat that could be adapted to the river's conditions, led rafting lovers to try different materials. One of these trials was using inflatable boats pneumatic from the United States' army, which proved to be the most adequate. In 1938 was held the first descent of the Colorado River in a pneumatic raft.

During the decades of the 60's and 70's, the sport suffered a stagnation period, only to surge again with all its force in the decade of the 80's. The creation of a boat called "self bailer", of lighter materials and resistant made it possible.

Today rafting is one of the tourist activities that best combine adventure with the enjoyment of beautiful scenarios, for those deciding to go down a river.

The boat used for the practice of rafting can be of two Rafting Tropical Riverstypes. The first is a raft with a central oar, possessing two big oars that are placed on a platform on the ship and count with a resting point. A monitor or trainer, who will be in charge of directing the boat, conducts them. It is generally employed to transport the luggage and food. The other is known as paddle raft, in which the monitor direct from the rear part, with a long oar he uses as rudder, while the rest of the steersmen, equipped with a short, single paddle oar will follow his orders.

Rafts measure 5 x 2 meters and have a capacity of four to ten persons. Besides the oars, members of the crew must wear a helmet, a lifesaver, sandals and clothes that can get wet.

The moment they descend a river, steersmen will face a series of obstacles such as currents, the changes in levels and the rapids.

According to these difficulties, a classification of rivers has been created:

  • Class I, Easy: Fast current, with ripples and small waves. Little obstructions, that can be easily surpassed with some training. The risk for swimmers is low and self-rescue easy.
  • Class II, Beginners: Direct rapids with wide canals. Simple maneuvers are needed on some sections of the river. Scarce danger for swimmers.
  • Class III, Intermediate: Rapids with moderate waves. Narrow passages and rapid currents, require complex maneuvers. A previous exploration is recommended for those who don't have enough experience.
  • Class IV, Advanced: Intense rapids, requiring precise control of the ship in turbulent waters. Many of the maneuvers should be done quickly, and under pressure. Water conditions make self-rescue difficult, so group's assistance is necessary.
  • Class V, Expert: Very long and violent rapids. Descents may have waves, big holes and abrupt falls with complex routes. Rescue is very difficult.
  • Class VI; Extreme: Only for expert teams, running the river under strict safety norms. Consequences of errors are severe and rescue may be impossible.

In 1979 a Polish expedition arrived to the country and descended the rivers Pacuare and Reventazón on modern rafts for the first time. One year later, Michael Kaye from the U.S.A. began commercial activities doing rafting on both rivers. He founded the company Costa Rica Expeditions. The second company that was created was Ríos Tropicales, directed by Rafael Gallo and Fernando Esquivel. They began operations on river Sarapiquí and later embarked on the discovery of other rivers.

Following are a few of the most convenient rivers for rafting:

Reventazón: The Tucurrique section (Class III) is easy enough for first-timers. The Pascua section (Class IV-V) is very wild, and requires previous rafting experience. Can be run year round.

Pacuare: The country's longest and most spectacular river trip (Class III-IV) can be run from mid May thru mid March. Two-day trip recommended.

Sarapiquí: Beautiful river (Class II-III), good trip for beginners. Can be run out of San Jose or the Arenal area, from mid May thru mid March.

Saavegre: Another beautiful river (Class II-III) excellent for first timers. River trips leave from Manuel Antonio and Quepos, May thru January.

Naranjo: A wild river (Class III-IV) near Quepos that requires some rafting experience. Run from June thru November.

El General: A popular three-day kayaking or rafting trip (class III-IV) best during the height of the rainy season, September to November.

  • ¡Todos adentro! (adentro, abajo) (get down): All passengers in squatted position on the raft's floor to avoid falling into the water.

  • ¡Todos arriba!: keep rowing

  • ¡Lado alto! (highside): everyone should place themselves on the side that goes up, to balance the raft.

  • ¡Adelante! (Forward): everyone rows forward.

  • ¡Atrás! (Back paddle): everyone rows backwards.

  • ¡Izquierda atrás! (Left back): the left side rows backwards while the right goes forward. This makes the raft turn left.

  • ¡Derecha atrás! (Right back): the right side rows backwards while the left one goes forward. The raft turns to the right.

  • ¡Alto! (Stop): break

Rafting Costa Rica

Information courtesy of Eco Sport Magazine

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