River Gods Orientation Lecture


You too can pass your self off as a grungy river guide. Just wear the oldest life jacket you can find, memorize the following guide orientation, and people will think you have been down the river hundreds of times before. It also helps if you have maggots crawling out of your wetsuit booties (I always check mine first after that one time...).

Be warned that if you read this you will learn all the guide orientation jokes, so be sure to laugh at them when hear them from your guide or he will get real pissed.


(Scene) Everyone in wetsuits, holding paddles, in their rafts on shore, looking anxiously at the surging, boiling whitewater river in front of them. It can also be done on the bus going to the river, but isn't as much fun.

(Guide) I'd like to welcome everyone today to the (insert river name here) which for those of you who slept on the drive up today it is in (insert name of state here). I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about equipment, about safety, and about how we are going to run the trip.

The most important thing to you today is your life jacket. It is your friend, it wants to hug you all day long. Don't take it off or unbuckle it unless you are standing on dry land a long way from the water. Don't forget to put it back on if you even think about going near the water.

This is a paddle (hold up you know what). It is not an oar. You find oars on street corners, and paddles on rivers. (wait for chuckles, glare if you don't get any). You paddle by putting one hand at the bottom of the shaft, and the other over the top of the grip. You don't paddle like this (demonstrate with top hand just below grip - mime paddling and nearly clobber the person next to you with the top of the paddle). If you do you will give your partner summer teeth - summer in his mouth, and summer in the bottom of the raft.

You don't use it like this in splash fights (mime splashing with the paddle in a baseball bat grip, skipping it off the ground into someone's face). Most injuries on the river come from some one trying to eat someone else's paddle. If you are hungry wait until the lunch stop. If you do splash with it, do it like this (mime a forward, downward splash with the front surface of the paddle blade with a normal paddling grip). Its better if you use your bailing bucket for splash fights. Please don't fill the bucket up all the way to splash someone. Its not a lot of fun hitting someone with a 40 pound bucket if you lose your grip, especially if they are bigger and meaner than you are..

You need to know 2 paddle strokes. The forward stroke is where you put the paddle in the water in front of you and pull backwards. This propels the raft forward. The back stroke is where you jump out of the raft and (mime a swimming back stroke).

This is a raft (jump up and down on raft tube). You sit on an outside tube with your legs inside. If you straddle a tube (sit with leg outside of raft) and you hit a rock you will become an Oreo creme sandwich - the raft and the rock are the cookies and your leg is the creme filling. You also don't sit on the bottom floor of the raft, it seems safer, but (take a deep breath and say this real fast - be sure you practice ahead of time)
if the bottom of the boat hits the bottom of the river bed your bottom will hit the bottom of the river bed becoming a black and blue butt.

You steer the raft like the treads of a tank. The people on the right tube are the right tread, the left side people are the left tread. To turn right the right side people paddle backward and the left side people paddle forwards. Once the raft is pointed in the direction you want to go everyone paddles forward. It helps if you choose someone in the back of the raft as captain. He will say things like 'left side forward, right side back'. Its not too important who is captain, since if he doesn't do well just throw him out of the raft and choose another.

This isn't Disneyworld - there are no rails under the water for the rafts to ride on (yes - you really do get questions asking that). And please don't run over fishermen that are out in the river - they have knives, fishing hooks, and other nasty sharp stuff, and a nice hot bar-b-que waiting at home for whatever they catch.

You will want to steer in order to avoid rocks in the river. We have two kinds of rocks in the river today. Big rocks and little rocks. You will know the big rocks because we painted "BFR" on them in white paint. If they see you coming at them they know they have got you so they just sit there and smile and wait for you to hit them. If you do see that you are going to hit one of them - after you throw your captain overboard - you want to kiss the rock. Everyone move forward towards the rock (run to the front of the raft). If you try to get away from the rock (run to the back of the raft and then use your paddle as a raft to show it hitting a rock and flipping) you are all going for a swim.

These are real rocks and not inflatable ones. If you stab one with a paddle to try to deflate it, it will just make the rock angry. It will grab your paddle and shove it back in your face giving you more summer teeth.

If you do find yourself swimming, float on your back with your feet downstream to fend off rocks - unless you are better at fending off rocks with your head. Keep an arm over your life jacket to keep it from riding up and enjoy the ride. Wait for a raft or guide to get to you and pull you in. The second most important thing for you today - what was the first? that's right, life jackets - is NOT TO STAND UP IN THE RAPIDS (glare at the people). If you find yourself swimming in the river its tempting to walk over to the nearest raft. But you will find yourself being swept downstream as you hop from rock to rock on the river bottom. Sooner or later you will wake up one of these rocks, its going to get annoyed and grab your foot. The current will knock you over and pin you to the bottom of the river and you will be there for a long time. So remember if you find yourself swimming, float on your back with your feet downstream and an arm over your lifejacket. If the water is even knee deep, don't try to walk in the rapids.

If you are in a raft and see someone swimming, paddle over to them and pull them out. If they are not from your raft we can sort things out at the end of the rapid. Its tough to climb in a raft by yourself, so here is how you pull someone into your raft:

'Volunteer' a pretty rafting guest. Sit her (or him if you are a female type guide) on the ground outside the raft with her back to the tube. Kneel on the tube behind her, grab her under the armpits, say something stupid like 'guys watch your hands', and then fall back into the raft with the guest on top of you. As you are sorting things out say something to the effect that this is a good time to ask for a date, or else you can throw them back in. Hey, guides have to get their thrills somehow.

Back to your speech now:
The little rocks out there aren't as self-confident as the BFRs, they have to be sneaky. They wait on the bottom of the river until they see your raft going overhead. Then they jump up and grab your raft. How do you know if your raft is stuck on one of these rock? We have 3 standard tests: 1 - the shoreline stops moving, 2 - Other rafts go by you splashing and laughing at you, 3 - a friendly guide comes by and says 'Hey - you're stuck.'

The first thing you do is look at the bottom of the raft for a bump. Take a paddle and rap the bump hard a couple of times, if it is soft, count noses. If it is hard, that's the rock you are stuck on. You are not going to get the raft off the rock if someone is standing on the rock. So move everyone in the raft to the far end of the raft to take all the weight off the rock. Start bouncing the raft up and down, and sooner or later you will float off it. If you do get out of the raft to push it off be sure when the raft goes you go with it.

We will be stopping of lunch about half way down. Be sure your lunch is in the lunch bucket and the top is snapped down all the way around or you will be having soup for lunch. If you have a call of nature during the lunch stop pick out a friendly bush and shake it. If it rattles back, find another one unless you like snakes. And if you need to clean up afterwards be sure the leaves you use aren't poison ivy (leaves of three, let them be).

That's about it, your lead guide will be (insert guides name), don't get in front of him, your sweep guide will be (etc) picking up all the pieces after each rapid - don't get behind him. Lets hit the river.........


While you are giving your talk, the other guides can be handing out 'left handed' paddles, checking for contraband liquids that can be donated to tonight's guide party, checking the fit of lifejackets on pretty girls, etc.


That's all you need to know to be a raft guide. All you need now is state certification, CPR, first aid training, some insurance, some boating skills, some on-river jokes (about those side-legged mountain creatures and martian landing pillars) and you too can earn low wages for hard work and long hours. And get funny looking tan lines at the same time. Nothing like the life of a river guide.

TOP Back to the
raft page.