- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

David Hubbard says the adrenaline rush of white water has kept him coming back to the sport for more than 30 years.

As operations manager of River and Trail Outfitters in Knoxville, Md., he is able to share his love for white-water rafting with other people. His son, Sam, 18, a guide on the Arkansas River in Colorado, also enjoys the action.

White-water rafting, with its frothy waves, is a summer pastime for many who love the outdoors. Although it can be fun, it also can be dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken.

“It’s legal to raft without lessons, but it’s a sport with inherent risk,” Mr. Hubbard says. “It’s good to get some training in some form.”

River and Trail Outfitters offers trips on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers near Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Guided adventures include a riverside picnic. Depending on the day and the trip, it costs $51.67 to $65 for adults and $41.67 to $55 for children. Mr. Hubbard recommends that children be at least age 7 and weigh at least 50 pounds.

Beginners should start with Class I to Class III rapids in a group setting and work their way up, Mr. Hubbard says. Most Class V rapids, which are the most challenging, require precise maneuvering because of large waves, rocks and drops. Class V rapids can be found locally on the Upper Youghiogheny River in Maryland and the Gauley River in West Virginia.

Taking private kayak lessons may help people who want to pursue the sport individually. Although kayaking is slightly different from rafting, both sports require an understanding how a river works.

For instance, hydraulics can cause the river to flow back onto itself and be hazardous, Mr. Hubbard says.

Proper attire also is important. On a cooler day, participants should not wear cotton, including jeans and sweat shirts, Mr. Hubbard says. Cotton doesn’t dry as quickly as some other materials, and the rafter can get cold. An old hat, sunglasses, a wool or fleece top, a waterproof jacket, quick-drying shorts, waterproof or synthetic pants, wool or fleece socks and old sneakers are appropriate.

On a sunny day, rafters should wear an old hat, sunglasses, a bathing suit, a T-shirt, a waterproof jacket, quick-drying shorts and old sneakers or sport sandals, he says.

In addition, participants should bring sunscreen and a water bottle for the trip and make sure they have a change of clothes and towel for afterward.

Young participants on a recent rafting trip near Harpers Ferry shared safety tips they had learned on previous trips.

One of the best parts of rafting is the water fights, says Elise Dunn, 14, of Pittsburgh. She recently took a trip with River and Trail Outfitters through Camp Louise, a Jewish girls summer camp near Cascade, Md. Although she had a good day with her friends, she says she knows safety is important. It was her seventh time rafting.

“Keep your helmet and life vest buckled,” Elise says. “Don’t fall out of the boat on purpose. You don’t know what you’ll land on. I fell out of a boat before. I fell on a rock. It’s not fun.”

If one does fall from the boat, it’s best to float with toes pointed downstream and not to try to stand up, she says.

Rocks should be avoided whether inside or outside of the raft, says Hallie Dominick, 14, of Vienna. She also recently took a trip with River and Trail Outfitters and Camp Louise. It was her eighth time white-water rafting. She previously has braved the Snake River in Ohio.

“One time I went, we got stuck between two rocks and the boat filled with water,” Hallie says. “We almost sunk. We had to push ourselves from the rock.”

If worse comes to worst and someone falls out of a boat, a guide should throw the person a rope, says Daniel Hamburg, 12, of North Potomac. He took a trip with River and Trail Outfitters with Camp Airy, a Jewish boys summer camp near Thurmont, Md. It was his seventh white-water rafting trip.

During one of his adventures, a few of his friends fell out the boat. He tried to pull them back into the boat, but they floated down the river. A counselor with a rope rescued them.

“Don’t go out of the raft unless the experienced person tells you,” Daniel says. “Hold onto the raft at all times.”

Definitely don’t stand in the boat while going down the river, says Ethan Teicher, 12, of Bethesda. As part of Camp Airy, he also took a trip with River and Trail Outfitters. He has been white-water rafting multiple times.

“One kid was standing up in the raft while we were going down the rapids,” Ethan says. “We hit a rock. The raft bounced up. The kid went flying and landed in the river. He had to swim back to the raft, and he only had one pair of shoes for all of camp.”

If a wave picks up a raft, everyone seated in the raft should lean forward into the wave, says Paul Breuer, general manager of Adventures Mountain River in Hico, W.Va.

The company offers trips on the New and Gauley rivers. Depending on the trip, children ages 6 through 12, with an adult paying full fare, pay $41 to $65.25 a day with lunch. Trips for adults cost $82 and up.

Sitting on the outside of the raft is the safest, Mr. Breuer says. Sitting on the inside will cause a person to lean out of the boat.

“Place one foot forward and one back on the raft,” he says. “Place your feet snugly between the cross tubes.”

Participants should always wear tennis or river shoes, he says, to avoid cutting their feet on the rocks.

Drinking alcohol is prohibited for participants, says Scott Coulter, owner of Outdoor Excursions in Boonsboro, Md. The cost of trips for children younger than 16 is $36.50. Adult trips average $45.

Full concentration is necessary to miss all the rocks, he says. There are several places on the Potomac River, where the company runs trips, where dangerous hydraulics should be avoided.

“One place on the Potomac is S-turn Hole, where the water recycles itself over the rock,” Mr. Coulter says. “When the water goes over something, it usually comes back onto itself. If you flip the raft right there, you are going to get stuck for a little bit of time.”

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