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Six Important Safety Tips for White-Water Rafting

by Eva Jeanne Markosky

A student of Energy Business and Finance at The Pennsylvania State University, Eva Jeanne Markosky previously served as an environmental engineering intern for the Markosky Engineering Group in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Outside her professional obligations, Eva Jeanne Markosky enjoys white-water rafting in the Youghiogheny River. The following are some important safety tips for white-water rafting.
1. Always wear a personal flotation device. Personal floatation devices (PFD) such as life jackets can save your life if you suffer an accident and the water currents pull you under. You must ensure all straps are clipped correctly, and the jacket must fit snugly over your body with enough room to breathe, but not enough to be pulled over your head.
2. Know proper swimming techniques. Whether you fall into the water by accident or you jump in, you must know proper swimming techniques for white-water rapids. Your guide can provide instruction and determine which techniques to use in each situation. Also, remember never to stand up in a moving current.
3. Watch for high-siding commands. Guides use high-siding commands to prevent the boat from capsizing and require the full attention and participation of everyone in the boat. Listen carefully to your guide’s instructions regarding high-siding commands.
4. Remember sunblock. Don’t forget to apply water-resistant sunscreen everywhere that might receive sun exposure. Even the most unlikely places can get sunburned if exposed to too much sunlight, particularly due to the light reflected off the water’s surface.
5. Wear appropriate outerwear. Wear water-resistant or quick-drying clothing appropriate for the cold water and intense sunlight in order to avoid hypothermia and severe sunburn. Wet suites and splash jackets work well for white-water rafting, and you will also need proper river shoes, which means no flip-flops or easily removed footwear.
6. Know your limits and level of expertise. If you’re new to white-water rafting, know your limits, and only participate in excursions appropriate for your skill level. Make sure you can endure the amount of upper body strength you will exert and can swim well in case you fall overboard.                            
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