December 1, 2001 Sierra Escape – By William McGinnis

For people new to rafting, the thought of floating down through the swirling currents and surging, cresting waves of an actual wild river in an inflatable rubber boat composed mainly of thin air no less can be a daunting prospect. Such fears are entirely normal. In fact, when most people contemplate outdoor adventure activities like whitewater rafting, it is entirely normal to experience fear, consciously or unconsciously, on a number of levels. There is physical fear: Am I going to get hurt? Am I going to die? There is social fear: Am I going to be accepted or rejected by this group? And biggest of all, for most of us, are fears around issues of self esteem: Can I do this? Am I OK?

First, some facts: Modern whitewater rafts are extremely rugged, stable, compartmented and unsinkable. All participants of guided river trips wear very buoyant high-float life jackets. Whatever California river you pick, literally thousands and in many cases hundreds of thousands of people have safely rafted before you. While, just as with any outdoor adventure activity, there is inherent risk, rafting with professional guides is far safer than skiing, and probably safer than driving on a modern freeway or walking on a city street.

Second, realize that skilled river guides implicitly assuage all of these fears in the very way they prepare you and guide you down the river. Every trip begins with a thorough safety talk and in-boat training which teach you everything you need to know to make it safely down the river thereby addressing physical fear. And by doing this with warmth, caring, good humor and respect, professional guides create an atmosphere of acceptance and support and good fun in which social fears and fears around issues of self esteem melt away.

In fact, a typical river journey with well-trained guides is much more than just a physical movement from put-in to take-out, it is a journey from fear to confidence to joy, from being a stranger to being known and feeling bonded with one’s boat mates, from feeling perhaps scattered and self-critical inside to feeling more self-accepting, more whole, more fully alive, and, as an extra plus, from feeling cut off from the natural world to feeling connected with and truly amazed and delighted by the magic of our planet.

Third and last, life is for living–go do it!    © 2001 Sierra Escape