Most rafting companies, Rock-N-Water included, do not require swimming ability for Class III rafting. You will be wearing a PFD (life jacket) which takes care of staying on top of the water. As difficulty increases, some outfitters will require swimming ability for Class IV or V rapids. We WILL take non-swimmers on our Class IV trip on the Middle Fork of the American if they have had a recent Class III rafting experience.
You do not need to know how to Swim!
On all rafting adventures, you will be outfitted with a PFD, or lifejacket, which will give you lots of extra flotation if you end up in, or chose to be in, the river. Chances are, you will not fall in the water at all on any of our rafting adventures, but if you do, the PFD will take care of keeping you on the surface. We take non-swimmers rafting every year, and it is always a great time.
What if I fall out in a Rapid?
Swimming a Class III rapid can be uncomfortable, and even a little scary, but the key is to stay calm and listen to your guide. Your PFD will bring you back to the surface quickly if you swim, and you will have been given instructions on what to do next. We give everyone rafting with us a safety talk before going on the river, which includes all the things you need to know to have a safe adventure. That means telling you how to not fall out, and how to get back in the boat just in case you pop out. On the South Fork of the American River, your guide has swam in most, if not all, the rapids that you will conquer, and can tell you just what to do if you swim. In the end, most swims in rapids are nothing more than some unintentional adventure.
Class IV swims are less likely, but more intense. Swimming a Class IV rapid on our Middle Fork trip is not a pleasant dip in the river, but the same standards apply: If you swim, your first objective is to not panic, and listen to your guide. We will be giving you instruction if you need it, and we will be actively involved in your rescue if you are not able to self rescue (swim back to the boat and get in yourself).
What about your other adventures, Canyoneering and Rock Climbing?
Knowing how to swim is not required for Rock-N-Water’s other adventures either, such as Canyoneering or Rock Climbing. If you will be in a canyon that involves swimming, the guides will be bringing flotation devices for any weak or non-swimmers, and we always bring a few anyway in case someone gets too tired, or there is an emergency. The bottom line is that you do not need to know how to swim to participate in any of Rock-N-Water’s adventures, and it will be no problem for us to accommodate that. We ask about it on our release forms just so that we can be prepared!