Have you ever been on a rafting adventure and wondered what the heck the river guides were talking about!? Like “put what in!?” Well, put the raft in the water and start having some fun “put-in”! We created a list of some river lingo that you might commonly hear on a river trip so you’re no longer in the dark. Check it out!
CFS – An acronym for Cubic Feet per Second and is used to measure a river’s “flow,” the measurement of water flowing out of an upstream dam. The average flow of South Fork of the American River is between 1200-2000 cfs.
Confluence – The intersection where two rivers meet, such as the confluence of the Middle and North Forks of the American river.
Gradient – Refers to how fast the river’s elevation is dropping. Typically a steeper gradient means a more technical river with higher class rapids.
Boil – A feature on the surface of a river that appears as if the water is boiling. It is created by current underneath the surface colliding with a large rock or cliff wall in the river and being propelled up to the surface. When that current breaks the surface, the appearance of boiling water is created. It’s not actually created from a lava fissure on the bottom of the river… for those of you who were told that.
Eddy – A river feature where water moves upstream opposite of the current. Typically found behind a rock or other feature in the river such as a river bend.
Eddy Fence – The swirling water between the current and an eddy. Sometimes it can have the whirlpool effect, and when big enough, can swallow a boat whole!
Eddy Out – A maneuver where the guide essentially “parks” the raft in an eddy. Perfect for a snack and water break… or to pray before death fang falls.
Hole – Though similar to a wave a hole is essentially “a whirlpool laid on its side with its axis of rotation perpendicular to the main current — a cylinder of moving water that rotates continuously, like one of those giant spinning brushes at an automatic car wash” (Fedarko and Quammen, The Emerald Mile, pg 105). They tend to cyclically recirculate buoyant things back into themselves.
Bony – When a section of river has a lot of exposed rocks due to lower than normal flows. “It’s looking a little bony in there!”
Death Fang Falls – Not a real waterfall. If you’ve heard this before this post (and hopefully you have) it’s completely a joke. We really like this joke.. not because it’s funny, but because it’s nostalgic.
Dump Truck – When a raft bucks forward, backward or to one side resulting in everyone getting “dumped” into the river. “I thought for sure we were going to flip, luckily we just dump trucked instead.”
Swimmer – Yes, someone who is swimming, but specifically because they fell out of the raft due to either their or their guides error. Although typically fun and a highlight of one’s rafting trip, having a swimmer is actually quite rare. “Did you have any swimmers out on the water today?”
Boof – Originally a whitewater kayaking move, rafters start a boof by ramping the raft’s nose on top of a slightly exposed rock. Once the nose is on and stuck, the current will then swing the rear of the boat around simultaneously pulling the boat free and generating a whole lot of excitement for the paddlers.
Dig! – A paddle command where your slightly panicked guide is asking, I mean shouting, at you to sink your paddle deeper in the water in hopes that you’d get a sronger paddle stroke.
Carnage – When river running gets messy! Ex: a boat flip, lots of people swimming, gear floating down the river, running into or getting stuck on rocks, poor boating in general. Legitimate safety concerns never celebrated, only silly mishaps.
Pod – A group of boats navigating the river together. Used with the same meaning as a pod of whales or a pack of wolves. These boats move downstream together in a way that they can support each other if needed… but until then, watch your back because water fighting with your friends is the most fun!
Carnage Boat – A boat full of Rock-N-Water volunteers with no official guide supervision typically responsible for moving lunch downstream ahead of the rest of the pod.. let’s hope they make it to the lunch spot before they have any carnage!
Lead Boat – The first boat in the pod whose responsibility is to eddy out after big rapids to assist the other boats if needed.
FunYak – An inflatable kayak, also known as a funyak. Why funyak? Because they’re fun!
PFD – Don’t confuse this one with a .PDF file. Instead, a PFD is an acronym for “Personal Floatation Device.” River guides are quite fond of referring to their precious life jackets as PFDs.
River Booty – “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And so are those $100 sunglasses we happened to find after someone decided to take them rafting and lost them after a swim. River Booty. Ok, maybe we did have to dive 25’ deep to find them but you get the point. Also consists of hats floating by or the unfortunate (or fortunate?) discovery of a GoPro! (True story, one of our guides found 3 one summer! Side note, if you find mine on the Pit River let me know.)
Paddle – It’s not an oar, it’s a paddle. It has a T-grip and you only use one.
Oar – It’s not a paddle, it’s an oar. You use two of them and you don’t paddle, you row.
Carabiner – a metal ring, usually D-shaped or oblong with one spring-hinged side that opens. Often used while rock climbing but also helpful for fastening boats and gear together. A note from the gear-heads: please don’t call them “clips,” they’re not clips, they’re carabiners.
Baby – Rock-N-Water speak for water bottle. Remember, treat water bottles like babies! We don’t throw babies or bang babies against rocks. Running out of water to drink on an outdoor adventure isn’t always so fun.
Z Tan – The tan on the feet of a river guide from wearing Chaco Sandals in the sun for days on end. The best way to recognize a Rock-N-Water guide is by their Z Tan!
Ezer – Originally a Hebrew word (pronounced ay-zer) that in English is often translated as “helper.” It’s first seen in Genesis 2 where God recognizes that Adam needs a wife, an Ezer. As usual, the English word helper doesn’t quite capture the depth of meaning that Ezer has in Hebrew. Check out further context here. Rock-N-Water uses this word to mean our main person leading the day. They make the decisions for how the adventure will unfold because they have the most experience. They’re there not to be the superhero guide of the day, but instead to help those they lead to encounter God while out in His creation.
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How many of these did you know beforehand? Let us know in the comments or leave us another river term that you’ve heard and maybe we can shed some light on what it meant
Something You Should Know
Please know that while some of these terms might seem to minimize the seriousness of whitewater rafting, we do honestly evaluate every potential risk in order to conduct safe trips.