mandag 7. oktober 2013

Guide Course with Sjoa Rafting

 A crash course in becoming a commercial rafting guide.  Part 1

 

The art of being a good raft guide is to make it look easy, to have a fantastic time with your guests and at the end of the trip everybody should be smiling and be ready for more.
How hard can it be ? Sit at the back of a rubber inflatable, a bit of steering, perhaps the odd high five paddle clap and Bob's your uncle.
Happy Rafters on the Sjoa River
Our six lucky candidates were in for the surprise of their lives, due to generous amounts of rainfall the Sjoa River was in one of its sportier moods.

The Sjoa River is one of the friendliest and safest rivers one can have the pleasure of rafting.
Its icy waters begin in the mountains at lake Gjende and flow uninterrupted all the way to its confluence with the Lågen river.
The combination of high perceived risk to relatively low real risk makes the Sjoa Playrun a fantastic thrill ride for anybody seeking a fun filled day out. One detail that can catch the unprepared by surprise however is the continues flow of the river and its temperature, rather fresh at the best of times.

River professionals or terrible boy band, you decide ?

Day one went off without too much trouble. A quick introduction to the working environment of a rafting base camp, loading the rafts, a general safety talk and we were off on our first jaunt down the river. The stage was set like any other day
on the river except for one slight difference, the six excited rafters were here to become professionals.

Our first trip down the students were introduced to the very basics, a fun filled splash to camp without too much stress. The second run was going to be a little different.
It was time for our budding guides to jump onto the sharp end of the stick, but before tackling the rapids they needed the basic tools to enable them to control the raft. To gain these we spent several hours in the calm waters of the aptly named “Training Eddy” attempting to paddle the rafts in a straight line, turning them and of course practicing the all important flip. By the time we were ready to leave the tranquil waters there was sweat on the brows of the trainees and their muscles were limp from the straining work required to control the boat.

Veteran grandaddy of rafting Martin Roy hits the center of Golfstrømmen
The journey down to camp was reasonably uneventful except for a quick flip at a rapid called “Big Bend” also known as the “Beer Machine” due to amount of beer fines being payed by the numerous guides that have accidentally flipped at this location. To ensure each student could have the maximum time behind the wheel we split the six in half with the instruction and reassurance of a qualified guide in each raft. The lucky three in the first live flip were as assumptions may have had it the stronger and tougher half of the course, but we all know where assumptions may lead you.
The turbulent water ripped everyone off the boat except for Franzi, the experienced guide on the raft who knew to cling on tightly as the raft careened into the frothing hole.
Franzi grips the O.S line. Rule no. 1 the skipper goes down with the ship, contrary to the Italian method.
The raft was re-righted and the students joined together once again paddled the remainder of the stretch down to the camp, perhaps with a little more enthusiasm and power than before.

Some beautiful drawings from one of the theory sessions
The evenings during the week were spent discussing the theoretical points of rafting and whitewater. From basic hydrology and reading the river to the fine art of delivering a successful safety talk and of course all the dangers and hazards of the whitewater environment.
Day one ended with everyone mentally and physically exhausted. Hitting the pillow most likely offered little relief, their dreams filled with torrents of raging waters, flips and eddies.

Our second day began like the first, loading the rafts and all the equipment needed for a successful river trip. A very efficient bunch our students had everything tied down and ready to roll by 9am, we were ready for another fun filled day on the water.
After recapping the previous days efforts and practicing the crucial strokes to have control of the raft we peeled out of the training eddy and headed down stream. Passing the major rapids without much trouble and catching eddies along the way it looked like things were going just a little too well. “Golstrømmen” was easily negotiated on the right and “Beer Machine” still strong in their minds wasn't getting the better of them this time round.
Master of carnage Armando Castro casually goes black side up at Golfstrømmen
The river had another plan. Shortly before camp a wave flipped the raft sending us all into a rather large feature called the “China Hole”. Named this due to the fact that as a swimmer in the hole you tend to go rather deep, all the way to China. Once we were all safely back on shore it was time for lunch and prepare for the afternoon run. However the three gentlemen that were lucky enough to experience the China Hole beat-down had other plans, rafting wasn't for them and they wanted out.
Lunch was spent talking to our beaten trainees, it felt like a raft guides version of good cop, bad cop.... (to be continued)

 

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