Everything you want to know about rafting

Rafting is becoming increasingly popular and is a hugely exciting activity that is suitable for most people. Norway has several rivers that are world-renowned in the international rafting community and offer everything from quiet family trips to the fiercest extreme trips.

Many people have questions about rafting, so here we have collected what rafting participants like to ask before they sign up and what people wonder when they have tried their hand in the river.

1) What is rafting?

Rafting, or river rafting, is a popular summer activity where you steer an inflatable rubber boat down a river. In commercial rafting, the participants have a professional guide with them in the boat. The participants are actively involved and drive the boat under the guidance of the guide.

2) Why should I go rafting?

Because it's incredibly exciting and fun! You challenge yourself and your own limits and will experience an adrenaline rush and butterflies in your stomach. You will be completely focused on the experience then and there, you will not think about deadlines at work or that the house should have been painted in the middle of a rapid, you are alive and present in the middle of the experience.

Your stomach tickles, you look forward to the next rapid, you hold on tight and are a little afraid of falling into the water. The boat drops, the water splashes in the face and it is impossible not to laugh out loud.

In a rafting boat you have to cooperate with the other participants, here it is no use running your own race, you have to paddle in time and follow the guide's commands to steer the boat.

In addition, rafting is a magnificent natural experience, with cascading rivers and great scenery.


3) Is rafting dangerous?

As with most activities in nature, there is a certain risk involved in rafting. There are strong forces at work in a river, and long experience both with rafting in general and in the individual river is a prerequisite for being able to operate safe rafting.

The guide needs a lot of experience, both in general and in each individual river, to be able to safely guide boats with guests. Rivers change a lot with the season and weather conditions, what may be impossible to raft in the spring flood can be a nice stretch for families later in the summer. A rapid that is usually fun and exciting can turn into a death trap at a certain water level. Therefore, all serious rafting companies have a thorough overview of all rapids in their rivers at different water levels.

There are fatal accidents worldwide every year, but most of these involve people rafting on their own, without familiarity with the river and without guides and the necessary safety equipment.

In Norway, 3 people have died in connection with commercial rafting in the last 20 years. This is of course three too many, but compared to many other activities it is actually very low. Statistics from the USA and New Zealand show that such an innocent activity as hiking has a far higher injury rate (percentage) than rafting.

Rafting can never be 100 % safe as you are doing it in nature, and the river's forces are strong and potentially dangerous. However, with modern Norwegian safety standards, there is no reason to be afraid to try rafting.

The most common injury on a rafting trip is an injury when a participant is hit by another participant's oar while paddling, or a bruise if you trip and bump into a rock.

In Norway regulates Regulations on the safety of rafting rules and requirements for rafting companies and the equipment used.


4) The history of rafting

Guiding rafts down rivers is one of mankind's oldest means of transport. In 1862, John Fremont of the US Army led an expedition on rafts built on inflatable rubber tubes down the Platte River in Nebraska. Around 1960, rafting began as a commercial activity, first at the Grand Canyon in the USA and eventually the activity has spread to the whole world.

In 1970, rafting was recognized as an Olympic sport. In the 80s and 90s, the spread increased even more and rafting companies around the world were constantly using new rivers. Commercial rafting began in Norway in the 1980s.

In the first decades, rafting was very much an extreme sport and unfortunately many people lost their lives in accidents. Gradually, expertise has increased and many countries have introduced laws and regulations that regulate commercial rafting. The pioneers laid the foundations for what is today a relatively safe activity.

5) Grading of rivers

The degree of difficulty of a river or rapid is graded according to the following scale:

Grade 1: Flat water
Grade 2: Water in motion, few or no obstacles
Grade 3: Strong current with obstacles and rapids. Maneuvering is necessary.
Grade 4: Strong current with large rapids and difficult passages. Maneuvering is difficult, there is a risk of the boat going around (flipping).
Grade 5: Extremely difficult and only for the specially interested.
Grade 6: Impossible to raft, it's too dangerous.

It is said of the highest graded rapids that «In a grade five rapid you think that you'll die, but you don't. In a grade six rapid you think that you'll die, and you do».


6) Who is rafting suitable for?

Depending on the type of trip you choose, rafting can suit the vast majority of people. There are family tours even for small children and extreme tours for experienced tough guys.

The most important criterion for going rafting is that you are not afraid of water. If you are really afraid of splashing water and getting wet, you will not have a pleasant experience, because it happens on most trips.

7) What are the requirements for rafting participants?

On most rafting trips you must be able to swim. There are some exceptions for the quietest family trips. It is also required that the participants are not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Certain diseases and conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, back injuries or pregnancy can make rafting difficult or dangerous. If you are in doubt, ask the guide or the rafting company.

Much can be solved with a little extra planning, whether it concerns chronic diseases or special handicaps as long as the rafting company is informed in good time.

Serious Fun has a permanent group of deaf participants on rafting every year and has both found out how communication in the boat can be done and made a separate safety video for deaf participants.


8) Which tour should I choose?

Different rafting companies use different names for their trips. Check the grading they provide on their rivers and rapids to get an idea of the difficulty of the trip:

Family rafting, mini rafting: Rafting in rivers and rapids up to grade 3 is suitable for families with children and those who want a trip without too many challenges. Here there is little chance of an involuntary swim.

Normal rafting, super rafting: Rafting in grades 3 and 4 contains more action and excitement, and is suitable for young people and adults who want excitement and speed.

Extreme rafting: Rafting in grades 4+ and 5 is suitable for participants who have tried rafting before and who know what they are getting into and how they react in the water.

These trips usually have an age limit of 18 and you have to expect to end up in the water, either because you fall out of the boat or because the boat flips (turns around).



9) Where can I raft in Norway?

Started in Norway Norwegian Wildlife and Rafting with rafting in Sjoa in 1984. Gradually, rafting has spread to many rivers around the country. Rafting started in Dagali as early as 1989 and somewhat later Voss also became a well-known rafting destination.

Today there are many companies that operate rafting in many of Norway's rivers:

Serious Fun – Numedalslågen, Dagali

Full On – Numedalslågen, Dagali
Daily experiences – Numedalslågen, Dagali
Jølster Rafting Jølstra and Stardalselva
Elvepurka - Jostedøla, Jostedal
Flat Earth – Bjoreio, Eidfjord
Troll Active – Syrtveitsfossen, Evje
The Trysil Guides – Trysilelva, Trysil
Voss Rafting Centre – Strandaelva, Raundalselva, Voss
Adventure Norway - Mandalselva
Valldal Nature experiences - Valldal
Experience Oppdal - Drive
Beitostølen Active & Ski School - Wow
GoRafting - Wow
Heidal Rafting - Wow
Sjoa Rafting Centre - Wow

Rafting can vary greatly from river to river, so even if you have rafted in Sjoa, rafting on Voss can provide a completely different experience. Some rivers are very technically demanding, you have to work as a team all the time to hit the lines correctly and something happens all the time. Other rivers have a lot of water, it flows and feels wild and violent, other rivers are smaller, but not necessarily calm. Some rivers only have rafting up to family level (grade 2-3), others have rapids up to grade 5, which has a lot to say about the experience.

In Norway, a rafting trip generally lasts from half to a full day. Abroad, you can also go on multi-day rafting trips, for example one week trip through the Grand Canyon or one 12 day trip in Nepal/ Himalayas?


10) When should one raft?

It depends on where in Norway you are, but generally the season lasts from the end of May to September/October.

The best rivers for rafting are quite high up in the mountains, as the rivers become calmer and flatter as they approach the sea. In the spring, the ice must go completely from the riverbanks before you can start. In autumn, it is usually the cold that puts an end to the fun, when there are sub-zero temperatures in the air both day and night, rafting becomes an experience for those particularly interested.

During the snowmelt, the rivers run high and things go fast and wild. Then certain parts of the rivers are too violent for safe rafting. In early July it usually calms down and this is the time for the greatest variety of trips.

River stretches that were wild and violent a few weeks earlier are now suitable for family trips and areas that could not be rafted are opened up for extreme and normal trips, depending on the river and water level.

Later in the summer it is very dependent on the weather. If the summer is unusually dry, it can be difficult to raft in many places, if there is unusually much rain, you may have problems with the rivers becoming too violent. Fortunately, most rafting companies have several options when it comes to stretches of river, so there are usually areas that are suitable.


11) What equipment do I need for rafting?

In the middle of summer, you only need swimwear/underwear and a towel to dry off afterwards. You can borrow helmets, life vests and wetsuits.

Most companies also lend wet shoes, but in some places you have to bring your own trainers. Check with the company you will be rafting with.

Early in the season and throughout autumn, it may be wise to have a little more warmth and it is wise to wear woolen underwear or thermal underwear/fleece under the wetsuit. Avoid cotton, it just makes you colder. Wool socks can also be a good idea early and late in the season.

If you wear glasses, it pays to have a sports cord for them, so you don't lose them along the way. Rafting with contact lenses is perfectly fine, but be sure to close your eyes at the biggest water splashes.

Many people want to take a camera with them on the trip, but these are usually mostly in the way and it is difficult to take pictures in the middle of a rapid. If you have an action camera, this can easily be attached to the helmet, otherwise the rafting companies tend to offer photos and/or video from the trip so that you can take home a memory.


12) What is special about a rafting boat?

A rafting boat is made of reinforced rubber/plastic and consists of several inflatable elements. If one of these chambers should puncture, the boat must still be able to float and be maneuverable with people on board.

Rafting boats come in different sizes, in Norway boats with room for 6-8 guests are most common. There are also small boats "duckies" that only have room for 2 people. Both participants and guide each have an oar which is used to propel the boat forward and to steer.

In some countries it is common to use rafts with oars, where the guide maneuvers the boat with long wooden oars. Then the guide steers the boat all by himself. The rowboats are often used on long rafting trips, over several days, where the participants want to be passengers, or for transporting equipment on longer trips. These are not common in Europe.

For most rafting participants, helping to steer the boat is an important part of the experience, and the interaction with the rest of the team is important to get to the right place at the right time.


13) Who are the rafting guides?

Rafting guides are a separate people that can be found in different varieties all over the world. Rafting is a seasonal activity in most places and the guides like to work one season in one part of the world and the next season on the other side of the world. Fortunately, many come back year after year and become part of a permanent team. This is important in order to maintain a good enough knowledge of the river in which you are rafting.

The rafting guides must also know people well and be able to reveal who pretends to be tougher than they really are and who perhaps should not raft the toughest rapids on the trip. There may also be insecure participants on the trip who need a little extra help to feel safe.

Rafting requires good physical fitness and most guides are relatively young, under 40 years of age. Since the work is seasonal, you cannot make a living just being a rafting guide in Norway, so either you have to work in another part of the world in the winter or you have to have a winter job at home in Norway.

Good rafting guides are always keen to show off the wonderful river they work in and to take care of their guests in all situations. After the rafting trip is over, it also happens that some participants are more than willing to be looked after by young, well-trained rafting guides...

14) How do you become a rafting guide?

To become a rafting guide, you must complete a WTR course (Whitewater Rescue Technician/River Rescue), which must be updated every three years, and then complete training as a training guide at a rafting center. The number of trips required before one can take one's own boat with customers down the river varies from place to place, but around 100 training trips are quite common. As a rule, a few years follow as a junior guide before you can be approved as a senior guide and tour leader.

15) What other river activities are there?

There are also other ways to get down a foaming river.

Kayaking is popular and Norway is a well-known destination for kayakers from all over the world

Duckies is an inflatable canoe for two people that can be used in still water and in rapids

River board is a styrofoam board that you lie on. One uses flippers and steers down rapids and surfs in waves and eddies

SUP - "stand up paddle" is a surfboard to stand on, which is controlled with a long paddle oar. SUP can be used in calm rivers and on flat water.

16) Why is rafting a great activity for team building?

Rafting is very suitable as an activity for groups, whether it's a company that wants to work on better communication or a school class like us to have better interaction between the students.

In a rafting boat, everyone must work together to guide the boat, everyone must accept commands from the guide and comply with the safety rules that exist. Then you get an exciting experience, where many will experience that they are pushing their own limits and you get a tremendous adrenaline rush when the boat slides down the rapids so that the water splashes. You absolutely live in the moment on a rafting trip, everything else is unimportant.

Later, you gather to digest the experience with photos and video, perhaps also around a campfire in nature where the trip really sinks in. The experience you get together stays for a long time afterwards.

Book rafting here: Online Booking