Questions And Answers About Whitewater Rafts And Gear
Guiding the Olympic Course of the Upper Ocoee

Questions And Answers About Whitewater Rafts And Gear

Fast Fred Rafts

Questions And Answers About Whitewater Rafts.

The Parts of the Raft

The intent of the section of whitewater questions and answers is to explain the purpose of different raft parts and river gear. I am hopeful this will make you better informed and safer on the water. It might even help you have more fun while whitewater rafting.

What's a thwart?

Thwarts are the small tubes that run across the raft floor from one external tube to the other. Thwarts help the raft maintain structural integrity especially in more dynamic water. This helps the raft resist flipping in holes and big water. Soft thwarts can help rafts flip in big water holes like Godzilla and Humongous on the Upper Ocoee's Olympic section.

What's the tube?

The tube is the external flotation of the raft. The tube that run the perimeter of the raft is made up of multiple chambers. The air pressure of these chambers can be dialed in for the desired characteristics of the rafts handling. Harder rafts tend to flip easier in big holes. Softer rafts to create larger pop us or possible ejections. It a trade off with some pros and cons.

What's the chicken strap?

The chicken strap is the tubular webbing attached to the exterior of the raft by D-rings. The chicken's primary purpose is to help crew members re-enter the raft after a swim.

When should I grab or hold the chicken strap?

You grab the chicken strap when swimming and re-entering the raft. Only when you are not in the raft or you want to flip the raft to swim with the whole crew. Generally speaking grabbing the chicken raft while in the raft is bad form and often bad luck.

How do I get back in the raft?

First you swim to the raft and grab chicken strap with a d-ring between your hands. For best result it is recommended to have you hands roughly shoulder-width apart or less. While extending your body and feet along the surface and away from the raft vicariously kick you legs and swim into the raft while using you upper body to clear the tube. Don't let go of the chicken strap until you have cleared the center of mas tipping point. Grab a thwart and finish pulling yourself in.

Don't worry you raft-mates will help and assist you back in faster. All guides had to do this as part of their training. During the safety talk before your trip everyone will be taught how to pull someone safely back into the raft. It is very important to participate in your own rescue as well as the rescues of other crew members.

You mean we don't sit on the bottom?

No, you sit on the outside tube next to the thwart. Be careful not to face your back to the outside of the raft. Unless of course you would like to fall out and swim.

How does the raft drain?

The floor is inflated with a pressure relieve valve to protect it. There are drain holes along the perimeter of the floor. As the floor rises water escapes through the drain holes. This system works because air is lighter than water.

Other Important River Gear

What is a PFD?

PFD most often stands for Personal Flotation Device but could also stand for Personal First Descent. Your personal flotation device helps you float as well as providing some degree of impart protection. It is extremely important that your PFD is properly fitted. Guides check to assure proper fit but some guests will loosen their PFD when the guide is not watching. When these guest fall out their PFDs occasionally fall off or otherwise do not help them float high enough to breath well. However the final test is being hauled back into the raft. An improperly fitted PFD may come off in the process leaving the victim in the water with not PFD.

Why am I required to wear a Helmet?

Your helmet helps to protect your head from impacts. Often excited guests let t-grips fly about injuring themselves or others. The typical helmets used by outfitters are one size fits all. Make sure you follow instructions and properly adjust your helmet. The better you fit your helmet the better your odds of avoiding injury. My outpost also has some helmets with GoPro mounts by request in case you want to video your trip.

Can I adjust my helmet or wear it further back on my head to avoid a funny tan line?

People and especially young girls are often seen doing this. While you might avoid a temporary tan line you risk a more permanent scar or bruise.

What are the parts of a paddle?

Paddles are made up of three parts: the t-grip, shaft, and blade. The t-grip being the most dangerous. It is important to always hold your t-grip with your hand wrapped around it. You hold the shaft about a shoulders width from the t-grip with your other hand for best power. The blade should be completely immersed during each stroke.

Why are shoes required?

Rocks in and near the river can be sharp or harmful to feet. Shoes are important to protect your feet. Water shoes old tennis shoes and even sports sandals like chacos and tevas are acceptable. Some of the river related gear I use can be found at my amazon shop.

Learn more about wearing the proper gear to stay comfortable on the river in my video about What To Wear Rafting? And What To Avoid Wearing While Ocoee River Rafting?

Fast Fred Ruddock in Ecuador overlooking Otavalo

Got Questions About Ocoee River Rafting Or This Blog Article?

I am Fast Fred Ruddock and I would be happy to give you honest answers to your questions about rafting or the Ocoee River. You may email me directly with your questions for concerns at fastfredruddock@gmail.com and if you would like to come rafting with me be sure to check out Fast Fred Rafts for the latest details.


I began rafting when I was young during the 1970 with my family. We had several of our own rafts between my parents, grand parents, aunts, and uncles. My family loved playing in the water; I grew up rafting, sailing, and surfing. As I grew older and technology improved I began to get serious about kayaking and creek boating as well. I became an ACA certified kayak instructor and have shared the sport with countless others over the years. Living along the banks of the Green River in North Carolina I have access to some of the best world class rapids to hone my skills.

During my long off-season from rafting I primarily travel solo through Latin America. Ecuador is likely my favorite country to visit but I also enjoy Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. Working as a river guide in the southeast during summers in North America I don't earn a lot of money and live close to the federal poverty level. In spite of this I live a rich life on a frugal budget. If you would like to learn more about traveling in Latin America or maybe some frugal travel tips visit Fast Fred Travels.



Curious about how I can travel so light or what I use on the river? Want to know more about the gear I carry abroad on my extend trips in Latin America or while rafting and kayaking? Here's your chance to dig into my Amazon shop for an inside look. If you make purchases via this shop I will get a very small commission but it will not increase your price what so ever.