First Timers Info

Last Updated on

Suggestions for first time boatpersons

Buy a Tom Martin Guide, or Larry Stevens Guide there are many helpful tips. If anything you may be able to figure out where you are.

Pushing your boat is helpful to see. Use this technique for Hey Diddle Diddle right down the Middle Runs Badger, Soap, etc. Pushing only gives you ½ the power of pulling.

Pulling your boat is your strongest stroke. When you pull you will be using your Legs, Core, Back, and Shoulders.

Learn a DOWNSTREAM FERRY ANGLE to run the big rapids

Downstream Ferry angle is when your boat is angled downstream at a 45 degree to the shore. Never pull back up against the current. Put your butt downstream at 45 degrees or more and PULL and the current will help propel you in the way you want to go. Be particularly conscious of your DOWNSTREAM oar. Your downstream oar is where your power is. Although you will pull together with both oars your upstream oar will keep your angle more than your power.


Know what a LATERAL is.

A Lateral is a standing wave that is coming off the shore or an object. Usually it is angled downstream at approximately 45 degrees. Depending on the height of the lateral, a lateral can flip a boat. Anytime one side of the boat gets jacked up so the water running underneath the boat is traveling faster, you can flip a boat. So laterals have power Use them to surf sideways to the end of the lateral by being perfectly PERPENDICULAR. House Rock has a BIG lateral above the hole. If you use this lateral correctly by being perpendicular you will surf right around the Hole. Don’t be parallel or you will flip!

When in doubt straighten Out

An 18 foot boat is Big and heavy. If you have misjudged a rapid, or found yourself where you don’t want to be, straighten out. There is a chance your boat will plow through the Giant Basalt Canyon Hole because you didn’t see the Horizon Line with spit on the other side If you are sideways you will surely flip or surf at best. If you surf? Get ready to highside. The upstream current will likely dump water into the boat jacking up the downstream side. Get your weight on the downstream side. It can make a difference and help you help the boat to surf out the corner of the hole where it is weakest. Then get back on the chopsticks.

What is a rapid?

Rapids are caused by constrictions in the river. Most Grand Canyon Rapids are caused by side canyons delivering rocks into the middle of the river causing a constriction. Before rapids you will notice that the water gets really slow. These type of constrictions are called Pool Drop Rapids. They might should be called Pool – Drop – Pool Rapids because at the bottom of all of the rapids there is a pool awaiting to pickup your lost items.

What is an Eddy?

An eddy is when the current is traveling upstream. This is usually caused when the water behind is travelling too fast for the water in front, so it squishes out to the sides of the river and travels back upstream. After many rapids there are eddies on either side of the rapid. Your group can use these eddies to sit and wait for the group, slow down, or setup safety. Some eddies like Helicopter Eddie, and Forever Eddie it is best to avoid. If you do get stuck in an eddy? Use the eddie to travel up to the top of the Eddie, Don’t burn yourself out. Turn perpendicular to the incoming current and PULL. Make sure your downstream oar is getting good purchase. Your downstream oar is your power stroke. Your cross current power is just like in a Downstream Ferry Angle.

If you are coming into dock for a hike or camp and the target beach has an eddie. Study it carefully. Where does the Eddy begin and end? Make sure you don’t pull into the top of an eddy or you will either have to fight it to shore or push back out and ride the eddy around. Use the Eddy. Drop into the eddy near the end of the eddy and it will do the work for you bringing you upstream right by the Beach with nary a stroke.

Boat ettiquete:

Typically there will be one leader in the group. All of the other boats will follow and the last boat will be a sweep boat. Most of the time it is best to put the experience or confidence in the front and back of the group. NEVER PASS THE LEADER. This will cause immediate stress for the leader. He/she will have to anticipate if you know what’s going on, if you will actually go where he/she wants, etc. A leader that doesn’t appreciate your lack of courtesy will pull over and do a hike without you and let YOU wonder what’s going on! Remember the Leader already has to juggle up to 16 cats on a daily basis. Be a Team player and do the best you can to give him confidence and make his job easier by NEVER passing him, even if you think it’s no big deal”) Don’t do it or else. He deserves to be on vacation too. NEVER PASS THE LEADER. Use eddies to slow down if you are going to fast.

If you abide by this one rule you will never have to pepper the Leader with questions. Questions like where are we going, what’s ahead, etc. will be answered by the leader moments before you reach there. Where’s the next rapid? The leader just dropped out of sight, There it is! Where are we pulling over? Leader just hit an eddy ahead, cool looks like we are pulling over.

Docking at a hike or camp:

Most experienced groups will use the same docking procedure for good organization of their group. This will help your leader anticipate a good camp setup layout or stay organized on a beach so other groups don’t berate your group for hogging the beach at a popular sight.

If your trip is pulling into a beach where the current is traveling downstream the leader will pull to the end of the downstream beach and stack up the boats behind him. 1 by one they will come into the next boat. A lot of groups will use their glom straps to tie together at camp so the boats stay together and the kitchen crew can walk from boat to boat.

If your trip is pulling into a beach with an eddy, the leader will pull into the eddy and travel back up the beach upstream. In this way the boats can come into the eddie, then travel back upstream and the leader can stack the boats running upstream. When he is ready to leave? Bada Bing 1 st man outs the leader

Unorganized groups will come in willy nilly upstream fighting the eddy, and then pull hard through the eddie and land on either side of the leader. Not the end of the world but goofy as hell Help your leader, pay attention and do your best to be a team player.

The team leader can run a sandstake for the first few folks. Because sandstakes cause damage to the beach we only send two for groups at request of the NPS. You should always backup your group to a tree. This can be easily done if you tie your boats together and one person runs a safety line to the tree.

Boat Communication:

Because distance and noise can make it difficult to communicate between boat to boat many groups choose to use a series of handsignals to help communicate between boats. These can be used anywhere land or sea.

I’m in trouble, come to me!

Wave your hands from side to side over your head. As if you are calling in a plane on a beach.

Are you OK, I’m OK

Pat your head up and down. This is the Universal signal for I’m ok. If you saw someone go over a drop and appear to hit their head. You may pat your head to ask them “Are you ok?” They can respond with an I’m OK by patting their head back or Wave their hands from side to side over their head meaning come to me.

Eddy out

With finger pointing to the sky twirl the hole arm in a circular motion. Because this message is for the whole group be a good Samaritan and pass it down the line to the next boat You will likely be pulling over to hike, lunch, camp, or SCOUT

River Left, River Right

From the time you leave Lee’s Ferry until you arrive at the takeout you should refer to each side of the river as River Left, River Right. No matter which way you are looking upstream or downstream you will always know the side of the river as though you were looking at it traveling downriver. River left is the left side of the river as if you were traveling downstream. River Right is the right side of the river as if you were traveling downstream.

Point Positive

Never point at a hole or Rock! Always point to the Good Run. If I see you point to the good run I can deduce theres trouble on the otheside of the point.

Down the Middle

Two hands together to the sky pointing straight up means Hey diddle diddle right down the middle.

Left Run/Right Run

Standing point in the direction you want the trip to go. It is understood the 1/3 left/right section of the river. Granite for example is a right run down the right side because there is a constriction coming in from the left.

Knots you will most likely use on the river-

Bowline knot to tie your bow line to your boat. It is easy to untie after theres a lot of pressure on it.

Clove hitch- A self adjusting knot that locks itself

Sheepsbend-joining two lines easily

Half hitch-tie up your boat

Figure Eight-Quick loop knot that doesn’t come out easily

Wrapping a boat

One should not touch a rock with a boat. If you do it is likely you are not paying attention and being careless. It is difficult to wrap a boat on this river because there aren’t many rocks. Consequently it is difficult to unwrap a boat on the river because of the strength of the water and width of the river. NEVER touch a rock with the boat. If you must bounce free of the rock, do so by putting your nose on the rock. You may get luck and roll off. If you come in sideways likely you will stop on the rock as a bunch of water will pour into the upstream side of the boat putting the boat on end as the current postage stamps your boat on the rock. Look at this picture. Why wasn’t the boatmen on either side of this rock? There’s so much room. Anywhere else he would have been fine but near the rock . You will be forever flogged if the NPS has to fly in and get your boat off of a rock. Pay attention.