Rafting or whitewater rafting is a recreational activity utilizing a raft to navigate a river or other bodies of water. This is usually done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water, in order to thrill and excite the raft passengers. The development of this activity as a leisure sport has become popular since the mid 1970s.
Rafts were originally the simplest form of mans transportation in water and were then made of several logs, planks or reeds which were fastened together. Nowadays, inflatable boat were used as rafts which were later adopted by the military for beach assaults. It consists of very durable, multi-layered rubberized or vinyl fabrics with several independent air chambers. Its length varies between 3.5 m (11 ft) and 6 m (20 ft), the width between 1.8 m (6 ft) and 2.5 m (8 ft). The exception to this size rule is usually the packraft, which is designed as a portable single-person raft and may be as small as 1.5m long and weigh as little as 4 lbs.
Rafts come in a few different forms. In Europe the most common is the symmetrical raft steered with a paddle at the stern. Other types are the asymmetrical, rudder-controlled raft and the symmetrical raft with central helm (oars). Rafts are usually propelled with ordinary paddles and typically hold 4 to 12 persons. In Russia, rafts are often hand made and are often a catamaran style with two inflatable tubes attached to a frame. Pairs of paddlers navigate these rafts. Catamaran style rafts have become popular in the western United States as well, but are typically rowed instead of paddled.
Classes of Whitewater:
Class 1: Very small rough areas, requires no maneuvering. (Skill Level: None)
Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, might require maneuvering.(Skill Level: Basic Paddling Skill)
Class 3: Whitewater, small waves, maybe a small drop, but no considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering.(Skill Level: Experienced paddling skills)
Class 4: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp maneuvers may be needed. (Skill Level: Whitewater Experience)
Class 5: Whitewater, large waves, maybe large rocks and hazards, maybe a large drop, precise maneuvering (Skill Level: Advanced Whitewater Experience)
Class 6: Whitewater, huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, maybe huge drops. Attempting a Class 6 will most likely end in serious injury or death. If someone navigates a 6 without harm, luck can be given most of the credit. (Skill Level: Expert)