How Are Whitewater Rapids Classified?
If you go whitewater rafting with us, you may hear us describe rapids in terms of different classes. There’s a good reason for this–going out on the water requires at least some kind of knowledge of what the rapids will be like. You can’t jump in blind, as higher classes may be out of your personal skill level. Higher classes don’t mean more fun; difficulty is based upon very specific circumstances. If you want to know more about rapid classification, read on.
What it Means
First of all, rapid classification is not something that is professionally and widely agreed upon. We may classify a rapid as class IV, while someone else may say it is a class III. Both are correct, in their own ways. You should always be aware of why someone is classifying a rapid the way that they do, because if you’re not strong in the skill that is required, you might want to stay away.
Here are the following classes, presented on a scale of I to VI.
- Class I: This is a rapid for beginners. It has gentle waves and little to no obstacles, and is perfect for beginners.
- Class II: Rapids that may require you to use basic maneuvering skills in order to navigate simple, yet relatively quickly moving water.
- Class III: These rapids will have waves that can be difficult to navigate. They will have passages that require more precise navigation.
- Class IV: Scouting may be necessary for this class, as there are difficult and narrow passages coupled with rough waters.
- Class V: This is the most that is possible in a raft. It requires scouting from shore. It also makes rescue difficult, and there is great peril involved.
- Class VI: The highest class of rapids presents a possibility of the loss of life. They are nearly impossible, and extremely difficult; they should only be executed by professionals.
The range of difficulty, as you can see, is wide. But rapid classification is important, and you should always be matching your skill with class.
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