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Speak The Lingo On Your White Water River Rafting Experience

When you take a white water river rafting experience, your guide will use plain, nontechnical language that's self-explanatory so the entire group can easily understand. You might also hear them use technical jargon when talking to other guides, though. Here are some terms you might hear them say, and what the lingo means, so you can try speaking it during your rafting experience.

Above and Below

"Above" and "below" are self-explanatory prepositions, but they don't refer to what's overhead or underfoot. "Above" refers to upriver and "below" refers to downriver.

While these terms can be used when rafting, there's usually little need to point out features upriver as you're rafting. Instead, everyone is focused on the challenges downriver, and there's usually not a need to explicitly point out that's something downriver where you're headed. Thus, you're relatively unlikely to hear these terms as you're actually navigating the river.

Instead, you're more likely to hear "above" and "below" when your guide is giving directions. They might tell a dispatcher that they're headed above as the group embarks on its white water river rafting experience. If a lost item is spotted in the water or along the river's shore, "above" or "below" can be used to indicate what direction it's in.

Bow, Stern, Starboard, and Port

The traditional language for the parts of a boat isn't front, back, right, and left. They're instead bow (the front), stern (the back), starboard (the right), and port (the left). 

These terms can both refer to both the parts of the boat and things around the boat. For instance, your guide might tell someone to head up to the bow or back to the stern. They also might alert your group to an obstacle that's off the starboard or port.

Starboard and port are sometimes the most difficult terms to remember when you're on a white water river rafting experience, but there's an easy trick to tell these two apart. "Left" has four letters, and "port" has four letters. Port means left, and starboard means right.


You probably won't need reminding that a boat doesn't necessarily have to go bow-first. While this is the usual orientation of a boat, your raft could get turned around several times during the white water river rafting experience. When a boat is going downstream stern-first, it's said to be broach. This is similar to a "breached" birth, where the child is born with their rear end first.

Book a white water river rafting experience to try out the new jargon you've learned.