Questions And Answers About Ocoee River Guides And Rafting

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Your guide often can make or break your whitewater rafting experience.

Personality, experience, safety, fun… local tips food and points of interest to visit

What do you want out of your rafting adventure. What are your expectations

Yes the rafting industry is a service industry. As a result guides rely upon tips heavily for compensation. Pay in the southeast is very low and competition among outfitters is fierce. Due to the fierce competition among outfitters they are always trying to cut costs to attract more customers. Pay for guides is quite low as a result.

Like most service industries 20% of total trip cost is standard. However if your guide went above and beyond you may increase your tip to show gratitude or appreciation.

There are roughly two dozen outfitters competing on the Ocoee River for customers. As a result competiton is firiece and guide pay is one of the casualties. Trip pay for guides is really low even for senior experienced guides. Outfitters expect good guides to earn tips. This does have a side effect of removing less desireable guides. As a result guides depend upon tips to eat and pay the bills. Base trip pay is typically less than $50. First year guides may earn significantly less than $50/trip. Basiclly you determine what the guide earns. Please be generious. Guides are extremely appreciative of tips given by happy guests.

Safety boaters are rarely tipped unless something goes wrong. However if you see safety boaters odds are good it is a high water day and the most experienced guides are working both in the rafts and kayaks. Tips are highly appreciated.

Guides work with the crew to safely navigate challenging rapids. Following paddle commands helps ensure a fun and safe rafting adventure. The guides do not want to flip the raft or other wise increase the risk of injury to their guests.

Guides are navigating through technical rapids on the Ocoee River. It is critical that the crew follows command promptly and correctly. Random paddling will increase risk of incidents to both you and the crew. If you do not want to follow the guides instructions consider visiting the easier Class II Nantahala River and renting a raft there without a guide.

It depends on what your dream trip is… do you want a super chill easy run down the Middle Ocoee or a spicier ride? …

Typically the people that answer the phones at most outposts are not guides and often not rafting or whitewater enthusiasts. They are often retail sales representatives. Their goal is to make a sale and most often they read from a canned script the outpost provided. Take answers and descriptions with a grain of salt. I am a seasoned river guide and whitewater enthusiast and my goal is to help you make informed decisions in your best interest. While my livelihood depends upon folks requesting and coming rafting with me, I would prefer well informed guests with reasonable expectations for what they are getting into rafting.

Those wishing to become guides should apply to outfitters at the beginning of the year just after the holidays. On the Ocoee River you should expect to train every weekend from the beginning of April through Memorial Day Weekend. It is certainly a plus to be fit and strong when you arrive for training. A positive and cheerful attitude is required to become a successful guide. You will not be paid during the training phase so it is important you have enough money to eat and take care of your hygiene and health.

Guides need to be strong enough to load and unload rafts from the tops of the buses used to carry the guests and rafts to and from the river. Heavy rafts are especially difficult to control and demand strong guide to steer????

This is largely up to the rafting guests and the amount they choose to tip. Guides on the Ocoee River are among the lowest paid. The roughly two dozen outfitters on the river are highly competitive with one another trying to attract customers. Most are seeking the lowest priced trips and others are just trying to remain competitive in the tight market. Outfitters expect guides to earn tips to survive. They also use the??? and use this as a strategy to eliminate the guides that lack in personality or skill over time

If you pay attention, follow commands promptly, and paddle effectively you will greatly improve your overall rafting experience. Remember your guide wants you to have an incredible rafting experience as their livelihood depends upon it. This section is intended to explain paddle commands and their purposes.

Get down means to get as low as possible. The lower center of mass is a tool your guide uses to keep you in the raft. This command and procedure will be covered and demonstrated during your safety talk. Your guide will almost certainly cover this in his or her trip speech before hitting the whitewater.

First you move your feet to the back of the thwart directly in front of you. If you are in the first row you pull your feet out of the cups and move your feet as far forward as possible. Next you drop your butt to the floor. Meanwhile you hold the blade of your paddle straight up. Never angle your paddle blade forward nor back to avoid injuries to others.

High side means the rafting is flipping. By climbing towards the highest side of the raft you can help prevent the flip. Timing is everything because by the guide says this it is almost too late!

All forward means paddle forward together until you guide says stop. It is extremely important the crew stay in time with one another. Equal power from both side of the raft is also critical. This command might be given to crash through big breaking waves or holes and hydraulics.

Sometimes guides will use the crew to help pivot the raft and maintain momentum. This can be especially true in the Olympic Course of the Upper Ocoee. Just know which side you are on and follow instructions for the best experience.

Lean in means to lean toward the center line of the raft. However you should keep your butt on the tube. Doing this properly is important for helping the guide keep you in the raft as well as allowing the guide to control the raft.

You lean your head and torso towards the lengthwise center line of the raft. Toward the person to your left or right. Don’t worry you both have helmets on. Be careful to keep your handle on the T-grip at all times.

If your guide asks to you lean left or right it is either to edge the raft with more control or prepare the crew from a jolt to the other side of the raft. You will certainly want to follow these instruction promptly in either case.

T-grips are the number one instrument and cause of injuries to rafting participants. Often your t-grip will injure you but it may also injure a loved one or another crew member.

The t-grip in the hard plastic T on the top of your paddle. You must hold it at all timed with your inboard hand for safety and to be ready to paddle at a moments notice.

Guides have seen the damage t-grips can do. They don’t want you to have a bad experience. They also don’t want to open the first aid kit and write an incident report for such an avoidable injury. T-grips can and do knock out teeth in addition to other hammer like blunt force injuries.

The guides generally invest in better helmets. Especially those of us that are private boaters.

PFD is an important investment for any boater and especially professional boaters. Personal flotation devices suitable for commercial work are quite expensive.

A good pair of guide shorts will last more than season. They also provide pockets for some small items.

Quick dry shirts are the only way to go if you are on the river all day on a daily basis.

Water shoes when conditions call for them I wear my Astral Brewers. The provide some warmth and protection for my feet. If concerned about fungus I wear chacos.

Dry bag containing first aid kit. This kit meets the required USFS standards for the Ocoee River. It is a little heavy. I will try to add a video about its contents this season while working on my recertifications

Throw ropes are used to extend the reach of the rescuer. Handy for retrieving swimmers.

River knife a must to cut ropes as a safety measure.

Carabiners, webbing, and prusik loops are useful for retrieving pinned rafts.

Water bottle is need when on the river all day with few breaks. Hydration is a must for guides. We consume a lot of water.

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 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.

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