A Bruin Guide to a Great Summer


By Mark Davis

Published Jul 1, 2007 8:00 AM

Life in the Raft Lane: Tessa Sibbet '04

Tessa Sibbet began river-guiding after her sophomore year at UCLA. Six summers later, she's guiding in Idaho and California for All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting. Sibbet also does the company's Web marketing with fellow guide Robyn Suddeth '04. Here, Sibbet explains how to run the rapids without getting in too deep.

Clothes make the rafter

"Flip-flop sandals are a sure sign that you've never been rafting before," Sibbet says. What happens to the unfortunates who wear them? "We have to duct-tape the flip-flops to their feet." So, best to wear footgear that will stay on your feet, sans tape, like Keens, Chacos, neoprene booties or running shoes.

Dress for the weather, but remember that it's cooler in the mountains. "In the summer, gear should be simple. A hat, quick-dry water sports shorts, and a swimsuit. In the spring, it's all about staying warm by wearing layers. Don't wear cotton on the river, especially if it's cold." She suggests synthetic fabrics. Most companies will rent wetsuits and splash tops for when the weather is cool.

Water falling

Once you hit the water, she says, don't worry too much about falling out. Novices want to duck and lean into the boat, which is a mistake. "It helps to have a paddle in the water going through the meat of the rapids, because it's another point of contact and adds stability," she says. "Also, it will help ensure that the boat gets through the rapid."

Experienced rafters, however, may get overly confident. "They forget to work as a team, or they stop respecting the smaller rapids. They are often the ones to fall out."

Enjoy the ride

If you're rafting with friends, you'll bond over the experience. If you're rafting with strangers, expect to exchange e-mails by the end of the trip. Finally, Sibbet says to challenge yourself with a multiday experience. "You become a close-knit group. And you get to explore the canyons more intimately; relax in side creeks with pools, waterfalls and jumping rocks; spend the night under the stars and eat gourmet meals on the river. It is one of the most relaxing and fun ways to spend a vacation."