Donna and I are interested in getting a shredder raft, so we took R2 training. Let me say right away that rafting is more work than kayaking. You really have to get your back into it when you are making a move!

A lot of people have told us “just get a raft and teach yourself.” I don’t think so. There are paddle strokes you use on a raft that you rarely use when in a kayak, like the “pry” or a “J Stroke.” If you are a canoer, these strokes may be familiar to you, but they were not something we knew about.

We took the training with Curtis England at Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Curtis is a great instructor. He not only taught us the strokes we needed to know, but also how to set up the raft, how to inflate it and the pumps you need, how to unpin a raft, how to get back into a raft when you are tossed out, how to pull a swimmer into a raft, and how to get a raft back up when it has flipped upside down. Something important we learned was how to get off a rock when you are stuck on it, something that happens a lot on the Nantahala when you are learning to raft.

Finally, Curtis gave us instruction on how to guide from the back of the raft as well as sitting side-by-side.

We made two trips down the Nantahala. On the second trip down, Curtis let us take the raft down Nanty Falls without providing us any help, except to suggest what route we should take. You can see him with his hands inside his PFD and smiling. You can also see Donna smiling, but I am very, very serious.


Getting tossed out of a raft is not a lot of fun. I got “rocketed” out of our raft and landed on a rock on my back. Had I not been wearing my whitewater PFD with a fully padded back, I would have been in serious trouble. I strongly suggest that if you are going to raft in a rocky river bed, you wear a whitewater PFD and, of course, a helmet.

For information about NIC, visit https://noc.com/


Donna and I ventured out on our own in a Hyside Maxi-Me 3-person raft. The training we received from Curtis at NOC came in very handy, and I am happy we decided to take the training rather than learning on our own. We used the “J Stroke” and “Pry” almost exclusively to turn the raft, occasionally using a sweep.  We got stuck on one rock early on but using what we had learned, shifted our weight to get off it. Other than that, we maneuvered quite nicely down the Nantahala River. If you know that river, you know that there are a lot of rocks you can get stuck on!

Here we are taking on Nanty Falls.