Rafting Guide Slang You Should Know

Every discipline —technical or not— comes with its own slang. Whitewater rafting is no different. When you hop on a raft and get ready for your adventure, you might hear some words that can throw you off a bit. Instead of feeling like the odd one out, you might want to get acquainted with some of those terms before your trip, so you’ll feel like another expert on board.

Here’s some river slang for you:

Big Water

Big waves, fast current, a large volume of water, that causes a lot of turbulence. If you hear anyone say heavy water, it’s pretty much the same thing. Although big water tends to refer to cases when the water is more aggressive.

Whitewater rapids in ColoradoBoogie Water

Typically, class I and II rapids that don’t require heavy maneuvering, and you can take a moment to sit back and appreciate the ride and the beauty that surrounds you.


Sounds like a friendly guy but it’s not. An eddy is a spot on the river where water either turns to head upstream or stops. Because it’s water that moves against the current, it can cause it to run in a circular motion. You can sometimes find fish that decide to hang out there.

High Side

Before collisions with obstructions like rocks, you might hear your guide say, high side! This means you need to move to the downstream side of the raft, quickly. This is to allow the current to slide under the upside of the raft.

Rafting Trips in ColoradoPFD

This is a super important one. Personal Flotation Device. You better put it one before you get on the raft.

River Left or River Right

You’ve heard of stage right and stage left before. Now, think of it in river terms. When facing downstream, river right is the right side of the river and river left means the left side of the river.

Rock Garden

Also known as boulder garden. It is a tricky spot in the river where there are rapids due to a large concentration of rocks, which requires complex maneuvering.


The rear of the raft.


Those are the most common river rafting terms. The next time you go on a white water rafting trip, you’ll be in sync with what the guide is saying.

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