Dodgeball Lesson #2: White Water Rafting is Dangerous

Posted on March 03, 2013 at 11:52 pm |

Dodgeball Lesson #2: White Water Rafting is Dangerous

Sometimes, dodgeball teaches you about life.  Sometimes, life teaches you about dodgeball.  Allow me to share.

My first time white water rafting was about 8 years ago on the Thompson River.  All the conditions were perfect.  The water level was just right, providing us with huge waves and many of them.  Also, our raft guide was slightly crazy which made things more dangerous and more fun.  Everything was going as smoothly as expected (as far as paddling down a river on a rubber boat allows) until about halfway through the trip when I learned a most valuable lesson (and a few minor ones).

Life lesson: When on a rubber boat, sit on the opposite side of the biggest person there.

Here is why.  Half way through our trip we hit a section of giant waves, some getting close to 10ft tall.  The key to survival, as our guide instructed, was to paddle through the waves.  Being a good crew member, I was doing just that.  Suddenly, we hit a huge wave and our raft quickly tilted.  I was on the opposite side from where the wave hit.

(Dodgeball translation: You can do everything right but just like a wave, a throw can hit you at any second.)


And sitting beside me was the biggest person on the boat.


This was bad for many reasons, the most obvious one being that most of the weight of the boat was on one side, which further increased our chances of tipping over.  However, that isn’t the biggest cause for concern.  These reasons have also been proven scientifically or observed by me (both very legitimate).

Why you should sit on the opposite side of the raft of the biggest person, as I discovered, is the funnel effect.  What is the funnel effect?  The biggest person was sitting in the middle of the raft, so when the wave hit and the raft began to tilt, the equilibrium was disturbed and the weight distribution was now centred on this large person.  In addition to the bendy nature of the raft this caused a funnel to be created with the exit point being the where large person sat.  Therefore, anyone near the funnel point would have a greater chance to fall out.


While the person causing the funnel would fall out first, physics dictates that large masses have a greater attractive force, what some would call a gravitational pull.  Needless to say, I was doomed.  The wave hit our raft, causing it to tilt, triggering the funnel effect and as the cause was falling out of the raft, I got caught in the gravitational pull and fell out also.  The next thing I saw was a white wall engulfing me, and then I was in the river.  Once that happened the boat levelled out and didn’t tip over.  Coincidence?  I think not…

But the story doesn’t end there my friends.

After being underwater for several seconds I re-emerged to the surface (relatively calm) and my friends on the raft made their first attempt to save me by sticking out their paddles to reach me.

Mini lesson: A paddle has two ends – the large side otherwise known as the paddle and the opposite end known as the grip. When attempting to rescue a person who has fallen off a boat/raft make sure to hand them the grip end.  The paddle end is really, really hard to hold onto. This was reiterated many times in the rafting introduction.

To pull me back into the boat, my friend extended to me his paddle.  Paddle side…so while still in the water I got hit by another wave and was unable to hold onto the paddle.  I got pulled back underwater and when I popped out again I was 50m away from the raft.

Rescue attempt #1: Fail.

(Dodgeball translation: Some people just need a bit more time with the rules than others)

We weren’t the only raft on the river (we raft in a group, safety first) so another guide stepped in to help.  Still 50m away but every guide has a lifeline that they can throw to try to reel you in.   Another guide sees me and decides it’s best to save me (good idea) but in the process cuts off my raft to get closer to me before throwing the lifeline.  However, this specific guide did not play dodgeball and that rescue attempt fell short.  Literally, as the lifeline probably only went 2m in the air.  Witnessing this is real time, the only thought that ran through my head was “unfortunate.’


Rescue attempt #2: Fail.

My raft guide sees this, shakes his head, then proceeds to throw his lifeline at me.  He definitely had the power, the problem this time was the accuracy wasn’t there.

(Dodgeball translation:  No one cares if you can throw super hard if you can’t even hit the side of the barn.)


Again, unfortunate.

Rescue attempt #3: Fail.

Seeing this, people started yelling at me to use my paddle (which I held on to the whole time while this was happening.  And by the way is what you are supposed to do when thrown off a raft) like I was on a boat.  I did just that.

Life lesson: using a paddle like you are on a boat when you are not actually on a boat just makes it look like you are drowning.

(Dodgeball translation: moving around so much isn’t going to help you when you don’t know what you’re doing.)

The weak-armed guide and his raft crew sees me (looking like I’m drowning) decides to direct their raft and paddle towards me.  I see them coming and I’m relieved this strange turn of events is about to end.  As the raft began to quickly approach me I realized something…how is this thing going to stop?  Turns out it doesn’t really.  As I see my rescuers coming ever so close and ever so fast the only thought running through my head was, “unfortunate.”

Rescue attempt #4:  Yay?

(Dodgeball translation: going all out without a plan, doesn’t always lend itself to success.)


Yes, while trying to save me, the raft ran me over.  The underneath of a raft is surprisingly clean, if you were ever curious about that.  Somehow, after that, they pulled me out of the water and we continued on with our day.

So the next time, when you inevitably have to find subs and you have no choice but to grab someone who has never played before and they say, “Throwing balls at people?  Isn’t that a little dangerous?”  Ask them, if they were ever thrown off a raft due to the gravitational forces of a large human being in a Class 4 river which led to witnessing three failed rescue attempts and a questionable success that resulted in being run over by a raft.  Now that is probably dangerous.  Dodgeball, not so much.

This leads to the conclusion of dodgeball lesson #2.

Dodgeball Lesson # 2: Dodgeball, it’s not that dangerous.

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