Extreme Sports Terms: Whitewater Rafting

By Donald Ray Bernard

If shooting down rapids, dodging rocks, and navigating waterfalls sounds like a nice day out on the river, whitewater rafting may be for you. While some people enjoy a nice, relaxing day of fishing or grilling from the shore, rafting aficionados prefer the thrill of the fast-paced maneuvering involved in whitewater rafting. For sports lovers seeking a bit of excitement on the water, the following is a list of terms to make any beginner sound like an expert.

Above: Located upriver.

Backroller: A wide area where the water flows in the reverse direction, often caused by a large, stationary object.

Bar: An area where the bottom of the river is raised due to an accumulation of debris, dirt, sand, or rocks.

Beam: The width at the widest point of a raft.

Below: Located downriver.

Big Water: An area of the river where large amounts of water carry extreme force and, as a result, danger.

Boil: An area of water that makes the shape of a hill.

Chute: An area between two stationary objects that flows downhill at a more rapid rate of speed than surrounding water.

Dump Truck: When a raft dumps all or part of its load, including equipment and people, but does not capsize.

Hair: A churned-up area of water moving at a high rate of speed that is covered in aerated foam.

Hole: An area of water moving in the opposite direction of the water around it that is moderate to narrow in width and found below an underwater object. It is also called a souse hole.

Pitch/Drop: A steep section of a rapid.

Punching: Increasing the raft’s speed to gain enough momentum to get through a difficult area.

Sleeper: A rock under the surface of the water that is not easily detectable.

Taco: When a raft bends in half, causing the stern and bow to touch. This is often caused by underinflation.


A Short History of Skiing by Donald Ray Bernard

Skiers trace the origins of their sport back thousands of years to its beginning in Northern Europe and Asia. References to skiing appear in Norse myths that portray certain deities hunting on skis. The word “ski” itself may have evolved from an Old Norse word that meant “split piece of wood” or “firewood,” or from the Finnish word “suksi.” The first skiers are believed to have carved their equipment from large animal bones and used leather toe straps to attach their boots to the skis. Wooden skis, however, have been found in Russia dating from 6300 BC, and similar findings have been made in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It is thought that early skiers used their equipment primarily for hunting and traveling across flat ground, since the loose nature of the leather bindings would have made downhill runs impossible.

Since that time, skis have seen military use, such as when scouts from Norway used skis to spy during the Battle of Oslo in AD 1200. In 1747, Norway formed a military ski company that eventually developed ski bindings that attached at the toe as well as the heel, enabling skiers to make secure downhill runs. At that time, the fit of the bindings still largely restricted turning and braking actions.

More modern forms of skiing were made possible in 1850 when Sondre Norheim introduced improved bindings made from wet, twisted birch roots. The roots hardened and formed bindings that provided greater control for skiers than leather straps had, allowing more complex maneuvers. Near that time, woodcarvers began creating lighter, thinner skis. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, skiing enthusiasts pioneered new speed control, stopping, and turning techniques. These innovations paved the way for freestyle stunt-skiing contests.

The first recreational ski club opened in Kiandra, Australia in 1861. By the 1930s, alpine skiing as both a leisure activity and competitive sport was gaining popularity in Europe. Equipment manufacturers continued providing safer and more performance-enhancing skiing gear throughout the decades, while dedicated athletes brought increasingly better training and new techniques to the sport. Currently, skiing is the most popular winter sport in the world.

About Donald Ray Bernard: In addition to his military and legal career, Mr. Bernard’s written works include the text Origin of the Special Verdict As Now Practiced in Texas, published in 1964. He also co-authored the novel Bullion, published in 1982. Donald Ray Bernard is an enthusiastic skier who prefers downhill and Nordic disciplines.