High safety standards prevent incidents on rapids

Brett Johnson

Sacramento State students ventured down the rapids of the American River’s south fork on rafts this weekend, allowing first-year students the opportunity to forge tight bonds with fellow classmates.

While Peak Adventures opens enrollment to all students for whitewater rafting trips during weekends in August and September, the two trips on Saturday and Sunday were reserved for the 25 students enrolled in the First Year Seminar course.

Brian Anderson, Sac State alumnus and head raft guide for Peak Adventures, said the organization started its rafting program in 2004. San Francisco State University did away with its own rafting program, and sold its permits and equipment to Sac State.

“What Peak Adventures has always been about is allowing students to attempt and experience something new and different,” Anderson said. “Our whitewater rafting has been generally geared towards beginners – we want the opportunity to be open for anyone.”

On both days, students arrived at 9 a.m. at Camp Lotus, located approximately 35 miles from Sac State. The students traveled on a 10-mile stretch of the American River, a trip that lasted around four hours from start to finish.

The trip’s cost was provided for the students, aside from a $5 travel fee for the buses that brought them to and from Sac State. Funding for the trip came from student fees and ASI grants, as it is part of the Freshman Seminar program.

Normally, Peak Adventures’ regularly scheduled rafting trips at the same location costs $70 for students and $100 for the public. Peak Adventures also offers a $200 four-pack, which brings the price of an individual whitewater rafting trip to $50 for students.

“I mean, these students are really lucky to be experiencing what they are at such a small cost,” Anderson said. “Especially when you consider all the safety gear and preparation that goes into these trips.”

Each rafter is required to have a helmet, a personal flotation device and a paddle. Participants are also required to fill out medical release forms in the case of an injury.

Before embarking on Peak Adventures’ three large rafts, Anderson gathers students around to inform them about safety in the river.

Anderson instructs students on the “no blood rule,” which clarifies the pointy-ended paddles should not be used as weapons – to prevent participants from accidentally poking eyes or teeth.

“We take pride in our safety standards and our good safety record,” Anderson said. “All of our guides have been extensively trained in first aid and CPR. We also have rescue equipment such as ropes and pulleys.”

Freshman government major Alan Castellanos took part in the trip on Sunday. Castellanos said he felt only slightly anxious before the trip began. Afterward, he said the trip ended up being way more intense than he expected.

“The most extreme part of the river was this rapid named ‘Hospital Bar,'” Castellanos said. “It was a really fast rapid with a completely vertical plunge. When we hit the bottom of it, the whole raft was engulfed by a wave and everybody was drenched with cold water.”

Powerful rapids did not put a damper on common river shenanigans, which Castellanos referenced as being the most fun element of the rafting trip.

“Throughout the whole trip, we were splashing each other and having a really great time,” Castellanos said. “It is definitely an experience that I would recommend anyone to try.”

Brandon Evans, Sac State alumnus and rafting guide for Peak Adventures, said the whole experience is equally enjoyable for the guides, who go through a week-long training program to become paid employees for Peak Adventures.

“Rafting has changed my life,” Evans said. “To have a job where I get to be out on the river, doing what I love, with my friends … it really does not get much better than this.”

For the students, Evans said getting thrown into the dangerous situations whitewater rafting can present requires an incomparable level of trust.

Anytime someone is thrown from the raft during periods of high-intensity rapids, others in the raft must work quickly to help that person. Every second matters when trying to keep the fast-moving current from sweeping that person away.

“With any sport, you are going to be doing team-building exercises, but this is possibly the best bonding experience out there,” Evans said. “Part of that is because you are literally having to work together to survive.”

Freshman criminal justice major Allison Snedden agreed with the sentiment, adding that these are the sort of activities that will make for significant memories of college life at Sac State.

“Rafting makes me more excited than nervous really,” Snedden said. “Being able to challenge yourself while at the same time forming bonds with others and becoming more familiar with my peers is amazing.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]