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A riverboarder floats down the Kern River at about 110 m /s (4,000 cu ft/s). KernRiverboarding01.jpg
A riverboarder floats down the Kern River at about 110 m /s (4,000 cu ft/s).

Riverboarding is a boardsport in which the participant lies prone on their board with fins on their feet for propulsion and steering. This sport is also known as hydrospeed in Europe and as riverboarding or white-water sledging in New Zealand, depending on the type of board used. [1] [2] Riverboarding includes commercial, recreational and the swiftwater rescue practice of using a high-flotation riverboard, designed for buoyancy in highly aerated water.



Riverboarding is believed to have originated in the late 1970s. It is claimed to have originated in France, where raft guides stuffed a burlap mail sack with life vests and went down rapids. [3] Soon, riders adapted a personal submarine shell for their molds, and the plastic version of the riverboard was born. Sometime in the 1980s, Robert Carlson began running rivers in California, U.S.A. using an ocean bodyboard and ended up making his own board that was bigger and thicker and had handles. Later in 1986, Ged Hay began taking his body board down the Kawarau River near Queenstown while on his days off as a rafting guide.

European riders also developed a foam version (called a hydrospeed) of the plastic board to reduce weight and avoid injuring each other during collisions that sometimes resulted from one rider travelling downstream and another facing upstream while surfing a hydraulic. Today, homemade foam hydrospeeds are found primarily among European riders. A growing sport in North America, riverboarding has grown in popularity from media exposure and the emergence of commercial operators running riverboard trips.


Hydrospeed Hydrospeed.jpeg

Riverboarders typically wear fins to provide the thrust to navigate in river currents, while a personal flotation device provides additional buoyancy. Wetsuits, booties and helmets are worn as protection from the cold and from rocks. Additionally, shin guards, gloves, knee pads, thigh pads, and elbow pads are sometimes worn for extra protection on shallow rivers. Instruction, board design, and gear continue to improve, making riverboarding safer and opening up the possibilities of rapids that can be run on a riverboard and new tricks that can be performed while surfing on the belly.

Rescue use

In rescue use, the board is used to support both rescuer and victim in the water during rescue. The rider must engage both mind and body—thinking about the best way to go down a river while using their fins for the propulsion to get out of harm's way. Riverboards can offer rescuers a valuable chase option to access victims swept downstream who may not be accessed by hand or rope.


Several companies operate riverboarding or sledging excursions in New Zealand near Queenstown, Wanaka, and Rotorua. Several companies also operate guided riverboard trips in the United States near Missoula, Montana; Sacramento, California; Bend, Oregon, and eastern Tennessee. In South America, river boarding is popular on the Rio Fonce in San Gil, Colombia. [4] One company based in Voss, Norway, offers riverboarding in several rivers in the area. In Europe the Soca river in Slovenia is a notable location with more extreme options available for more experienced riders. In Canada, the Lachine rapids, on the Saint-Lawrence river near Montreal, boarding is also offered. [5] A commercial riverboarding operation commenced on the Tully River in Queensland, Australia, in 2014.


Mike McVey currently holds the record for the tallest waterfall riverboarded with his descent of the 31-meter (101 ft) tall Metlako falls on Eagle Creek in Oregon. [6] Mike Horn previously held the record for the tallest waterfall riverboarded with his descent of a 22-meter (72 ft) tall waterfall on the upper reaches of the Pacuare River at Costa Rica.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Boardsports are sports that are played with some sort of board as the primary equipment. These sports take place on a variety of terrain, from paved flat-ground and snow-covered hills to water and air. Most boardsports are considered action sports or extreme sports, and thus often appeal to youth. A large proportion of youth partaking in these sports, together with aesthetic damage to property from sports like skateboarding, has led to many board sports being marginalized by the greater world of sports in the past. However, many board sports are ever-more frequently gaining mainstream recognition, and with this recognition have enjoyed wider broadcast, sponsorship and inclusion in institutional sporting events, including the Olympic Games.

Whitewater Bubbly, or aerated and unstable current

Whitewater is formed in a rapid, when a river's gradient changes enough to generate so much turbulence that air is trapped within the water. This forms an unstable current that froths, making the water appear opaque and white.

Bodyboarding surface water sport in which the surfer rides a bodyboard

Bodyboarding is a water sport in which the surfer rides a bodyboard on the crest, face, and curl of a wave which is carrying the surfer towards the shore. Bodyboarding is also referred to as Boogieboarding due to the invention of the "Boogie Board" by Tom Morey. The average bodyboard consists of a short, rectangular piece of hydrodynamic foam. Bodyboarders typically use swim fins for additional propulsion and control while riding a breaking wave.

Surfboard elongated platform used in the sport of surfing

A surfboard is an elongated platform used in surfing. Surfboards are relatively light, but are strong enough to support an individual standing on them while riding an ocean wave. They were invented in ancient Hawaii, where they were known as papa he'e nalu in the Hawaiian language, they were usually made of wood from local trees, such as koa, and were often over 460 cm (15 ft) in length and extremely heavy. Major advances over the years include the addition of one or more fins (skegs) on the bottom rear of the board to improve directional stability, and numerous improvements in materials and shape.

Whitewater kayaking Type of water sport

Whitewater kayaking is a recreational outdoor activity which uses a kayak to navigate a river or other body of whitewater or rough water.

Skimboarding water sport

Skimboarding or skimming is a boardsport in which a skimboard is used to glide across the water's surface to meet an incoming breaking wave, and ride it back to shore. Wave-riding skimboarders perform a variety of surface and air maneuvers, at various stages of their ride, out to, and back with, the wave. Some of these are known as "wraps," "big spins," "360 shove-its" and "180s." Unlike surfing, skimboarding begins on the beach by dropping the board onto the thin wash of previous waves. Skimboarders use their momentum to skim out to breaking waves, which they then catch back into shore in a manner similar to surfing.

Kawarau River river in New Zealand

The Kawarau River is a river in the South Island of New Zealand. It drains Lake Wakatipu in northwestern Otago via the lake's Frankton Arm. The river flows generally eastwards for about 60 kilometres (37 mi) and passes through the steep Kawarau Gorge until it joins Lake Dunstan near Cromwell. Before the construction of the Clyde High Dam, the Kawerau joined the Clutha River / Mata-au in a spectacular confluence at Cromwell. The Shotover River enters the Kawerau from the north; the Nevis River enters it from the south. With many rapids and strong currents, the river can be dangerous and has claimed many lives: it is also popular for bungy jumping and kayaking.

Wild Wadi Water Park outdoor water park in Dubai

The Wild Wadi Water Park is an outdoor water park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Situated in the area of Jumeirah, next to the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the water park is operated by Jumeirah International, a Dubai-based hotelier.

Disneys Typhoon Lagoon one of two water parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is a water theme park located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida near Orlando, and is one of two operating water parks at the resort. It is the second water park to open at the resort, preceded by Disney's River Country which closed in November 2001.

Personal flotation device Equipment to help the wearer keep afloat in water

A personal flotation device is a piece of equipment designed to assist a wearer to keep afloat in water. The wearer may be either conscious or unconscious.

Buoyancy aid Flotation aid worn by kayakers, canoeists and dinghy sailors

Buoyancy aids are a specialist form of personal flotation device (PFD) used most commonly by kayakers, canoeists and dinghy sailors. They are designed as a flotation aid, rather than a life-saving device and have several key differences to other PFD's and lifejackets. Regardless of the specification of buoyancy aids, they do not provide the same high level of protection as lifejackets.

Creeking Canoeing and kayaking involving the descent of waterfalls and slides

Creeking is a branch of canoeing and kayaking that involves descending very steep low-volume whitewater. It is usually performed in specialized canoes and kayaks specifically designed to withstand the extreme whitewater environment in which the activity occurs. In addition, the canoes and kayaks give the paddler improved performance and maneuverability needed to avoid river obstacles.

Rescue buoy Torpedo-shaped lifesaver

A rescue buoy or rescue tube or torpedo buoy is a piece of lifesaving equipment used in water rescue. This flotation device can help support the victim's and rescuer's weight to make a rescue easier. It is an essential part of the equipment that must be carried by lifeguards. It further can act as a mark of identification, identifying an individual as a lifeguard.

Standup paddleboarding water sport

Stand up paddleboarding, or SUP, is a water sport born from surfing with modern roots in Hawaii. Stand up paddle boarders stand on boards that are floating on the water, and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water. The sport was documented in a 2013 report that identified it as the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants in the United States that year. Variations include flat water paddling, racing, surfing, whitewater SUP, yoga, and fishing.

Cardiff International White Water White water sports venue in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff International White Water is an Olympic standard white water rafting centre based at the Cardiff International Sports Village in Cardiff Bay.

Roman Rapids

Roman Rapids is a white-water river rapids ride located in Festa Italia of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia. It is themed after a canal race through Roman ruins and leaves riders fully soaked after the ride.

WhiteWater West

WhiteWater West is a manufacturing company based in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. It was established in 1980 and manufactures a variety of products for water parks including water slides and water play areas. The company also owns FlowRider, which produces a line of surf simulators, and Vantage, a guest engagement and operational optimization platform.

Horse surfing is an extreme sport invented in 2005. It requires two people, a horse, and a board. Horse surfing involves one person riding either a kite-board, surfboard, wake-board, or skim-board, while being towed behind a horse, ridden by a second person, through shallow water, at speeds up to 40 miles per hour (64 km/h). After originating in England the first official horse surfing competition was held in 2006 in La Baul, France, and over the last 14 years the sport has continued to spread internationally. Today there are several international competitions with globally established rules and categories.


  1. Extreme Dreams (dead link)
  2. White Water Sledging. Extreme Dreams
  3. Frogz White Water Sledging
  4. Colombia Rafting
  5. https://raftingmontreal.com/en/rates/river-boarding-in-montreal/
  6. "Metlako Falls Riverboard".