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kern river

Riverboarding is the North American name for a boardsport in which the participant is prone on the board with fins on his/her feet for propulsion and steering.

 This sport is also known as hydrospeed in Europe and white-water sledging in New Zealand.  Riverboarding includes 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, when raft guides stuffed a burlap mail sack with life vests and went down rapids. However, as no boards were involved in this practice, true riverboarding may have been invented by American Robert Carlson. During the 1980s, Carlson began running rivers in California using an ocean bodyboard. He felt that the boards sank too much, so he made his own board that was thicker and more buoyant, and with handles and a slick bottom. Soon, riders adapted a personal submarine shell for their molds and the plastic version of the riverboard was born.

European riders also developed a foam version (called a hydrospeed or sledge) 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 very popular among European riders. It didn't take long for the plastic version to find its way to New Zealand where the sport gained in popularity and is known as sledging.

Though still a sport with a small number of participants, riverboarding has grown in popularity from media exposure and the emergence of commercial operators running riverboard trips.


Riverboarders typically wear fins to provide the thrust to navigate in river currents, while a personal flotation device provides additional buoyancy. Wetsuits, gloves, booties, helmets, and knee pads are worn as protection from the cold and from rocks. Additionally, shin guards, and thigh 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.

Rescue useIn rescue use, the board is used to support both rescuer and victim in the water during rescue. In rescue use the rescuer is often tethered to a control line, as in a "live-bait" 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.

RiversSeveral companies run sledging excursions in New Zealand near Queenstown, Wanaka, and Rotorua.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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