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How to Speak River Guide

Never heard of an “eddy slam” or a “GOB”? Then let us guide you through the lexicon of the river guide…

Beer Fine

“Fines” to be paid to other guides for mistakes on a rafting trip. For example – 1 beer per guide for forgetting personal gear, one crate of beer for a flip or a guide/safety kayaker swim. Some say it’s good for team building, others see it as a way to ruin penniless first year guides. 

beer fine

Booty Beer

The “punishment” for swimming as a kayaker (as if the act itself is not bad enough). A pint of beer to be drunk from an unwashed river shoe, dirt et al.


Bucket Boat

An older style of raft that does not have a self-draining floor. Bucket boats fill up with water when waves break on them and need bailing out – hence the name. 

Bus Talk

A river guide’s attempt at stand up comedy, with a few safety notices thrown in.


A Nepali word used as the equivalent as “cheers” when drinking. Literally: “bottoms up!” – shouted when a raft flips.


Chicken Line

1: To run the safest line through a rapid, dodging as much danger as possible.

2: The rope around the outside of the raft, that customers hold on to in the roughest rapids. Also commonly referred to as the “OS” or “Oh Sh-” line.

Custy Gear

The equipment given to rafting customers. Often not very flattering – high float vests and human cannonball helmets.

custy gear


An inflatable kayak for customer use, regularly seen spinning in circles or paddling rapids sideways.

Dump Truck

When a raft gets caught in a hole and rises up on end, throwing everyone out of the back.

dump truck

Eddy Slam

Paddling fast in to a large, deep eddy and calling a downstream over to dip the tube and flip the boat or lose customers.

Front Guiding

1: For a raft guide to steer the boat from the bow of the raft in technical water, sometimes whilst double guiding with someone in the stern as well.

2: A customer who tries to steer a raft, against the intentions of the guide. The rafting version of the back-seat driver, but worse.

Fun Run

A social rafting trip made up of guides, with no customers present. Fancy dress costumes, beer and inflatable pool toys are often in evidence. 


Geek Beak

A velcro-on helmet visor, in the style of a baseball cap. 


Guide Over Board – see “Beer Fines”

GoPro Whore

A POV camera obsessive, often found with their helmet off, licking the lens. “Is it on? Am I blinking?”


Green Room

The bottom of the river, especially in a sticky, recirculating hole. A place where time itself slows down and people find religion. Anyone that takes a trip to the green room will have a war story forever more.



A type of toilet used on a rafting trip. The term originates from multi-day expeditions on the Grand Canyon where everything that is carried in, needs to be carried out again…   .50 Calibre ammunition boxes were found suitable for carrying human waste, but left groove marks on the user’s backside. 

Guiding Leftie

Most rafties have a preferred guiding side when they paddle, the one that they feel more confident on. “Guiding leftie” refers to a guide who normally paddles on their right trying out guiding on their other, weaker side. Expect less than ideal lines at first… 

Guide Stick

A heavy duty paddle designed to be used by raft guides. Often with a longer shaft length to account for the increased stern rocker of a raft and a larger blade size for more powerful strokes.

Guide Tan

The PFD-shaped sun tan lines from going “Suns out, guns out” in the summer months.


Hard Boater

A guide in a plastic kayak, amongst a group of customers in inflatable duckies.

Kayak Porn

Carnage reels and films of people kayaking off high waterfalls, the porn of the paddling world. Except it’s more socially acceptable to watch this in groups. 

Little Johnny

1: The term used to refer to a young rafting customer who’s name you forget when re-telling a story.

“Little Johnny in the front dropped his paddle just as we hit the hole and I had to tell his Dad not to try and swim after it.”

2: The name that first aid trainers like to use in most examples on courses for some unknown reason. Whoever Johnny was, he had some serious health problems.

“You find little Johnny unconscious on the ground. What do you do first?”

first aid


A rafting trip with many boats. More rubber than water.

mega train

“No such thing as a bad crew”

Short for “there’s no such thing as a bad crew, only a bad guide.” The suggestion that any guide worth their salt should be able to get any combination of uncoordinated mortals down the river in one piece. Also a reminder that it’s not cool to complain about your “custys.” Oddly, you only hear the phrase uttered by those having a good day.


Out of Boat Experience. A customer or guide unintentionally swimming a rapid. 


Old Man River

 He’s guided more rivers than you’ve had hot dinners and still shows the young ‘uns how it’s done. Whilst others struggle against the flow, Old Man River dances in time with the water, moving his boat with an ease that comes only from experience. Often seen sporting a geek beak – a look that only he can pull off.


One Trip Boats. A raft that has been repaired so many times, that it only goes out on the water as a last resort, during peak season. Take a foot-pump, or enjoy the dizzy head rush gained from blowing up a rapidly deflating boat by mouth.

Phantom Strokes

The actions of that one mysterious customer, who can’t help themselves from paddling after the “Stop” command has been called and spins the boat against the will of the guide. But who is it?

Pinball Rafting

A technique common on low volume rivers, whereby the guide bounces off, or pivots around rocks to move around in a rapid.


Punter Paddle

A normal length customer paddle. Guides may choose to use punter paddles in low water.

Pushin’ Rubber

To make a living from guiding rafts. Hence, raft guides are “rubber pushers,” as opposed to having “pen pushing” office jobs.


Japanese for “Sea Otter” – a way of explaining the defensive swimming position to Japanese customers that makes perfect sense to them and utterly baffles anybody else.


Rig To Flip, Dress To Swim

Preparing for the worst – clipping gear in to the raft and dressing for the possibility of a cold water swim on a hot day.

River Kill

Any rafting client of the opposite sex, who falls for the charms of a guide. It may have been just one night, but the guide will be dining out on the tale for ever more. 

Sacrifice To The River

Anything accidentally dropped in to the water. Sunglasses, cameras and flip lines are all suitable sacrifices.

Safety Boater

A guide in a kayak that paddles with a rafting trip, to help rescue any swimmers.

safety  kayakers

Short-stickin’ it

When a guide that normally uses a longer guidestick ends up using a normal length customer paddle.

“I left my guidestick back at the base. I guess I’ll be short stickin’ it today”

Shuttle Bunny

Anyone willing, or paid to drive the shuttle for a paddling trip. Often a non-kayaking girlfriend.

Special Points

Much like “Man Points,” nobody really keeps tab of special points. They’re easily gained though, through a mix of exhaustion, complicated logistics and making snap decisions on the water. Add an extra language barrier in and you’re well away. Examples of acts that would win special points:

– Driving the customers to the take out, rather than the put-in.

– Loading customers on to the bus with no paddle or without PFDs.

– Calling the wrong “highside” in a rapid, causing the raft to flip. “I meant left!…”


A party trick to show off at camera points. The guide jumps in to the air at the top of a wave train, whilst the boat drops into the trough of the wave. They get launched high out of the boat and make a star shape with their body. Extra style points for a paddle air guitar. Points deducted for swimming, getting hurt on landing or injuring clients with their paddle.


Summer Teeth

A classic example of a cringe-worthy raft guide joke. If you let go of your T grip, people will end up with summer teeth. “Some are over here, some are over there.” Badum Tish.


When the front and back of a raft fold in on itself when hitting a rock or a hole, making the boat look like a taco wrap.


In this instance, to teabag is to lift a paddle as high as possible out of the water when returning it to the starting point of the stroke, like removing a tea bag from a cup. This often slows down the stroke and causes the customer to paddle out of time.

Tea Tray

When a raft gets caught in a hole and rides up vertically on it’s side, throwing everyone in to the water, without actually flipping.


T Grip

The part of the paddle which you hold on to with your top hand, specifically designed for precision dentistry.


Tiger Line

To bravely (or foolishly?)  paddle the line through the meatiest part of a rapid.

riger line


Trip Leader. The senior guide who is in overall charge of a rafting trip. Duties include organising logistics, making decisions on the river and hand picking the most attractive customers for their own raft.

Truck n Trailer

When two rafts runs tight together in a rapid to offer mutual safety cover.

Turkey Boat

A raft full of trainee guides.


A phrase made popular by raft guides from Wisconsin and the Dirt Bag Padders Facebook page. One word, many meanings. The short definition: an exclamation on seeing a swimmer, or a flip. The longer version: here. 


When the force of the water pins a raft up against a rock and the boat wraps around it, unable to move anywhere. Worthy of a beer fine.



An Arabic word, often used as slang by Israelis. Many Israeli backpackers in Nepal book on to rafting trips and so the word is slowly creeping in to use with the rafting community. Yalla means “Hurry up!” or “Come on!”

“Yalla, let’s go!”
“Get a yalla on!” 

Zorro Lines

Tan lines resulting from a season of wearing Chaco sandals on the river.


5 Stack

To load rafts 5-high on a trailer. Often involves a display of the most inventive manual handling techniques known to man.

8 pax

(Of 14ft rafts) To carry one more person than the raft is designed for, to avoid paying for an extra guide. Really disliked by those guiding low volume rivers. The raft becomes sluggish and there is less room for the guide to work his magic.

“8 pax again? Sure, why not just bung a few more in?”


  1. simon
    November 13, 2015 - Reply

    fun read, bookmarked for later to swat up on some more terms to drop into conversation so I may look more experienced than i am

  2. iboutdoor
    November 14, 2015 - Reply

    I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. April
    November 15, 2015 - Reply

    What about Weenie Dippers!?! Those people that only half paddle, causing the guide to work harder.

    Or there’s R1ing, R2ing, etc…

  4. iboutdoor
    November 16, 2015 - Reply

    Weenie dippers, nice! I’ll be stealing that one.

  5. Jared
    November 28, 2015 - Reply

    We call’em lilly-dippers in southern WV

  6. Cara
    October 19, 2016 - Reply

    100% wish you had dropped this knowledge on me in May

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