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Guide to Our Instructional Courses

At Northwest Rafting Company, we pride ourselves on creating more confident and skilled boaters through professional instruction. From rowing schools to International Rafting Federation guide workshops, we instruct beginners and professionals alike year-round.

Which Course is Right for Me?

One of the most frequent questions we receive is, “Which course is right for me?” The answer depends on your background, skillset, and goals. To help summarize the differences between courses, we developed this guide to help sort through course details.

Our Class IV Rowing School on the Hood River
Our Class IV Rowing School on the Hood River

If one of the categories below seems like a good fit, click it to see which course may best suit your needs!

Online Rowing School

Want to learn to row from home? Regardless of your rafting background, our online Whitewater Education and Safety Training is an excellent option for anyone seeking instruction. Plus, you can access the course indefinitely and complete it at your own pace!


Our online rowing school covers a wide variety of topics
Our online rowing school covers a wide variety of topics

In this course, you will learn the basics of river safety, techniques for navigating whitewater rapids, and basic rescue skills from the comfort of your home. Go through a couple of the videos, get out on the water and practice, and repeat.

This course is best suited for:

  • Rowers who are unable to attend one of our in-person courses
  • Rowers who would prefer to learn at their own pace without time constraints
  • Students who are enrolled in an instructional course, but want a refresher before and/or after the course

Class III Rowing School

Our Class III Rowing School is popular among rafters of all skillsets. The purpose of the course is to create more confident and skilled whitewater rowers. Topics covered in this course help lay a solid foundation of skills for students as they improve individual rowing techniques.

Our Class III Rowing Schools are on the beautiful Rogue River
Our Class III Rowing Schools are on the beautiful Rogue River

In our Class III courses, we combine instruction with a multi-day rafting Rogue River trip. This gives students the opportunity to row independently while still having the support and camaraderie of classmates.  This course is perfect for:

  • Beginners building foundational skills in rafting
  • Rowers who have spent time away from the sport and want to participate in a multi-day course for consistency
  • Advanced rowers looking to work on foundational skills before continuing on to more advanced rapids

Class III Safety & Rescue

This land based course is designed for graduates of our Class III Rowing School looking to learn more about responsible techniques for safety and rescue. We highly recommend  taking this course prior to the Class IV Rowing School.

Class IV Rowing School

The Class IV Rowing School focuses on team boating with a strong emphasis on whitewater safety skills. Topics covered on this course focus on safety and include scouting rapids, raft flipping, boating as a team, and a taste of swiftwater rescue skills.

Throw bag practice in our Class IV Rowing School
Throw bag practice in our Class IV Rowing School

These courses take place during the spring in the Columbia Gorge. This means that waters will be chilly and rapids will be challenging. We require that all Class IV Rowing School participants have prior Class III experience. This course is perfect for rowers who:

  • Are confident at the Class III level and want to challenge themselves
  • Want to build confidence working with a team on the river
  • Want to develop safety and rescue skills

IRF Guide & Trip Leader Workshops

Our rowing schools are geared towards recreational rafters, but the IRF Guide & Trip Leader Workshop is for experienced river guides. The main goal of this course is to enhance careers in rafting by addressing guiding skills that need improvement.

This workshop tests river guides through a series of practical, hands-on tasks designed for experienced commercial river guides. In order to earn an IRF Guide Certification, participants must submit a logbook, first aid certification, and CPR certification.

Trip leader emergency scenario during and IRF Guide and Trip Leader Workshop
Trip leader emergency scenario during and IRF Guide and Trip Leader Workshop

Though challenging, the course offers an invaluable opportunity to hone in on professional guiding and leadership skills. In summary, this course is good for:

  • Professional rafting guides or instructors looking to learn the best global practice for handling challenges on river rafting trips.

Private Instruction

Private instruction is best for those who want to work on a specific aspect of whitewater rafting. The “curriculum” for private instruction is unique to each rower and built on personalized lesson plans. The students who get the most out of this option are those who:

  • Create a set list of skills they want to focus on for their lesson
  • Are interested in trying new raft styles before purchasing a new one
  • Have purchased a new raft and want to practice using it with professional guidance

When scheduling private instruction, we don’t have a set schedule of dates and times to choose from. Instead, we offer it on a semi-flexible basis. From February to March, private instruction occurs near Hood River, Oregon.

During the summer our instructors may be available to teach on the Rogue River. However, the summer is our busy multi-day Rogue River trip time so scheduling can be tricky. The best days are typically prefer that lessons take place from Sunday to Tuesday.

Originally Published: | Updated on | Categorized under: Schools

Post Author

Madison Montgomery

With a background in ecology and conservation, Maddy has spent the last several years working in various fieldwork roles across the US. Though she is an Indiana native, she is thrilled to be living in the Pacific Northwest where she can hike, camp, and spend time exploring the outdoors with her dog, Kelly.