International Rafting Federation Guide Training & Education Q & A

by Zachary Collier

In March 2019 we are offering an International Rafting Federation (IRF) Guide Training & Education (GTE) workshop. In this article IRF instructor Mark Hirst answers a few of the most commonly asked questions.

Q: What is the IRF?

A: The International Rafting Federation (IRF) is the international body that represents the sport of rafting and river conservation around the globe. It also organizes the rafting world championships each year. The Guide Training & Education (GTE) program operates from within the IRF.

Throw bag practice in an IRF GTE course

Throw bag practice in an IRF GTE course

The aim of the GTE system is to increase safety in rafting world-wide by creating and managing a system of personal competence awards that ensure a set of global safety standards for commercial whitewater rafting.

Learn more about IRF GTE Awards on the International Rafting Federation Web Site.

Q: Is this an instructional course or a test of my guiding abilities?

A: The workshop is predominantly a test of your guiding ability. We want to promote current best global standards so there will be a lot of new techniques and open discussions. This workshop is open to guides, trip leaders, and safety boaters with previous experience.

Q: Why should river guides take this course?

A: The workshop will address any areas of your guiding skill set that may need improvement. By having an instructor from outside of the USA observe your skills you are opening yourself up to learn the current best global practices.

Discussing safety in and IRF GTE Workshop

Discussing safety in and IRF GTE Workshop

Q: Do rafting companies in the United States require IRF certification?

A: No. The IRF certificates are a statement of competence that are recognized and accepted in over 40 countries. For any guides wishing to travel overseas the IRF awards are a useful resource when applying for work.

Q: What do I need to do to pass an assessment?

You will need to attend a guide workshop. During the workshop you will be asked to perform some practical tasks. For each of the tasks you will be given a score of between 1-5 points.

Raft flip practice

Raft flip practice

The areas in which you will be assessed on will vary depending on which award you are to be assessed for. During a typical raft guide assessment you can expected to demonstrate:

1. Pre-departure safety demonstration/talk
2. Raft guiding & river running skills
3. Personal whitewater swimming skills
4. Throw bag rescue skills
5. Rope work skills
6. Flip drill test
7. Standard IRF multiple choice exam

If you wish to be assessed as a class 3 guide - all of the skills below must be demonstrated on class 3 water.

Q: What is the safety kayak & safety raft assessments?

A: The IRF realized that the role of the safety kayaker/rafter within in a commercial whitewater trip is a specialist skill set that requires additional rescue skills and river running skills in order to operate within a commercial trip.

Discussing the finer points of safety kayaking

Discussing the finer points of safety kayaking

The safety kayak/raft assessments are normally added tp a workshop to allow students to gain some extra valuable rescue training and hopefully pick up another IRF award.

Q: Are there any other benefits to joining an IRF workshop?

A: Yes. IRF workshops attract guides from all over the world from a variety of rivers and operations. This gives the students on the workshop the opportunity to learn current best global practice. IRF workshops are also a great social networking opportunity for raft guides.

Guides in a Guide Training and Evaluation (GTE) Course

Guides in a Guide Training and Evaluation (GTE) Course

Q: What is the structure of the award scheme?

A: The GTE system has 7 designations

  1. Guide (Responsible for guiding a commercial as part of a commercial rafting trip)
  2. Safety Rafter (Responsible for providing a rescue platform during a commercial trip)
  3. Safety Kayaker (Responsible for providing a rescue platform during a commercial trip)
  4. Event Safety Technician (Dedicated to providing safety cover at race events)
  5. Trip Leader (Responsible for the overall running of a commercial trip)
  6. Instructor (Responsible for educating & assessing guides & trip leaders)
  7. Assessor (Responsible for assessing instructors)

Each designation from guide to instructor will have its own restriction. In total there are 6 restrictions:

A full copy of the IRF award structure can be found on the International Rafting Federation Web Site.

Q: What are the minimum requirements needed to hold & maintain an award?

A: The Minimum requirements needed to hold an IRF award are:

Q: What do I get?

A: You will receive a detailed feedback report after the assessment leaving you with a clear pathway to your future development. Once your IRF award fee has been processed you will receive a digital PDF certificate sent to you via Email. A photo ID card will also follow later. Your name and qualification will also then go live on the GTE data base on the IRF Website. All IRF awards are valid for 3 years when supported by a valid first aid certificate.

Originally Published: | Updated on



Zachary Collier

Owner of Northwest Rafting Company, Zach Collier combines international guiding experience in places like Siberia, Bhutan, and Chile with a natural business acumen for systems and logistics. Whether he’s on big water or in the back office, Zach strives to ensure NWRC offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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