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Is There a Difference Between Riverboarding & Hydroboarding? Everything You Need to Know

Riverboarding is one of the newest watersports, and we’ve come up with a comprehensive run down on everything you need to know about the sport that is rising to the occasion.


Question: Is there a difference?

Short answer: No! 

Although more commonly known as Riverboarding, the sport of riding a board in prone position down crashing rivers is referred to as hydroboarding and whitewater boarding. It’s one of the more recent boardsports out there, and already has grown in popularity as a recreational actively- and a sport!

If you are familiar with whitewater rafting or kayaking, you’ll find yourself drawn to riverboarding, where getting slapped in the face by the crashing waves happens multiple times per minute. Riverboarding can definitely hold its own when compared to it’s older, more distinguished cousins like surfing, kitesurfing and other whitewater sports, but the accessibility of riverboarding is a huge plus. 

For so long, people have been limited to living close to the beach or taking a trip to the coast in order to enjoy surfing style sports. Riverboarding now offers a way to have a similar experience, and can be done wherever there are rivers. 


Riding the River Rapids

Riverboarders are practically in the water, feeling the full force and power crash directly onto their body. Using a polyurethane board in the shape of a sledge, riverboarders ride the descent of the rapids, laying face down and holding onto the handles on the board. Your upper body would be touching the board, while your lower body and legs would be above, floating into the water.


Riverboarding fast facts: 

  • Besides a board and wetsuit, booties, life vest and helmet, riverboarders wear flippers on their feet to help control the speed, and acting like rudders. 
  • Find the best sections of rivers for riverboarding located in high mountain areas, offering a perfect descent down the rapids.
  • Consider that the best time of year for riveboarding is the spring. Why? Because that’s when everything starts t othaw, meaning more water moves down the mountains, filling the rivers and create the perfect space for riverboarding in the rapids as there is a greater volume of water.
  • The Noguera Pallaresa is often hailed as the best river in Europe for practicing riverboarding as it have over 37 miles of near perfect riverboarding conditions. 


Learning the ins and outs of Riverboarding

So you want to learn how to riverboard? The first thing you need is an instructor who knows the ins and outs of all thing riverboarding. They will help you progress quickly and make sure you understand how to riverboard safely and efficiently, correcting any mistakes that could turn into back habits down the road. They can also help you find the correct board and equipment that you need to successful riverboard. 

Before heading off on your riverboard adventure, your instructor, who usually teaches in a group setting, gets everyone together on land. You’ll go over handling the board, making turns, speed, and more. From there, you’ll get into the easy waters, practicing what you just learned on land. Once you get the hang of it and understand what to do, your group will begin your descent into the rapids, and have the time of your life! From there, you’ll need to keep practicing what you’ve learned, and before you know it, you’ll be skillfully handing the rapids like a pro.


The Best Riverboarding Locations in the USA

Wherever mountains and rivers are, you’re bound to find a good riverboarding area. Places like Oregon, Colorado, California, West Virginia, are hot riverboarding locations with a rising group of whitewater enthusiasts. Eastern Utah has one of the best rivers for riverboarding – Green River. 

Cutting a deep gore through 1000 foot cliffs and desert monoliths, the view is just as amazing as the riverboarding that takes place in the waters below. Like anywhere else when riverboarding, you’ll be submerged at face level with the whitewater, with the building up of adrenaline and speed as you travel faster than you’d imagine through the rapids.

Riverboarding is generally practiced in the same rivers that whitewater kayaking and rafting are, as these sports are best preformed within these same times of waters. However riverboarding offers more of an adrenaline rush due to the riverboarder literally being fully-immersed in the whitewater itself—which is much different than navigating it from a boat. 

Riverboarding as a whole is a physically demanding sport. It  requires a solid grip to keep on your board, as well as good swimming skills. In the possible event you and your board are separated, it’s required that you know how to swim and get yourself to safety.


The French Origins of Riverboarding

Riverboarding is now practiced across the world, with competitions taking place in various locations as well. While riverboarding is slowly but surely growing in numbers, to be a true fan of the sport, you must know its history. 

It’s believed that riverboarding was first started in the French Alps in the 1970s by a group of rafting instructors. These instructors were searching for a new kind of adrenaline rush by being more in contact with the water—more so than kayaking or rafting. They first took life jackets and tied them together and did a combo of floating and swimming with them, and this eventually lead to the creation of the first riverboard – the prototype of the riverboard we have today. 

However, this isn’t the only area in the world that is credited with this creation of riverboarding, particularly in other areas known for extreme whitewater. New Zealand, for example, has had rafting guides explore the ideas of using a surf -like board to traverse it’s white water. California surfer, Robert Carlson, also was one of the first to play around with the idea of “riding the waves” of the rapids. 

There Are Countless Areas Of Exploration 

There are countless areas of exploration and innovation within the riverboarding space, developing new boards and techniques that can progress skills and style when riverboarding. The sport has always had it’s own space and fringe group of enthusiasts, and today the sport is seeing more and more interest. The more people involved in a sport can help it continue to lie on in countless ways—bigger competitions, more accessible to others, and all around growth and enjoyment! 

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