For safety reasons we limit participation on whitewater trips to those paddlers with appropriate levels of experience and skill.  Because a large number of people boat with us, it is impossible for Trip Leaders to personally  know everyone's paddling ability.  Therefore, we use a paddling skill rating system, ranging from Class I to IV (see skills to be demonstrated).

Trip Leaders require participants have a Boston Chaper paddling skill rating or the experience and skills equivalent to the class of river the trip plans to run.

For most beginners the best method for receiving a paddling skill rating is by attending an Instruction Trip.  However, we also have river rating process where by experience leaders can observe and rate paddlers on a recreational whitewater trip.
If you have questions, please email us.

Ratings card:  doc download or pdf download


Paddler responsibilities
Notify the trip leader when signing up for trip that you want to be observed for a new rating and remind the leader on the morning of the trip. You can do this on both club and non-club trips (but in all cases the observer must be a qualified observer on our roster - see below).
Trip leader responsibilities
If possible, place the paddler in a river group with a qualified observer, ask the observer to observe the paddler throughout the day, and tell the paddler who the observer is. A qualified observer is someone with an L or SL rating at or above the rating sought, except for class IV when a qualified observer is someone with a class IV.
Observer responsibilities
  • Observe the paddler throughout the day to determine whether the paddler has the skills for the rating sought. (Please review the skills required)
  • At the end of the day, give the paddler constructive feedback and state whether you believe the paddler has the necessary skills.
  • If so, fill out a rating card (electronic or paper), checking the appropriate boxes if the paddler demonstrated the self-rescue or safety/rescue skills, or write a note containing all the necessary information, and email or send the card to the ratings chair.
Ratings committee responsibilities
After the paddler has the proper number of signed cards for the rating (1 for Class I, 2 for Class II, 4 for Class III, 6 for Class IV), the ratings committee will review the cards. The paddler will receive and be notified of the new rating so long as a) the rivers are of the proper degree of difficulty, b) the signers were all qualified to sign and were observers, c) there are no more than 2 signatures from the same river, 2 from the same trip (including multi-day trips), or 1 from any given leader, and d) the self-rescue and safety/rescue boxes are checked on at least one card. If these requirements are not met, the committee will give the paddler an explanation of why the rating was not awarded and what needs to be done to earn it.

Class I
  1. Paddling: Able to pick out and paddle route competently in Class I rapid - can go straight, turn left and right.
  2. Safety/rescue: Knows river signals and demonstrates group awareness. Can recognize and avoid obvious river hazards: rocks, strainers, dams.
  3.  Self-rescue: Can wet exit, swim safely holding paddle, and swim to shore. When swimming knows how to be towed to safety by another boat or throw bag.
Class II
  1. Can do above competently in Class II rapid, skillfully in Class I rapid.
  2. Paddling: Can do eddy turns, peel outs, ferries competently in Class II rapid.
  3. Safety/rescue: Recognizes and understands dynamics of eddies, waves, and holes. Knows what to do if boat broaches.
  4. Self-rescue: When swimming, knows when to let go of own boat and rescue boat.
Class III
  1. Can do above competently in Class III rapid and skillfully in Class II rapid, with use of eddies and occasional use of waves and holes to help get boat where paddler wants to go.
  2. Paddling: Able to select a route while scouting a rapid.
  3. Safety/rescue: From shore, able to use throw bag for rescue, including proper set-up and placement; from boat, able to rescue others and help recover equipment in Class II rapid.
  4. Self-rescue: Can self-rescue in rapid. K, C-1: roll,   OC: swim boat and self to shore, get back in boat or roll.
Class IV
Can perform above paddling skills, self-rescue, throw bag rescue competently in Class IV rapid, skillfully in Class III rapid. Can do boat-based rescue of others and help recover equipment in Class III rapid. Able to skillfully use eddies, waves, and holes to help get boat where paddler wants to go.