Riverboarding on the French Broad River (Marshall, North Carolina)
What is Riverboarding?
"Riverboarding is a whitewater activity that is basically like bodyboarding meets whitewater, but on a beefier, more buoyant board. Riverboarders lay on their stomachs on their boards…" –Kevin Yount, Appalachian Riverboard Company
First Learned about Riverboarding:
A cruise ship excursion, in Jamaica, while on a Western Caribbean Cruise.
Private Tour by:
Scattered Showers, 68-72°F
Where We Went Riverboarding:
French Broad River’s section with Class III rapids
5 Reasons Not To Go Riverboarding
1. You Don’t Have the Right Equipment
We were going to encounter Class III whitewater, at times, so you really don’t want to be without a riverboard which helps you to mimic moves that kayakers and rafters make… from catching eddies, punch through waves, drop down small falls and zig zag across currents.
Anything can happen when dodging rocks and being in currents that can suck you down under, so wear your PFD (Personal Flotation Device).
Speaking of dodging rocks, you can’t get around easily without propellers. You’ll need fins and for extra power – webbed gloves.
You don’t want to hear the sound that snapping fresh celery and carrots make. Huh? Yeah, you’ve heard this sound effect in movies before. It means that you’re breaking bones. Yowzer! To prevent that, think of a rhino’s armor and wear padding for your knees, shins, elbows and water socks / booties.
Last, but not least, the most important — pad your noggin. Don’t leave your brain bucket (aka helmet) behind.
We expected to be in the water for 2-3 hours so a wetsuit was a good idea even if the water was in the 70°Fs. I’d rather be a little cooked in what feels like a straightjacket than cold any day!
Now, I noticed that there was a different fashion trend amongst river boarders vs surfers. According to extreme riverboarder Josh Galt, "…if you’re going with a wetsuit, unless it’s a super fashionable one, consider throwing some boardshorts over the top. The tight black unitard look just is a bit of a fashion faux pas on the river these days – nobody really wants to see that. 😉 Plus, with the added color, you’re sure to look great in photos!" As for surfers… they simply wear the wetsuit without a rash guard or board shorts over them. Think about it. The only reason Kelly Slater is seen wearing a colored rash guard is so the judges know who’s winning the heat.
You’ll be burning calories so bring a hydration pack and snacks for breaks along the way. Remember: Don’t litter!
2. You Don’t Live Somewhere Where Riverboarding’s a Thing
River boarding is where you lay on your stomach atop of a foam board with fins on your feet to propel and maneuver through rapids, rocks and eddies. Don’t confuse river-boarding with bellyaking either which is described as front-wheel drive as you’d propel yourself with webbed gloves. The sport of riverboarding is still fairly new in the United States while it’s well-known as hydrospeed in Europe or white-water sledging in New Zealand. Just Google your city / state and riverboarding and see what pops up.
3. You Don’t Have a River Guide
Our whitewater adventure begins… We start the roadtrip from Asheville, NC towards Marshall, NC at 9:00am. It’s 68°F with a high of 72°F with scattered showers today. What better way to spend a rainy day than to be wet on the French Broad River?!
Such beautiful country!
Here we are with the backdrop of the French Broad River.
Kevin Yount gives Bill a quick history of the area, the river and what to expect riverboarding on Class III rapids.
Kevin let us use some of his handmade river boards. I was all, “I want to make one!” (Side Note: Here’s an article on how to "Build Your Own Hydrospeed.")
3:00pm – Here we successfully conquered the French Broad River. We’re going to sleep good tonight!
4. You Have a Few Phobias
It’s as good a time as any to start conquering any of these fears:
- Aquaphobia – fear of water.
- Cymophobia – fear of waves or wave like motions.
- Potamophobia – fear of rivers or running water.
- Amychophobia – fear of scratches or being scratched.
I did get a few minor scratches on my arm on this adventure. But I’ll live.
- Automysophobia / Rupophobia – fear of dirt or being dirty.
Come on…how often can you feel like a kid again and enjoy getting dirty?!
- Catapedaphobia – fear of jumping from high or low places.
One advantage of riverboarding versus whitewater rafting is the ability to take a pause, then climb a boulder to create your own mini slalom course where rafts can’t follow.
5. You Don’t Need a Mood Booster in Your Life
Now that we’ve tried riverboarding for the 2nd time (1st time in Jamaica), I’ve gotta say, “It’s a face-first adrenalin rush!”
Complete Photo Gallery
QUESTION: Would you try riverboarding?