Why are we paddling upstream?  We’re rushing back into the whitewater that nearly flipped us and Shannon is yelling “All Forward!”, but it’s hard to keep the sides in rhythm as we hit the outer edge of the pounding rapid, which is trying adamantly to shove us away.

The front of the raft suddenly drops out, there’s no other way to describe it.  All at once the pacesetting paddlers are beneath the falling water.  We spin wildly counter-clockwise in tune with Shannon’s guide-rudder.  “It’s called Surfing.”  Our guide’s voice is nearly lost beneath the thundering crash of river water, hitting up against the floor of our raft as if it could buck us off.    Shannon carves against the rapid until we’re riding the river like someone trying to hold on for 8 seconds of glory. 

It’s called surfing.

This is so much more than a rafting trip, the Lower New River Rapid Run is an outdoor adventure.  Imagine if Tom Sawyer built a river trip.  The bounds of the ride wouldn’t be only what was immediately downstream.  Tom would make sure the entire landscape was put to use, which is exactly how Adventures on the Gorge designed this trip.  They see the New River as a playground.

As we make our way downstream, our guide continuously changes the pace of the trip, whether it’s to let us swim, dropping our raft into and out of a whirlpool, or by docking long enough to let us leap off a twenty-foot high rock.  There is never too much time spent on one aspect of the river, and there are always options for riders of different thrill levels.  But, I’m always surprised how many of the ‘nervous’ rafters end up cliff jumping by the end of the trip.

Throughout the entire half-day rafting experience, the guides showcase their marine skills by getting the most out of every opportunity.  With dozens of years spent rafting around the world, they can make a Class II seem like a Class IV and charge hard into the most exciting drops the New River has to offer.  This team is made up of some of the most respected guides in the world, and it’s the fact that, of all the rivers they could work on, they choose to lead tours with Adventures on the Gorge that underlines the unique nature of this river.

I’ve never been more glad to have a waterproof case. The raft is now flooded for a third time, and another rapid is whisking the water out of sight ahead of us. As soon as Shannon offers, half our crew topples out of the boat to navigate the water on their own. 

After a quick splash, I roll onto my side and watch as the other body surfers are pulled into the alleyway, disappearing beneath the first rooster tail.

It’s abundantly clear that the water-whisper traits of our guide come from decades of navigating rivers.  The confidence that Shannon shows while stationed in the aft of our raft allows him to break the mold of most rafting companies without ever being careless.  When his skills are combined with the benefits of the natural landscape, the resulting rafting trip is something totally unique. 

I’m smiling as I get sucked down through the chute.

Soaking wet, I couldn’t be happier.  I’ve run easier and more challenging rivers, and the all-out-adventure style of this trip not only is more memorable than the larger rivers I’ve gone down but is a genuinely great day for everyone on the trip, from the most faint-hearted to those wanting a thrill.  Tom Sawyer would be proud.

To plan your own Adventures on the Gorge trip, check out all their adventures, including black out zip line and rock climbing.