A Brief History of Rafts

When you think of a hobby, sports, or a kind of activity that you haven’t yet experienced, you might consider boating. With the advent of different boats today, you have a lot of choices to give a try someday. But as watching these boats in the bay, media platforms, and magazines, some thoughts might come to you of where did these come from. To feed your curiosity, here is the origin and purpose of the rafts in different aspects.

History of Rafts

Raft is a prehistoric watercraft, and the model was just composed of logs that are tied together and uses natural buoyant materials. Meanwhile, some are made up of reeds. The first raft before is just capable of floating but could be helpful through oars or sails to navigate the sea. Fishing and transportation are the primary purposes of this boat in the beginning. 

Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian scientist, sailed Peru to islands near Tahiti through a large balsa raft for three and a half months. Today, rafts are continually innovating, like the inflatable ones that could be carried anywhere and use for an emergency as well. 

Rafts in the 21st Century

Modern rafts are made of drums, pontoons, and other inflated materials. Before, rafting had only fixed purposes and had the least safety assurance. But in the current times, rafts are famous and have a name in sports. One of the know recreational activities with water is rafting through the use of inflatable boats. 

The International Rafting Federation (IRF) is a legitimate world governing body for rafting sports. They have been affiliated with the global rafting community – sport, recreational, commercial, environmental, and sustainability organizations since 1997. One of the most known personalities in rafting is Robert Schifferle. He has been the founder of Rafting Sterzing since 1995, which became a leading Italian rafting company and is winning worldwide. 

As what have mentioned earlier, rafts are not just wooden and frail. Today, there are various, and the main kinds are paddle boats, gear boats, and oar/paddle combination rafts. Still, there are other whitewater rafts like motor rafts, dories, inflatable kayaks, packrafts, and many more. Each has a unique purpose and impressive performance. 

Paddle Boats

Paddleboats require less rigging and can accommodate a great number of passengers. The earlier paddle boat had only two thwarts but now had three. The most common one is a 14-foot raft with six paddlers. This kind of vessel is evident when you are watching sports, and a group of men is sailing with a boat. Every man has their sturdy paddle, surging the gushing water, and there is someone on the back that gives a command. The suitable class for this boating activity is class III and IV water. 

Gear Boats

This kind of raft is suitable for carrying a lot of equipment. It can accommodate two to three people. The guide is seated near the middle of the boat while others can sit in the front. The gears are mostly placed at the back of the raft, and sometimes two people can sit there too. This kind of raft is enjoyable to ride with but dangerous as well due to some rivers that have rocks on the waterway. 

Oar/Paddle Combos (Stern Mounts)

Its capacity is for more people, which is advantageous than the gear boat. Unlike the paddle boat, it is also helpful and comfortable for the guide to be in control when steering the raft. This raft is definitely a fusion of gear boat and paddle boat because it possesses the capability of rowing and the power of acceleration. 

Motor Rafts

This is typically over 30 feet long and capable of carrying almost 20 people in a boat. This large raft was predominant in the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, which is less in scattered rocks. 


Dory was initially made of woods, so the guide needs to observe the rocks that could destroy it. Today, some are composed of Aluminum to be more durable. The movement of this raft on the water is back-and-forth and side-to-side sailing down the river. 

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are also known as Duckies and can accommodate two persons only. It can be used through kayak paddles. The inflated tubes are responsible for making this kayak stay stabilized but are weak with the more extensive hydraulics. 


This is a lighter version of inflatable kayaks. Upgraded packrafts have the stow zipper, which allows gear to be stored within the tubes. This qualifies as well the raft to have a lower center of gravity.