Boaters are a colorful subculture — as theses Colorado raft guides illustrate. / Photo by Lynn Barlow

If you've ever gone on a commercial rafting trip or picked up a soaked boater hitchhiking along the Ocoee River, you might have heard some confusing and/or incomprehensible slang. Boaters are a wild and weird subculture of outdoor adventurers with the terminology to match. In this handy guide, we compiled a list of common boater terms and their definitions.


Boater Time; noun

Most boaters seemingly lack any ability to be on time for boating. This leads to the phenomenon of "boater time," where typical assumptions about timeliness and time management no longer apply. Fifteen minutes late? On time. Half an hour late? Still on (boater) time. An hour and a half late? Janglin' (See also: Jangle), but the crew will still wait for you, especially if you bring good beer or are the group's designated psychopharmacologist.


Boof; verb; noun

Boofing has gotten a lot of attention in mainstream media recently, so you may be concerned to hear that most boaters love boofing. But in this instance, boofing refers to using a well-timed stroke to launch your chosen craft off of a rock, wave or other river feature, landing with a characteristic "boof" sound.


Booty Beer; noun

This is a beer drank out of a river shoe, also known as a "booty." Kayakers drink a booty beer as penance to the river gods after an unintended out-of-boat experience. The booty beer must be drunk from the shoe you were wearing when you were forced to swim. No, you may not rinse your shoe before drinking your booty beer.

For those under 21 or who don't drink for personal reasons, soda is an acceptable substitute. If you're paddling somewhere with a lot of nasty bacteria in the water, drinking a shot of tequila from your river shoe is also an acceptable substitute. If you're out of beer, soda and booze, you can drink a booty soup, though this is not recommended.

The point is to humble yourself for the entertainment of your friends and to the horror of the uninitiated.


Jangle; verb

Taking an unreasonable amount of time to complete simple tasks, like loading up the car to run shuttle. In a sentence: "Sorry, I'm going to be late. My buddy is janglin' hard." (See also: Boater time.)


Put-in; noun

The place where you put yourselves into your boats and put your boats into the river. (See also: Takeout — which is rarely the put-in. Contrary to popular belief, rivers do not generally flow in a circle.)


RBO, stands for Round Buying Offense; noun

These offenses vary from river to river but may include forgetting gear, flipping your raft or "going for a swim" if you're a guide. The penalty for committing an offense is often buying a round of beer for your friends. The amount of beer varies with the severity of the offense.


Shuttle; noun

If you've ever gone commercial rafting, you've had the luxury of piling onto a bus that reeks of B.O. and wet neoprene. This bus has then either driven you to or from the river. For recreational boaters, shuttle has a slightly different meaning. Our shuttle includes standing around talking about who is going to drive what car where for at least half an hour, before stuffing as many people and boats as possible into a few cars. Think your rafting bus was crammed? Try riding with eight other people in a Subaru Outback.

Lynn Barlow has been a whitewater boat rider for eight years. She began as a raft guide in Colorado and has since become a kayak instructor for Ocoee, Tennessee's Ace Kayaking.