Few jobs are as rewarding as guiding a raft down an exhilarating whitewater river. To get your line right, you need proper training and experience. Kick start your raft guide career or improve your white water rafting skills with professional training on the West Coast.

The aim of this river rafting short award is to develop each student’s skills and knowledge towards those required by current industry awards and teach you how to become a river guide.

The consolidation of technical skills in raft guiding and rescue techniques is given priority, along with understanding the principles of client management and the structure and culture of the rafting industry. This all helps you prepare for a white water rafting career.

All students who successfully complete the course and meet the professional and attitudinal course requirements should have developed the skills and knowledge to work as a competent trainee raft guide. They will have developed at least the following specific skills and knowledge:

  • The capacity to perform the functions required of a trainee guide in the rafting industry and the ability to accept responsibility for the safe conduct of activities and the elementary maintenance of equipment.
  • Knowledge of the structure and legal requirements of the New Zealand Rafting Industry
  • A clear understanding of the professional ethics, attitudes and values which are required in the provision of white water rafting experiences for clients.

This short award includes:

  • Four weeks intensive rescue and guide training
  • National Grade 2 or 3 Raft Guide Assessment and qualification***
  • New Zealand Raft Rescue Workshop Certificate
  • World class, senior guide instructors
  • Exposure to a variety of South Island rivers (up to grade 5)
  • Opportunity to learn using “real”clients
  • Level:
  • Credit Value:
  • Awards:
    Tai Poutini Polytechnic Short Award (Level 4)
  • Location:
  • Method of Study:
    Full time
  • Total Duration:
    12 weeks
  • Dates:
    Contact us for further information on the next course
  • Number of Places:
    12 places available
  • Enquire for more information

Programme Structure

Delivered via an on-line learning platform and a four week residential block.

Class Size

There are 12 places available on the short award (ratios are approximately 1:4 for guiding skills and 1:6 for rescue training). This enables us to have enough students to run rescue scenarios, and to still be able to focus on each student as an individual.

Your Tutors

Your tutors are all NZRA Rafting Assessors, Class 4/5 Senior Guides, have extensive worldwide Rafting Industry experience, and are experienced River Rescue and Raft Guiding Instructors. The fifth week of the course will involve a trainee placement at a commercial rafting company, working alongside that company’s staff.

Gear List

Your programme fee will cover the cost of accommodation, food and transport while on field trips (for trips based outside of Greymouth only), and instruction on the programme. A comprehensive list is available on application to the programme.

Pre-Course Preparation

Once accepted onto the course you will be provided with resources to assist you with the following pre-course preparation. It is a course requirement that all students are competent in the following areas before the course commences. This allows us to make the most of course time. If you need further assistance in finding resources from which to learn any of these things please contact the Outdoor Education office, we will be happy to help.


Students must know all the standard New Zealand rafting hand and whistle signals as per the NZRA Log Book.


Students should be competent at tying the following knots under pressure. Bowline (around an anchor), tension hitch (truckies hitch) tied off with a releasable half hitch, tape or water knot, figure-eight knots (in-line, follow through, on a bight, directional(both ways), double loop), double fishermans, prussic knots (klemheist, classic), sheet bend, clove hitch (around a bar), Italian hitch, alpine butterfly.


Students must be able to interpret basic weather maps as per Chapter 2 of the New Zealand Weather Book, author Erick Brenstrum.

New Zealand Rafting

Students must know the following about three commercially rafted New Zealand rivers, one of which must be from the North Island, and one of which must be from the South. Location, grade, nature(pool drop, continuous, cold, warm, accessibility), average price of a trip, length of time of the trip on water, names of two commercial companies that work that river.

Programme Fitness Requirements

This short award requires a base level of fitness that will allow full and unhindered participation.

Soon after the programme starts, you will be tested through a number of tasks to evaluate your fitness. If your fitness is not adequate, you may be withdrawn from the programme.

We suggest that you prepare in advance and ensure your fitness is such that you can make the most of the learning offered on the course. Expect long days on the river with lots of swimming and clambering around the river. Regaining an upturned raft from the water requires strength, technique and timing.

Fitness Tests and Standards

Applicants must as a minimum meet the course fitness requirements as listed below:

  • Swim test Swim 500 metres in sheltered water without stopping.
  • Run test Run 5km in 28 minutes without stopping on undulating terrain

Note: these are minimum standards to allow the student to participate on the programme.

Entry Criteria

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 years of age or over. Applicants must have attended a minimum of four years secondary schooling and successfully completed NCEA Level One, or equivalent.

  • Mature students who do not meet the academic criteria, but demonstrate the motivation and commitment to study and are able to meet and provide documented evidence of the outdoor experience requirements (see below), will be considered.
  • Applicants must hold a current First Aid Certificate.
  • Applicants must meet and document the whitewater experience requirements as listed below:
  • Competent grade 2 kayaker with a reliable roll; and/or.
  • 10 days in a Trainee Raft Guide role with a commercial rafting company operating trips on Grade 2 water or above.
  • Applicants for whom English is a second language must meet IELTS (or equivalent) Level 5.5 or above.

Special Notes

  • Selection criteria may be determined through application documents, charter referee statements and interviews, written candidate questionnaire and an interview by the Programme Co-ordinator.

  • Candidates must supply contact details for two character referees.

The following will be considered advantageous for candidate selection: favourable referee statements, prior experience in the rafting industry, extensive whitewater kayaking experience, prior tertiary education qualifications, prior experience working in the adventure tourism industry.


This is a Safety Sensitive Programme