The genius of Nathaniel Galloway
Nathaniel Galloway a native of Utah, USA . He was one of the first people to think fresh ideas about rowing, river dynamics and river navigation. These fresh ideas lead to a major breakthrough that would change river navigation and sow the seeds for white water rafting. His ideas was to turn the boat 180 degrees and face downstream as he rowed! This ‘norm’ in most river sports was an alien concept before Galloway. Before Galloway and his radical idea took hold in 1893, river navigators rowed with there back to the oncoming river as they faced upstream preferring power over sight.
The genius of Nathaniel Galloway was simple, in turning the boat 180 degrees he allowed himself to not only see oncoming obstacles, like boulders, rapids, holes, debri but allowed himself the opportunity to slow his speed as he went downstream. Thus giving him greater maneuverability to deal with anything he was observing downstream.
Further reading Nathaniel Galloway here
The inflatable assault raft.
The US Army during the second world war required a new boat for their pacific operations. There engineers made the LCRL – ie ‘Landing Craft, Rubber Large’. This LCRL sat ten men, it was black, rubber and inflatable and was mainly used in the pacific islands. After the war they sold them off cheap and due to this they quickly found a home on the vast rivers of America. The winning combination of its robust inflatable design and cheap price point (cheaper than traditional wooden river craft) seen them quickly become the preferred boat of choice in rivers with tricky navigation ie rapids. The stage was now set for refining the LCRL into a rapid beating river craft.
Further info here
A combination of these two innovations brought about the recreational activity we now know as ‘White Water Rafting’.