Everything I learned about boofing…
usually came after missing yet another golden opportunity to pull of a good boof. In hindsight, timing is everything and I wandered into kayaking in the late-80’s, right in the middle of a new transition in the southeast from ‘glass boats to plastic, and from avoiding rocks to using them. Runs like the Narrows of the Green were definitely new training ground for southeastern boaters ready to test out the plastic on their boats. But my formative years were definitely more about avoiding rocks than boofing them. In fact, some might say that my “boof” did not exist –even up to the time where I was running rivers that needed to be boofed! Case-in-point: in one of our early years in Ecuador, on the Class IV-V Upper Jondachi, fellow-guide Doug rather bluntly asked, “has anyone ever really explained what boofing is to you.” Must have been the way I was nose-diving my Kinetic off some very steep drops!
While boofing is now a staple in every good boater’s repertoire, it often seems that a boater does not start to figure out what boofing is until they are poised above a must-boof drop. So calling on members of the ERA Team—all of whom enjoy a good boof, we pulled together some beta for someone looking to make their boof the bomb!
OKAY GUYS–LET’S START WITH….WHAT IS BOOFING!
Juliet – I’ll start…if I had to boil it all down, it is the culmination of the four fundamentals that define kayaking: angle management, stroke timing, momentum and balance. You can learn a whole bunch watching fellow boaters do boofs well….and not so well. Pay close attention to good boaters’ technique so that you are always learning new tricks and tweaking your own technique. There is a lot behind the technique of boofing, and it is not as cut and dry as people like to make it out to be. So let’s get back to what is boofing:
Brian – Gosh, boofing huh? The concepts of the boof and boofing are so fluid that it is hard to nail them to a definition. But what is a boof exactly? Boofing is the foundation of control, especially as things get steeper, and is indispensable to creeking. It is a proactive approach to falling. By using various boofing techniques a paddler gains better control over both the takeoff and landing which is in essence, the art of descent.
Some will say that it is a move or a stroke that enables paddlers to launch themselves over hydraulics and holes. During its infancy, the technique was often called “pancaking,” meaning that those who hit their boof stroke correctly would land flat (like a pancake) in the eddy or backwash of the hole below, instead of riding the falling current into whatever seam or hole awaited below.
Craig– Boofing is a process by which you keep your bow near or on the surface to run drops cleanly. Any drop that forms white water can bother you at the bottom, changing your line or
Steve- There seems to be merely a handful of techniques that separate Class III and Class IV boaters–.one of which is the boof. This technique really becomes useful in creek boating on shallow steep rivers, but is applicable in many other kayaking situations as well. Originally called “ski jumping” from what I have heard, boofing as it referred to nowadays is essentially the technique of keeping your bow up as you come off of a drop. This hopefully causes the boat to stay flat or close to flat as it falls, and inherently lands the paddler on the surface keeping the boat from submerging and loosing control, or possibly pitoning, that is penciling in and smashing you bow on the bottom of the river.
SO HOW ABOUT TECHNIQUE BEHIND BOOFING?
Steve– There are many techniques that go into boofing, and each different drop has its own unique formula for a successful boof. However, there is one element that stands out, and is applicable in all boof situations. This element is timing. Of course timing is important in all of the aspects, and I am going to discuss some of that here.
For a successful boof and flat surface landing, the paddler must realize what the water is doing at the lip of the drop. Is the water falling of at an angle? Is there rock contact necessary? Is the landing going to be in the current or in an eddy behind the rock that makes the lip of the drop? All of this needs to be figured out on the fly, or by carefully scouting the drop before hand. The more familiar with the technique and the rapid you are, the more fluid this will become.
Brian– Techniques for boofing vary, and it is no doubt you could write an entire series of articles on the specifics of each. The advantages though, are pretty cut and dry.
Craig– Any drop that forms white water can bother you at the bottom, changing your line or flipping you. When the bow goes under you have lost control to some point, or completely. It can cause a backflip when the boat slows, or direct the boat off to the side, or a piton off of a rock. Often the result is a mix of the first two, the spiraling backflip. You see the spiraling backflip often when folks drift off of Nantahala Falls.
When you carry your speed and maintain an angle to the edge of the drop the idea is to pull a hard stroke as you pass over the edge, typically the boat should still be almost flat as the bow passes out over the edge. If the drop is pretty high or not vertical, it needs to happen while the boat is still at some angle where the bow is higher than the green water. As you impact at the bottom the bow is more likely to deflect upward…and you can maintain your momentum and angle for the next section, or at least stay out of the hole or prevent a piton.
PUTTING RAIL GRABS ASIDE, WHAT ABOUT THE PADDLE?
Juliet– Spending years behind still and video cameras, one small detail I have noticed that sometimes gets overlooked is to use the paddle to fire off a good boof. Pictures tell a lot about what someone does wrong, but not always how to do things right. It is not just having a stick in your hand that makes the boof happen, but how you use it.
Steve– The boof comes down to very precise timing of the final stroke off of the lip of the drop. Getting the bow up is the ultimate goal along with landing in control. So what needs to take place to make this happen? What really makes the bow come up is a combination of an aggressive stroke and thrusting of the pelvic bone forward. Think of it as scooting your butt around on the carpet seated as if you were in a kayak, now add a paddle stroke. I suggest closing the blinds before doing this. Not only do these need to happen simultaneously, but they also need to happen at the precise time the heels of the boaters feet hit the lip of the drop. This is the moment just before, or when the boat actually begins to fall. Too soon, and…well we already talked about that.
Craig– Now about that paddle in the air as you are falling. If you think about what has just happened you will realize that there is a hole at the bottom of the drop you have just launched off of. Or perhaps you have boofed into an eddy, but do not want to land and get turned into the rock that makes the eddy. A landing stroke will greatly help in both situations.
AND WHAT THEN?
Craig- So, you have just taken a whopping boof stroke off of the lip. The next thing to do is to lean forward. Yes, lean forward. This serves a few purposes. One it will keep you over and in control of your kayak. Two it will UN-align you spine protecting it somewhat from the jarring hit that sometimes results from the landing on flat green water. It does not take a humongo drop to really hurt yourself if you boof into the pool at the bottom. Now that you have taken your stoke and are leaning forward as you fall, it is time to spot the landing, which you should already know because you have a plan. The opposite blade from the one you just took a boof stroke with is waiting out in front of you to reach into the water upon landing and pull you forward and in control away from any holes lurking at the bottom. It also really helps if you can take that big forward landing stroke and pull it through in to a stern draw for added control and style points. Again, the timing of this stoke is important as to not get pulled back into the hole. Too soon and…yep you guessed it.
SO HOW TO PRACTICE BOOFING?
Juliet- I mentioned that coming into kayaking right at the transition point when plastic boats made creek boating a new show and boofing was in its infancy I never took the opportunity/had the understanding to go out and practice boofing anywhere/Everywhere I could. While many of the good boof moves seem to be on more difficult rivers, there is no reason to wait until your first big Class IV drop to start practicing….so the question is how to practice boofing if you are not ready for the big one yet.
Craig– A great way to practice the technique and timing is off of the lips of waves in a wave train. As you begin to climb the lip get ready to execute. Focus on the lip as if it were the lip of any given drop you can imagine. Now as your heels of your feet hit the crest of the wave plant your desired stroke and thrust those hips forward. If done correctly the bow of the boat will lift, and then smack down on the back of the wave or the trough of the next wave. This actually is pretty fun and can be done on some pretty small waves. Get comfortable with trying on both sides, and then take it to your local drop that you are comfortable with and practice, practice, practice.
Brian– People should practice boofing over holes and ledges. They should boof off of rocks into eddies. They should boof off of waves six inches tall, and from the edges of sixty-foot waterfalls.
Steve– My favorite example of boofing is one that really helped me back in my first year of paddling. I had the fits trying to run Nantahala Falls my first few tries until I sat down and really analyzed what was consistently going wrong. Those first few runs I would paddle my Corsica S down what was considered to be the main left to right line, the bow would sink in as I hit the bottom hole, and I would lose control and flip right every time. At the time it was just my buddies from camp and I, and it was really just us out there practicing trial and error. There were a lot of errors, and I wish I could have taken a class and had it figured out in a day, but that wasn’t an option as we already thought we were the best out there. So, once I figured out that my bow sinking into the bottom hole was my problem I started calculating ways to keep it on the surface. The water below the falls was the fastest I had seen anywhere, and the eddy on river left looked much more inviting with its calm green water. So I decided that I would hit the drop perpendicular to the lip, that is in this case a little left angle in reference to 6:00 o’clock being totally down stream. As I approached the lip I took one last big stroke on the right and voila! I landed smoothly into the eddy and upright. Of course then I had to peel out into the fastest current I had ever seen at the time, which met varied success. Several things went into this personal victory. The first in my mind was that I had already screwed the pooch here several times, so I was not afraid of swimming or hitting my head, as I had done both several times, and decided that it was not that bad. This got me very comfortable with the rapid and I was able to really focus on the details of the drop. The second was that I had a plan and ultimate goal of ending up in that eddy. Finally I figured that if I took a stoke too soon I would pearl under, and if I took it too late I would already be under, so timing was critical.
Craig– All of this may sound like nonsense as a big rapid may come at you so fast there seems to be no time. I assure you that as you get more comfortable on the river, stuff will start to slow down. Watch the really good boaters out there. They look so fluid and natural. I assure you this was not the case naturally. Practice, and gaining some experience really causes the mind to process the info faster and stuff really slows down. So do not just get out there and stay in your comfort zone if you want to progress. Try new stuff, and get chundered every now and then. It will make you a better boater. Just like the first time you paddled Class III. It was hair-on-fire, and ride the lightning. Now after spending some time on that kind of water I bet you may be a little more comfortable.
Juliet- I will steal a page out of Doug’s training guide here: practice using waves and eddy lines to learn how to lift your bow over instead of under. And the waves/eddy lines can be Class II features—all the better for experimenting with your boat angle, stroke timing and bow work.
BY THE WAY-ANYONE WANT TO TAKE A VENTURE AT WHERE THE NAME “BOOF” CAME FROM?
Steve– The sound and feel of a successful boof sounds like “boof” hence the name.
Brian– The term boofing came I believe from the boof sound the boat made as it hit the water.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BOOFING:
Over the years I have listened to a lot of explanations on boofing, personally applying more than one of these misconceptions to my own boofs only to learn that they were not so correct, and in turn also observing many attempts at boofing and the various outcomes. Let’s throw around even just a few boofing misconceptions:
- “Leaning back does not make the bow lift up in this situation.”
Leaning back in fact almost guarantees the bow to pearl. And leaning back shifts your weight back behind your seat, destabilizing your balance.
- “Putting your paddle in the air over your head makes you look cool.”
This does yield some great pictures, but generally causes you to land and flip at the bottom as you have raised your center of gravity way up above your head.
- “You don’t have to stroke off the ledge.”
It is not that people boof incorrectly, but that they sometimes boof too soon. Early strokes happen mostly due to nerves. An anxious paddler excited about the move looses site of the lip and just strokes for broke.
- “You always take a stroke on the downstream side of the boat off the ledge.”
Often you do launch your boof with a stroke on the downstream side—but it is not a given. The stroke you take on a boof totally depends on boat angle: the angle you have on your approach to the drop and the angle you need coming off the drop. Case in point: when you need to reduce angle coming off a drop, so you time your strokes to finish with a stroke on the upstream side of the boat coming off the lip.
- “Because you are landing flat, edging is not an issue.”
This is a good one to finish on because it took me a while to pick up on this little detail myself. I would throw out a good-looking boof coming off a drop and then flip when I landed. Why? Because I had not switched my edge. If you are boofing into an eddy, you have to switch to an upstream edge. And because we most often finish our boof on a downstream stroke and weight tends to go with your paddle, you are most likely favoring your downstream edge coming off the drop. Switch your edge when you land. A good way to make sure this happens is to add in a stroke as you land—a stroke on the eddy side to keep moving. And the stroke? That again depends on whether you need a momentum (forward) stroke or a correction (sweep/stern draw) stroke.
As Brian pointed out, “there is no doubt you could write an entire series of articles on the specifics of each.” We’re just trying to throw some beta out to get you fired up to go do your own boofing.
We hope this helps, drop some boof for us!