Basic Kayak Boofing Part 2

By Jason Bates

Basic Kayak Boofing II:           The Launch

Photo by Jason Bates Paddler: Walter Pacure Costarica
Photo by Jason Bates Paddler: Walter Pacure Costarica

Great boofs take three main components to generate them: the approach, the launch and the landing. Each of these three ingredients is crucial to examine, as a lacking in one will be extremely detrimental to your ability to boof consistently. In this tip we will examine how to get the ideal launch, and how to maximize your distance from that launch. We are assuming for this entire tip that the approach was well set up and executed in order to perform the launch that we desire. (See Basic Boofing I for information on the approach)
Here are three BIG factors that affect the launching phase of a good boof:

Sometimes an angled kayak can be easier to launch off a drop than a kayak that is pointed straight downstream. Dealing with a deflecting cushion of water may also dictate some angle in order to compensate for that deflection. You will need to be aware, however, that if there is a sticky hole in the landing you’ll want to land as “straight” (perpendicular to the hole) as possible. Note that the launch and the landing are rarely the same angle, in fact often an angled approach and/or launch can be adjusted and straightened out for the landing with a well timed stroke. You may also have an eddy to one side that you can boof into and catch by maintaining a signifigant angle to that side.
Speed is great, and speed is bad… as in other aspects of kayaking speed can be both a helpful thing, and a complicating and challenging thing at the same time. The key to using speed to your advantage is to use just the right amount, and at JUST THE RIGHT TIME! In other words; don’t start paddling as hard as you can a hundred yards upstream of the boof…you’ll probably be out of control long before you ever get to the boof. Try to hold off on speed for the most part, instead focusing on the timing and placement of your strokes. As you become more and more accurate and skilled with timing your strokes well, then you can try to add a little more juice to the last couple of strokes to cary more speed over the lip and get a little more air and distance from your boof.

The Boof Stroke

Photo by Jason Bates Deer Creek CA
Photo by Jason Bates Deer Creek CA  (midway through a good boof stroke, note that the paddle is right at the hips)

Ok, here is the real nitty gritty of it all, this one little stroke can really make or break that boof. A boof stroke is much like a forward stroke (near vertical paddle shaft, blade close to the boat), except that with a boof stroke you get additional power from continuing to pull the paddle past your hips. A boof stroke will have its maximum effect if planted at your toes just as they reach the lip of the drop. During the boof, with our paddle planted we want to thrust our hips forward, bringing our boat and body up to, AND PAST our paddle (planted at the lip of the drop).

Photo by Jason Bates Deer Creek CA
Photo by Jason Bates Deer Creek CA  (in this photo, the paddler has just finished with the boof stroke, note that the paddle is way past his hips and almost all the way back at the tail of the boat)

The key here is that as our body passes over the lip of the drop we want to continue driving the boat forward on its horizontal plane; this is where pulling on the paddle as it passes behind our hips provides us with a dramatic booster. During the entire motion it is imperative that we lift our knees, by tightening our abdominal muscles, to keep our boat as horizontal as possible. Often edging the boat slightly toward the paddle can help to maximize the launch, by making it easier to keep at a horizontal plane as well as helping it to track straight across the lip.

Now that you’ve got a great launch, it’s time to land it…

Safety note: This tip, does NOT apply to paddling over large drops and waterfalls. This technique is ideal for use on ledge holes, and smaller drops with a good deal of aeration in the landing zone. Landing flat on any drop CAN injure your back; the two greatest risk factors to consider are the height of the drop, and the “hardness” (more aeration will soften the landing) of the water in the landing zone. For safer landings this tip assumes that you are boofing off drops no higher than three or four feet, and that you are landing in moderately aerated water. For any higher drops or “harder” landings it will be imperative NOT to land flat! With experience much of this technique can be MODIFIED to use in a wide variety of applications (including certain play paddling moves); it is therefore highly recommended that intermediate paddlers learn to use this technique on smaller features in class 2-3 water. Look for more advanced boofing technique in future tips.

Originally posted Dec 2008 at

Need a tune up on your Boof?  Current Adventures offers private lessons with Jason Bates year round.