Basic Boofing Part 1

By Jason Bates

Basic Kayak Boofing Part I

The Approach:

Boofing is the technique of jumping off of ledges and over holes. Keeping the boat at a horizontal, or near horizontal plane as it passes over a steep drop is the safest, and smoothest way of dealing with big holes and vertical ledge drops. By boofing over the top of the hole, our downstream momentum will continue across the top of the reversal current of the hole. Holes become much more problematic when we must deal with the full force of the reversal current on our kayak; by boofing, our kayak stays on top of the reversal, and we face only a fraction of the stopping power of the hole. We are also concerned with the potential risk of hitting shallow rocks or other obstacles that could lie below the surface of any hole, and by boofing we will minimize this risk by keeping our boats high and dry on the surface. In order to achieve this there are three key components:
-The Approach
-The Launch
-The Landing
Let’s assess what goes into the Approach phase of a good boof:

-Spotting the ideal launching pad
No two boof are the same, and one of the big factors that determines the quality of your boof will be the place you initiate the launch from. What you want, if possible, will be the steepest part of the drop, and/or the furthest downstream point of the ledge that you’re launching off. Steeper drops are much easier to launch from, so they are usually the prefered launch pads. If the ledge has an angle relative to the current, you’ll want to head to the downstream end of that ledge to help you land in the downstream end of the hole.

-Reading your water
Understanding what the currents, and/or features on the approach will be critical to making your boat get to the launch pad in control. This might sound obvious, however ignoring this is probably one of the biggest causes of missed boofs. People are often so focused on trying to hit the big boof stroke and catch air that they fail to pay attention to the little details. Watch out for laterals, eddylines, sleeper rocks, and cross currents in particular. Take a moment or two and assess carefully; make a specific and detailed plan of how you will get your boat to that launch pad, stroke for stroke.

-Timing your strokes
As I said above, you want to map it out in your head “stroke for stroke” how you will make your boof. This is important because we want to time our strokes in such a way that we are ready for a big boof stroke when we get to the lip of the drop. The timing of this stroke is almost entirely responsible for how effective or ineffective that stroke is. Often it is just as important which paddle blade we use to boof with, and which paddle blade we land with, so this should also play into your timing. Timing your strokes well is much easier with a slower cadence, thus if you watch a highly skilled paddler run a serries of difficult drops you’ll often notice that they are paddling much slower than normal in order to get the timing and placement of their strokes absolutely perfect. Flailing away fast and hard will only lead to random moments of luck rather than consistent success.

Dealing with Deflection:

Photo by Jason Bates Chiriqui River Panama
Photo by Jason Bates Chiriqui River Panama
Photo by Jason Bates Paddler Leah Wilson Chiriqui River Panama
Photo by Jason Bates Paddler Leah Wilson Chiriqui River Panama

Often times people think that they’ve set up for the perfect boof, timed their strokes well, only to find their boat getting pushed offline right before hitting the lip of the drop. Almost all boofs have some sort of deflection that will affect your boat, so you’ll want to anticipate that fact and look for ways to deal with it. You might need to compensate for the deflection affect by: adjusting your angle, using a bit more momentum, using a stroke on the opposite side of the boat to keep it from being pushed aside … etc. Note the slight difference in the approach to the boof in the two photos above, and then notice the difference in the end landing… HUGE difference.

Photo by Jason Bates Greg Dedrickson Chiriqui River Panama
Photo by Jason Bates Greg Dedrickson Chiriqui River Panama

Play around with this a bit, mostly at first just be aware of this issue and learn to read your water with a finer eye for subtle details. You’ll want to be practicing this in class 2-3 whitewater for some time until you get a good solid feel for this… good luck and have fun.

Photo by Jason Bates Chiriqui River Panama
Photo by Jason Bates Chiriqui River Panama


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.

Need a tune up on your Boof?  Current Adventures offers private instruction with Jason Bates all winter long.

Article first Published Dec 2008

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