Boof Baby Boof!

Ken dwarfed by the Piatua’s giant boulders
For our first trip of 2012 we had a group of boof-junkies come down to Ecuador to sample some of the country’s finest technical runs.
Josephine nailing her boof stroke timing–she is getting some sweet disconnection with the water!

They came from Colorado, California, Alberta, Washington and Germany.  Even though we had a big diversity in geographies, they all shared the common goal of wanting to BOOF.  This was our Intro to Creeking IV- trip and so we spent as much time possible working on a refining all the components that make up a good boof–edging, timing, type of stroke, stroke placement, body movement and body positioning.

The gang, stoked to have some sunshine and Pilsiners in Baeza on the way home from the Rio Cosanga

Everyone agreed that getting really good at boofing is a really hard thing to do.  There are so many factors to get right, and to get right at the right time.  But the only way to get better is to get out there and do it as often as possible!

Scott showing us that edging is cool!  See how it’s allowing him to get a better stroke with that right paddle blade?
So we practiced boofing over holes (both big and small), off the shoulders of rocks, off steep ledges (mini-waterfalls) and off the peaks of waves.  Each feature offered its own unique challenges and gave each paddler a new tool for their creeking repertoire.
Brad executing the oh-so-crucial take off stroke.  See how nice and vertical his paddle is?
By the end of the week, everyone was nailing boofs with a much higher rate of success than they had been day 1 of the trip.  Which meant everyone was smiling a much higher percentage of the time as well!
 Anson navigating “dispensable Ensign”  He’s cleared the 1st boof of the rapid and is setting up for the 2nd one

There is a lot, intellectually, that goes into boofing, but the number one way to improve is to just go practice on the rivers.  Especially if you can paddle with someone who is good at boofing and can help you with pointers along the way.  And don’t fall into the common mis-conception that you need a perfect “boof spot” to practice on.  That’s not true!  You can practice on a wide variety of features, like I mentioned above.

The basic concept involves keeping your nose on the surface to go up and over something, to free your boat from the surface of the water, and to hear that “boof” noise as you re-connect with the water.

 Alex showing good body positioning as he pulls up on his knees to keep his Habitat’s nose above on surface on this hole

You can even practice the edging and the stroke timing as you are peeling into eddies.  If you are eddying out on river right for example, instead of getting on your right edge to “peel into” the eddy, try coming in on your left edge, taking a huge left stroke and transitioning to your right edge for the final draw stroke (on the right side) and carve into the eddy.  This practice won’t give you the “boof” noise you are looking for but it will help you and your body understand the muscle movements involved in the crucial edge transition that must take place in a proper boof.

 Greg waits in the pool below Disco-Tech as Don and the gang plan and plot their lines

A few more things to keep in mind while boofing:  Being on edge while you initiate your boof is key.  Many people forget this, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to disconnect a flat boat from the surface of the water than it is to disconnect a boat that is nicely on edge.  A well-edged boat will have 1/4-1/2 the surface area tension that a flat boat has.

2nd, take a big, usually vertical, paddle stroke at the lip of the drop while pulling up on your knees (engage those abs!) and lifting your nose to clear whatever obstacle you intend to boof over.  And make sure you mean it when you take this stroke.  It’s a powerful, explosive stroke so put some energy behind it!

 Maren–the German kayaking maniac–finishing “the rapid above the put in” on the Piatua

Next, timing is key!  We’ve all seen the classic paddle as fast as possible to the lip of a drop and then do nothing but plop over with the paddle raised over head–no bueno!  It doesn’t take too many strokes to get a modern creek boat up to speed–1-2 good strokes will usually do the job.  So concentrate more on your stroke timing, aiming to take that crucial boof stroke right at the lip of the drop, and don’t worry so much about taking 15 “speed strokes” leading up to each ledge.

Then, don’t forget to flatten out or even transition to your other edge as you land, AND TAKE ANOTHER PADDLE STROKE UPON LANDING–get the heck outta there and continue on your merry way, downstream to your next boof.

The Storm’s-a-coming on the Rio Piatua but for the time being, it is still boof-landia

Of course, it’s all a lot more complicated than what I’ve laid out here.  These are just the basics and what good does it really do you sitting at the computer reading it all?   To learn more about boofing, come to Ecuador with Small World Adventures and get 7 days of practice under your belt!

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