Adventure photographer Taylor Robertson knows a thing or two about boofing. While he’s down to kayaking a paltry 250 days a year, the former US Freestyle Kayak Team Member has more first descents than you have cam straps, and he’s stuck strokes carrying him out of and over harm’s way in more than 22 countries.
But boofing, a technique that propels you over drops to eliminate pitoning, knows no borders. It’s the same in Bhutan as it is in British Columbia. And it’s as crucial to master for Class III boaters venturing onto harder runs as it is for more advanced boaters frequenting unfamiliar horizon lines. Most boofs fail, says Robertson, for three reasons: a poor forward stroke; bad timing (shall we say, premature boofulation); and/or over boofing, which makes you flat. He should know. He once over-boofed Spirit Falls on Washington’s White Salmon only to see his cockpit break his nose.
If you’re serious about creeking, a good boof is as essential as a roll. Following are some of his tricks to the airborne trade.
Image is Everything
Paddling posture is critical. Sit up straight for stability, power and agility on your approach. This also makes it easier to nail that perfect boof to carry you over a drop.
It’s All In the Timing
Aside from having a strong forward stroke, timing’s the most important part of a boof. First, know your drop. Is the lip abrupt or gradual? If abrupt, plant your stroke early, right at the lip, and then pull the front of your boat toward your chest. If the lip’s gradual, wait until you pass it to start your stroke. Stroke too soon and your bow might rise too early and then rotate back down so you nose dive into potential danger.
Crunch to Avoid a Munch
After planting your paddle, “close the scissors” by doing a stomach crunch that brings your knees to your chest. How much depends on how you’re looking in the air. If you’re too far forward, crunch more to pull the boat up. If you‘re too flat, un-crunch your body into a more neutral position.
Don’t Overdo It
The only time to over-boof is when the landing is super shallow. Otherwise, drops as small as 10 feet can hurt your back. To prevent this, spot your landing, make sure your timing is right, and don’t pull up too hard on your knees. On Spirit Falls, which has a rolling lip, I usually only give it 10 to 15 percent of a full boof motion (except, of course, when I broke my nose).
Spot the Landing, Brace for Impact
Know where you’re landing and look where you want to go. This helps you know where to exit. I try to pick out a two-foot by two-foot area and place my bow right in it. Also, the impact can hurt if you land wrong. Hold your paddle in a neutral position or slightly off to the side. Use it for stability and bracing once you hit the pool.
It Ain’t Over till It’s Over
Exiting is just as important as the execution. Proper posture and a powerful forward stroke are key. Come out of your landing aggressively and ready for the next drop. You’re not done just because you boofed the hole–even after a perfect boof, the backwash can pull you back.