When I first started kayaking no one ever told me about ‘the boof’ and I just plugged my merry way down anything. It was a few months before I realised that everyone else seemed to stay drier than I did and they never had as much fun with unexpected down-river freestlye. After consulting Dr Google and watching numerous Youtube videos, I was confident that the boof was my answer to stylish kayaking and that I would be paddling with the pros in no time.
Sadly, the reality of learning to boof was somewhat harder than my optimistic imagination was suggesting. Many experiments with misguided advice and numerous back-loops later, I thought it might be useful to share some of the tips that I have picked up along the way.
Boofing is the act of keeping the bow raised out of the water to land flat from a drop or to stay on the surface through a hole to maintain speed and control.
READ THE WATER
Boofing is all about raising your bow to keep your boat flat so look for river features that might help you. Perhaps there are obvious rocks or large-scale features which you can ride up to carry you across the back of the hole, but often it might be just a subtle curling wave which helps to raise the bow.
Notice the small kicker in the centre of the drop which can be used to kick the bow upwards.
POINT THE WRONG WAY
If there is nothing particular to aim for, then often you are committed to boofing the guts of the hole. Rather than pointing dead downstream, it can be helpful to direct your boat on a diagonal slightly towards the same side that you plan to boof off. This will allow for core rotation to bring the boat pointing back downstream out the back of the hole.
EDGE AND REACH
As you approach the hole, spot the piece of water that you plan to plant your blade into, reach for it and edge. You should have your blade nice and far forwards at this point. By edging your boat towards the side that your blade is on, you effectively have a smaller surface area of boat in contact with the water, which will make it less sticky when you come to launch your boof.
Reach forward, edge and hold it.
Be as patient as you can be at this stage. There is always the temptation to get an extra paddle stroke in before the lip of the drop, but you risk missing your boof and ruining your body position. Hold the set-up and wait for the spot that you have picked.
EXECUTION AND POSTURE
When you have hit that spot that you aimed for, dig the blade deep and imagine that you are thrusting your boat past that point by bringing the boat level again. As you do this, play around with what your feet are doing. Some people find that a big push with the same foot as the blade is engaged on will help to drive the bow upwards and bring the boat level and straight downstream again. Once you have kicked the bow up, remember to engage your core by pulling your knees upwards and your upper body forwards.
Keep your face clear of the boat!
On a larger drop, take the time to smile for the camera and enjoy the free-fall. Remember to keep your elbows and face well clear of your boat for landing and consider a stomp to protect your back!
The key with any new skill is practice. This doesn’t mean that you have to be firing up big drops all the time. Play around at your local whitewater centre by boofing some non-consequential holes. As you practice, it’s important to remember with boofing that everyone is different. Don’t get disheartened just because something that works for someone else doesn’t work for you. People who try and tell you ‘the way to boof’ are wrong because different things work for different people.
I should probably also share my realisation that boofing is not the key to Pandora’s kayaking box that I had imagined. Yes, it helps you to look good in photos, but you can still take an absolute kicking when you boof into a bad place!
Anyway, get out there and find your boof. If at first you don’t succeed try, try and take a kicking again!
Blog post written by our lovely Sponsored Paddler Natty Corden