Boofing is one of the most important actions in kayaking. Master the boof and you will go a long way towards avoiding many of the beatings which you would undoubtedly otherwise get. Instead you will clean the living shabba out of your lines and be able to run some serious "hokey kokey".
The first thing to bear in mind about boofing, or indeed any kind of boat angle control, is good old Einstein's, "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction". He wasn't taking the piss! [actually, that was Newton ya dumbass! Ed.]
As a general rule to go by, you should take your boof stroke on the downstream side. This will mean that that you are lifting you and your boat out of the water rather than pushing yourself downwards. It also means that you can take a much longer stroke and maximises the amount of power that you can use. When I boof, I think about it as leaning into the drop with my final stroke on the same side, lifting me away from the water.
This rule is very simple to follow on drops which you approach at an angle. For example: one of those big banking cushion wave drops like the third drop of triple falls on the River Etive. It is much harder to follow this rule on drops which you approach straight on. For example: the second drop of triple falls. It is especially difficult to boof on drops which you approach straight on and follow a parabola, often right into the guts of the green room.... Good luck with these ones!
If in doubt then try to make sure that your last stroke points you in the direction that you ultimately want to travel in. This is usually towards the main flow and the consequent escape from the hole/pot hole/cauldron etc.
The following are a few good things to keep in mind:
- Get some speed! Speed is usually your friend, as it will help you escape the hole at the bottom of the drop. Even if you mess up your boof, sometimes a little bit of the good old velocity can save your hide. It's no use landing flat and keeping your head dry if you only end up getting sucked back into the towback of doom.
- Stay on top- stay in control. As soon as you submerge any part of your boat or body, you cease to be in control and the water takes over the driving seat. It's much easier to stay on top of the water when you start on top of the water, so you have got to approach a drop with this in mind. You also want to be thinking about where you want to be pointing when you land.
- Timing... Is the most important part of the whole process. I can't tell you when because each drop is different. A lot of the skill in timing is learning how to read the water well and experimenting.
- Stroke. Boof strokes work best when they are taken on the downstream side. Try to make your final stroke as powerful as possible and have it point you in the direction which you want to be travelling in. I could write a thesis on how, but you're far better off going out there and practicing. Be self critical and really make an effort to boof every feature that you come across and you will learn. Unless there is a good reason to submerge then you should always try to keep you and your boat on top of the water.
- Angles. Once you're airborne there are various things you can do to manipulate the position of your body and your boat. These techniques are fantastic for correcting slightly less than perfect boofs and turning the perfect boofs into sublime. It is worth remembering that there is absolutely no substitute for getting your angle right from the start. Tales of "Wow! Look at Steve Fisher change his angle in mid air" hmmmm... Most of the work has been done with the final stroke/position and this will undoubtedly evolve throughout the fall. Remember Einstein! Once you are falling, apart from air resistance, all you have got is what you started with. This doesn't, however, mean that you can't change your shape slightly to give you a better position (relative to your boat) for landing.
- Landing. When you land, especially off a big drop, you don't want to be sitting bolt upright. Instead, you really want to be leaning forward, as this ensures that most of the impact will be cushioned by muscle rather than skeleton. It also means that you will be in a much more aggressive position from which you can begin paddling again. Just bear in mind how bad breaking your back would be and ask yourself: a. do I want to really want to boof off something this high? b. Is that water aerated enough to cushion my impact c. Is this drop worth the risk?
If in doubt then pencil or walk away with a smile.
A re-cap.... Get some speed and make sure that you nail that lead in, then practice, practice, practice your timing/strokes and learn to read the water. Endeavour to get your angle right from the start, that way when you do master changing your shape in the air (stomping), your lines will be a lot sweeter and safer for it. Try to take the impact leaning forward as this puts you in a much safer and stronger position and will ready you for the oncoming moves. Get strong and stay strong and you are less likely to end up snapping yourself. Happy Boofing!