The Boof Part 1

July 2, 2008

Everybody wants to know how to boof. The boof is, without a doubt, the most essential weapon in your creeking arsenal. There are several key points to making this move effective; approach, stroke, and body placement are the three that we are going to focus on in this segment. We’ll allow Shane to explain…

The Approach- The approach is the set up of the whole thing. Get the set up wrong and you are going to be struggling throughout the whole move. There are a few things to think about in making a good set up. Try to get an angle of attack that is going to make it easy to boof well and continue on after the boof in the direction you are trying to go. If I want to finish the boof going right I will usually set up above the boof with left to right momentum and vice versa. Speed is a commonly misused part of the boof. Speed does allow you to ride up higher on rocks and clear larger holes but it also make the timing more difficult. Often times I will make sure to only have enough momentum to be in control so that I will be able to precisely place and time my stroke for the boof.

Mistakes people make on the approach- The common mistake people make is not getting a good angle on the boof they are trying to do. Start off to one side of the move to give you a good angle on the obstruction. One of the hardest boofs to do is a straight off boof because you have to clear the entire length of the boat to make the move smooth. Where as if you come off the drop at a slight angle the boat clears the drop more easily.

The Boof Stroke is one of the most destroyed strokes in paddling. Its right up there with the Duffek. What you want to do with your boof stroke is control the boat as its going through the entire move. You should start your stroke just before you come into contact with what ever it is that you are boofing, whether its water, rock, log, or someones head. Pull that stroke all the way through the boof so that you control exactly how you interact with the feature you are boofing, and control the direction you are going. With that constant pull you can fine tune control your angle and lift off the drop. Finally if you can continue the stroke past the feature you can throw in that last little correction to finish going in the direction you want to go.

Mistakes people make with the Boof Stroke- the most common mistake with a boof stroke is running out of stroke before the end of the move. At the moment the stroke finishes the water gets to take control of where you are going. Thats when you see the classic burning man, or crucifiction boof, pull the stroke and then all the sudden the bow goes down and you are at the whim of the water.

Body Control is using your body to help the move. The number one rule is to keep your body over the boat. If you are leaning you are probably having to brace so therefore you aren’t paddling and moving yourself where you need to be. In a boof your body can have a bunch of impact on how the boat performs. If you lean back a little as you start your boof you allow the boat to slide up a feature. Then if you lean forward you allow the tail to free up as you go off the drop and you drop your bow into a softer landing. Leaning forward at the bottom also helps keep your stern from getting messed with in the drop. A common mistake that is made with body control during a boof is leaning off to a side. Sometimes it helps to tilt the boat up a little to get up on an object or lift it off the water, but as you leave that tilting boof work hard to get the boat back under you so you can land in balance. That way you can deal with what is coming next.

The classic body posture mistake on a boof- is landing and having to brace or roll because your body is still leaning off the boat.

Notice how Jesse is keeping his body centered over the boat. This will ensure a more stable landing. Most often boofs are used to clear pour-overs, landing on edge presents the hydraulic with a fine little place to grab and flip you.

A long, powerful stroke is essential so that there is no danger of you not clearing the hole or ledge you are trying to avoid. Often, the latter part of the stroke can be tweaked with a stern draw to change your angle last minute.

It is important to make sure you catch the right amount of whatever feature you are using to boof from. Too much and you can loose your momentum and spin out, too little and your bow will drop and it’s hammer time. A good vertical paddle stroke close to the boat is necessary in most straight boofs. There are exceptions to this rule, more on that in the next post.

Boofing “the pad” at Gorilla, perhaps the sweetest boof around. This is a perfect example of keeping your boat level on take off. The pad is notorious for catching an edge last minute, often sending the paddler into a world of pain, be it pride or body.

In our next post, we will elaborate more on the boof, introducing several different styles of boofs and where, when, and how to use them to keep you safe and happy.


June 5, 2008

Accuracy- seems like a pretty simple concept. Be accurate. The crazy thing is that many paddlers are content with aiming at a general area rather than a specific spot. Don’t settle for being in an area. When you paddle try to be in an exact spot. Don’t just catch the eddie, catch the eddie in a specific place. This is much more of a mental concept than a physical skill. The challenge is making yourself begin to see specific places that you want to be. Once you start doing that you will push yourself to run rapids more and more precisely and you will become more accurate.

sunshine left – definitely a line which requires accuracy but notice once you are online there isn’t much you can do.

If you need a specific accuracy skill think about this… The bow of the boat isn’t where you are. You are in your seat and when you go for a boof its where your ass is that will dictate how the boof works for you. You can have your bow up on a drop but if your ass isn’t following you are asking to get backendered. Think about where your ass is going to travel over the rock, or rapid.

Notice its where the ass is that counts.

Another thing you will see in the video is some reference to strokes but its not a special stroke or technique its more of an awareness that partial strokes are a big part of paddling. All too often a line is screwed because too much was done when in fact just planting the paddle and hanging on would have taken you too the promised land. The planting of the paddle and waiting is also a timing thing. As you advance your paddling timing will become more and more important in your ability to slick rapids. It won’t be how hard you can pull a stroke it will be that you pull that stroke the right amount at the right time. Play with planting and holding and feeling the current on your paddle when you peel out of an eddie. Just holding the paddle in the current and holding on will bring you up to speed. Then apply the power when you need it. Its a technique that we use a bunch is the south because often we can eddie out at the lip of a drop. So the peel out brings you to speed and then the application of the stroke takes you off the drop. Just a thought. Hope its something to work on for you.


Sunshine is a funny rapid. Its the antithesis of Gorilla in a way. Gorilla takes some guts and you can just give’er and try to stay up right and chances are if you do that you will be ok. But sunshine is slower moving and not a terribly hard move….but if you mess it up your ankles will pay. Accuracy is the key. You have to be able to put your boat in a very specific spot.

Be accurate out there.


Paddle Awareness

May 15, 2008

Rocks aren’t always getting in the way of your kayak, occasionally they’ll do a number on your paddle as well. That’s why this post is devoted to paddle awareness. This particular skill may seem intuitive, but often in the heat of the moment the location of your paddle is the last thing on your mind. Shane explains why paddle awareness is important and demonstrates what can happen if your paddle is the last thing on your mind.


Jessie Wilenski turning it in last minute.

Shane dropping into the “buttcrack.” Notice how he’s preparing for the hit and has his body rotated and elbows low.

John Grace demonstrating poor form. Notice how his paddle is firmly planted on the rock.

Mefford Williams keeping his paddle clear in Boof or Consequence, a classic paddle snatcher.

Here are a few more comments from Shane on Paddle Awareness.

I am pretty psyched by how that video turned out. You can really see the paddlers either working with their paddles or not. Its one of those things that takes folks a long time to figure out and its so important because there is nothing more disconcerting than floating towards the next rapid without your paddle because you chocked it in the drop you just ran.

I think something that really made me much more aware of my paddle was paddling slalom gates. Racing slalom you get a couple seconds added on to your time if you touch a gate. Paddling creeks you get upside down, smacked in the face, or a broken paddle if you touch a rock hard enough.

One thing that we just glanced over in the video was being aware of your paddle enough to be able to look for the spot to place your paddle for a good stroke. Its an often overlooked skill that you only develop if you make yourself aware of it, or through lots of paddling in tight places. As you are scouting or heading for a rapid try to look for the spots that you want to place your strokes. If you paddle in tight rapids you will learn this skill. It doesn’t need to be hard rapids just tight ones. So go out on the river and run all the slots and tight lines around rocks that you can. Don’t settle for scraping your paddle on the rocks try to run clean, No Touch!



Making peace with rocks

May 13, 2008

Shane learning to deal.

Shane learning to deal.

Rarely is there a line on your favorite creek which doesn’t incorporate at least one ill placed rock. Dealing with rocks and not letting them affect your plan is an important skill to learn and become comfortable with. Here are a few shots from Frankenstein, a classic rock jumble which has caused millions of bad lines because of some ill placed rocks. Shane takes a moment to explain the importance of carrying your momentum up and over the rock and keeping your eye on the prize while Robin Betz demonstrates near perfect form.


Once you get comfortable getting over rocks without them throwing you off line, feel free to start using them to spice things up a little. Here’s international superstar Yonton Mehler demonstrating a beautiful rock spin.

One important aspect to keep in mind is to keep your hips loose and always lean into rocks if you get pushed sideways against them. Frankenstein has some classic pin spots and the key to success in a rapid like this is to keep moving and never give the water a chance to load up on your boat when there’s a rock blocking your escape on the other side.

Notice Robin’s aggressive forward posture.

Shane chimed in with a few more thoughts on dealing with rocks.

The biggest thing in learning to deal with rocks is actually knowing what is going to happen when you and your boat interact with rocks. The only way you are going to learn is to mess around with them. Thats why boofing, sliding, spinning, and glancing off of lots of rocks on your normal run is going to make you a better paddler. Its that repetition of banging around in the rocks thats going to teach you how to deal with them.

Mefford holding the control stroke while meeting the rock

Mefford is using a correction stroke here to account for the deflection the rock is delivering.

In a general sense I think of rocks as being another river feature like a wave, or a hole. The rock is going to try to deflect you just like a pillow, or diagonal wave. So often times I deal with the rock in a similar fashion to how I deal with other river features. The only difference is you aren’t going to be able to plow through the rock like you may a wave. That rock is going to deflect you some unless you can get up and over it but that is a deflection also isn’t it. When I approach a wave that I think is going to deflect me I keep a correction stroke at the ready to deal with that. The same is true of a rock. If you are going to glance off the rock have a correction stroke ready to deal with that and know its going to happen. In fact I use a stroke that is going to take me to the rock, over the rock, and beyond in the direction I want to go. That way I am in control of my direction and interaction with the rock the entire time. Its crucial with any river feature that you are working with to keep your paddle working for you through out the action between you and the feature.

Continuing to use a control stroke past the rock

Here he is continuing his stroke well past the rock so he stays in control.

The water that is moving over and around the rock is also important. The more water you have going over the rock the easier it is going to be to get over it. Often times the spot where you use the rock is the near the highest point where the water meets the rock, because you get the lift of the rock along with the slickness of the water. What the water is doing just at the rock is also important. Is there a strong pillow at the rock that might deflect you? Is there a curler coming off the rock? Is the water disappearing under the rock, ahhhh?

The rocks themselves and their consistency will affect your move. Are you paddling on pristine smooth granite, or manky roadside scrapple. The quality of the rock is going to also influence how you will move over and around the rocks. Pretty much if its manky I try my hardest not to touch it because its going to stop you cold. Its also one of the reasons that the Smoky Mountains, the Sierras, and other smooth rock rivers are so awesome to paddle.

Yonton using the slope of the rock

Yonton dealing with the slope in the rock.

The rocks shapes, and angles are also hugely important. When you are working with the rocks you have to take into account the shapes and how you are going to use them. Is it sloping the direction you want to go? Is it going to slow you down? Is it going to give you a kick? Will you be able to release easily from the rock and continue downstream? Its a lot to take in but the more you take notice of the rocks you are working with the more precise you will be.

So like I said at the beginning of this little spew, get out there and mess with rocks. Repetition is the best way to learn about how to work with them.

Just a few more thoughts.


P.S. If you have any ideas or thoughts about this subject leave a comment. I would like to work with folks and talk about instruction concepts.

Creeking Instructional Overview

May 13, 2008

The Gorilla at the heart of The Green River Narrows

When we decided to do an instructional piece on creeking the location for the project was an easy pick. The Green River located near Saluda, North Carolina is a hotbed for creek boat design, creeking technique and creeking talent. With over 20 years of experience on class 5 creeks and just as many years as an instructor Green River Local and Liquid Logic boat designer Shane Benedict will be our point man. He will be assisted by a group of local paddlers including, Mefford Williams, Al Gregory, Pat Keller, Robin Betz and John Grace who combined have ran The Green over 2000 times!

In order to organize the information gathered during this project we have decided to relate one specific skill to each rapid on The Green River. To illustrate the techniques covered more clearly we will using photography both moving and still to clarify each explanation.