The Big One

October 10, 2008

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are paddling, there will always be those rapids with the power to make you shutter at the mere thought of running them.  Some of them will remain that way, but as your experience and talent progress you will slowly start tickin’ em off the checklist.  Fear is often what keeps you from running the rapid in the first place, and eventually what can guide you down safely to the bottom.  Check it out as Shane gives a few pointers on how to conquer your nemesis.  



Will so scared he nearly pissed himself.  Unfortunately he decided to run it anyways and wound up with bloody knuckles and a broken paddle.  He should have listened better to his fear!

Fear probably has your back more than anything else on the river.  It is often the voice of reason and can prevent you from getting hurt and making lots of bad decisions.  However, one of the greatest things about our sport is that it gives you excellent practice in dealing with fear and learning how to control it.  It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner sitting above Grumpy’s on the Ocoee for the first time or a seasoned veteran about to put on the Linville Gorge at high water, fear will be there.  The key to using it to your advantage is to be confident in your skills and decision making abilities, so when you’re skeered you can tell your brain “It’s cool, shut up, I’ve got this.”

First things first, be safe.  Make sure your buddies have your back and you have strategically placed ropes and rescuers where they need to be.  You can never be too safe on the river.  Along with this, know your skill level and don’t run something just because you saw someone else do it!  Too many people get in over their heads, and while they may make it most of the time this technique isn’t very sustainable.

Another tip is to have a solid routine you go through above a big rapid.  We are creatures of habit.  Just like you wake up, drink coffee, brush your teeth, etc. every morning, employ that tactic in your river running adventures too.  This will help make you more comfortable, gar-on-teed.  

Be sure to visualize what you want to do.  Run the rapid in your mind over and over, concentrating on good lines (not bad ones!).  You may have to do this for months or years before you actually run the rapid, but the point is familiarize yourself as much as possible so that when you are in the midst of it you can remain calm.  I get cold sweats and quite an adrenaline rush thinking about running Gorilla at 200% just about any time I think about it.  

So, get out there, get scared, and learn how to get over it!  Not to say everyone enjoys pushing their limits, but it doesn’t hurt to push just a little bit every once in a while.  Have fun, be smart, and as always, be safe.

The Seal Launch

September 3, 2008

The seal launch is one of those skills that you probably never practice but is essential to know.  

Don’t be affraid to use your hand to push off the rock. Some times you are launching from a standstill and it is good to incorporate a little rotation into your launch so you don’t drop on your head. You’ll notice in the video that this is one such launch.  When you do push off the lip, pick up with your knees and keep your weight centered.  Leaning onto the back deck almost always results in a faceplant.



Usually you are seal launching into flat, green water. It’s a good idea to try and drop your bow a little bit so you hit the water at more of a 45 degree angle instead of dead flat. Dead flat often results in sore body parts.  This isn’t really an issue with launching from a standstill.

There are hundreds of different seal launches out there and each one really requires its own special technique. Some are into flat water, some are into rapids, some are fast, and some are really slow. It’s a great skill to have and you can almost always find somewhere on your local run to practice.  Practice and experience are the best way to figure out how to consistently stick a seal launch, so get out there and launch yourself, but be safe!

The Boof, pt. 3.5 – The Straight and Fader Boofs

August 19, 2008

We are continuing from previous posts on boofing technique, adding the basic straight boof and the stylin’ fader boof.  With the addition of these two, your boofing arsenal should be nearly complete.  The most important thing to remember about boofing is that each location requires some adjustment to these basic techniques.  Just remember, keep your weight centered over your boat.  Go ahead and check out the video and discussion below.

The Straight Boof:

 The Approach: So you want to approach the lip of the drop as straight on as possible.  You may not necessarily always be perpendicular, but close enough.  The main thing is to have your momentum moving straight away from the drop when landing so you make it to where you want to go.  Speed is good, just don’t get so much you miss your stroke timing.  A well timed boof stroke will help you out much more than speed.   


The Stroke:  A vertical paddle stroke is crucial.  This will help direct all your momentum forward instead of turning your boat off the lip.  Plant your paddle blade on the lip of the drop and be sure to pull through.  Your boof stroke will be longer than a typical paddle stroke, so be sure to keep pulling past your hips.  Because it’s such a long stroke, you want to make sure to be pulling your paddle straight so that you don’t turn at the last minute.



The Body:  A combination of slight edging and a vertical paddle will help you accelerate straight off of the drop without danger of spinning out.  The less water on the lip, the more important is to focus on keeping your boat flat and driving straight.  Often, if the lip is shallow the boat will catch on rock and can easily rotate, landing you sideways in a nasty pourover or on rock.


The Fader Boof:

The Approach: The Fader is probably the most “technical” of the boofs we’ve talked about so far.  You want to approach the drop with angle, sometimes almost parallel to the lip.  Once at the lip, be sure to be looking where you want to land, which should be off to one side of your bow.  You can think of it kind of like hitting a berm on a bike; before entering the berm you want to be looking straight into it, but once you are in it you want to be looking at your exit point.  


The Stroke: Think of your paddle as the pivot point of your boof.  You’re stroke should start off as a bow draw to pull your boat around the pivot point, and end with a strong pull.  Keep your paddle vertical to get the most effective pivot, a sweep stroke or low paddle won’t help you out at all.  Once you’ve drawn your bow around to the desired angle, you will close your paddle blade and pull straight through like a normal boof stroke.  For the last time, keep that paddle vertical!  

The Body:  Don’t be afraid to lean out over your stroke and really pull yourself around.  For the fader to be effective, you have to be aggressive and lean into it.  Be sure to be looking at where you want to land.  As you are finishing your stroke, flatten the boat back out and land with the boat flat.  This edge transition happens in the last part of your stroke, as you are pulling the paddle past your hips.  




The Boof, pt. 2 – The Eddy Boof

July 23, 2008

This post continues where Shane left off, going into more detail on the boof. Today we will cover boofing into an eddy. It’s a pretty basic skill, but is slightly modified from the regular straight boof. The approach and stroke are the main differences. Watch and learn…


The Approach – The main difference when boofing straight off a drop and boofing into an eddy is the angle of approach.  The eddy boof has a more angled approach across the lip of the drop so that your momentum is carried in the direction of the eddy.  

The Stroke – The eddy boof requires a longer boof stroke, often finished with a slight stern draw, that creates the momentum necessary to carve into the eddy.  In the above photo of Frankenstein, the paddler is taking a long boof stroke which helps turn the boat into the targeted eddy.  

The Body – The final difference is edge transition.  A regular boof requires a fairly flat hull and no edge transition, whereas an eddy boof requires an edge transition in order to catch the eddy.  Keeping your body weight centered over the boat and landing on a stroke to pull you into the eddy will keep you upright and happy.  The above picture of Sunshine shows the padder weighting the left edge, while the one below shows the same paddler having transitioned more to weighting the right edge so that he can catch the eddy.  

Stay tuned for Shane’s update and even more awesome boof instruction to come…


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!