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 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.


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.

WATCH THE SHOW HERE

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!

Later

Shane