The Complete Guide to Boofing By: Alex DePue

To those who don’t know whitewater, the language and terms used by whitewater boaters are as foreign as ancient hieroglyphics are to people of the 21st century.  One term in particular comes to mind as the most foreign of all whitewater terms; the elusive boof.

A boof is a move that is designed to keep the bow of your boat above the water.  Named after the sound made by the hull of a boat as it lands flat on the water, the boof has a lot of variations.  I’m going to attempt to share all of my knowledge on boofing in all its variations.  Having said that, the knowledge I now have about boofing has taken me over 7 years to learn, and I am still learning more as time goes by.

The Elements of a Boof:

Speed:

The first and one of the most important elements of a successful boof is speed.  When you boof, in order to land flat you need enough speed to fully clear whatever you are boofing off of in order for your boat to land flat.

Speed allows you to Boof out and past the drop.  Backbreaker Falls on the Moose.

A common mistake is focusing too much on speed and missing the stroke as you come off the lip of the drop.  Gaining speed early and maintaining it coming into the drop is a lot easier than trying to accelerate at the last minute and will allow you time to focus on the lip of the drop and planting your boof stroke off it.

Another important point of note is to pay attention to the lip of the drop.  If there is not enough water flowing over the drop to allow your boat to float over the drop without touching the lip, you are going to dry up on the lip and lose speed.  Make sure you plan your approach and pick a spot to boof where you will not lose too much speed.

Approach

The angle of approach to the boof is a critical element.  The longer your boat is, the longer the distance of clearance is coming off the lip of the drop.  However, if you come off the drop at an angle, it will shorten the distance required and will require slightly less speed.  It is important to consider all factors of a drop when determining your angle of approach though.  If the hole at the base has a big boil you probably don’t want to come in on too much of an angle, but you also want to make sure that you don’t land with no speed as you will want to clear the boil line quickly after landing.

Certain drops will also allow you to execute what I like to call a sliding boof.  A sliding boof is essentially driving your boat up onto a rock at a slight angle so that you use the rock to keep your bow up and as you fall off the rock the stern of your boat has already cleared the lip of the drop, hence your boat falls off the rock flat and boofs.

Lip of the Drop and Stroke:

There are obviously many different types of lips.  Different types of lips will determine what kind of boof you use and when you place your boof stroke.  First lets talk about the lip itself.   Lips will fall into one of three general categories.  They will slope upwards, downwards or remain flat.  When the lip slopes upwards or remains flat it is usually very easy to execute a proper boof as the lip has a tendency to propel you out and keep your boat flat.  This is also known as an auto boof.  When the lip slopes downwards it makes it harder to properly execute a boof as you need to wait to place your boof stroke.

Now lets talk about the boof stroke itself.  The actual stroke you use to propel yourself out past the lip of the drop is called a boof stroke.  A boof stroke is nothing more than a forward stroke.  Many people make the mistake of trying to use a super fast and powerful forward stroke as a boof stroke.  What you actually want to do is slowly and steadily pull your forward stroke through.  The most important part of the stroke is to make sure you reach out just past the lip of the drop to “grab” the lip of the drop and use it to propel your boat out and past the drop.

As I mentioned above, the way the lip of drop slopes can make it easier or more difficult to execute a boof.  Another variable to consider is the level of water flowing over the lip.  When the water level is lower, it makes it easier to see a distinctive lip and hence easier to place your boof stroke.  As more water flows over the lip of the drop the depth of the water becomes deeper, and it becomes more difficult to see a distinctive lip and hence where to place your boof stroke.  In these instances, reach out past where the water starts to fall to plant your stroke, this will insure that you catch the lip of the drop.

Crystal on the Moose.  Note How there is no definitive lip, and I am waiting to execute my boof stroke as the drop slopes downwards at a 45 degree angle.

Now we will discuss the most challenging variable about the lip of the drop.  Until now we have talked about drops that are of a sheer or nearly sheer vertical nature.  However it is still possible to boof drops that slope downwards at 45 degree angles and less.  It is even possible to boof over holes buried among wavetrains and boof over eddy lines.  All it takes is the proper know how.

When the lip slopes down at say a 45 degree angle and then falls off, all that is required to boof is a late boof stroke, simply wait to grab the lip and boof.  This can prove a lot more challenging in practice than it sounds in theory though.  Another thing to consider is that it becomes harder to pull your bow up as it is already sloping downwards.  One way to counter this is simply to come in with a ton of speed and a slight angle to help shorten the distance required to clear the lip.  Another way to help counter this is by edging your boat to one side or the other.  Obviously which way to edge the boat will depend on the drop itself and your personal preference.  But when you edge the boat it helps to pull the bow up into the air and also decreases the surface area of your boat that is in the water, and thus makes it easier to pull the rest out of the water.  Obviously you don’t need to pull an ear dip to edge your boat fully, but an ear dip is simply a stylish extension of this type of boof and is in fact a functional boof.

The last aspect of the boof stroke to consider is which side you stroke on.  Whatever side you stroke on will turn you slightly in the opposite direction as you come off the lip, just as with a regular forward stroke.  It is also important to make sure the paddle is close to your boat and not out to the side of your boat as in a sweep stroke as this will increase the amount you turn off the lip.  Obviously, most times you will not want to turn at all off the lip.  However there are drops where the side you place your boof stroke on will make all the difference, as you will need to turn off the drop to avoid a rock in the landing, or to avoid smashing into a wall in front of you.

Sabbaday Falls NH.  It was important that I came in on an angle and execute a left boof stroke so that my boat turned right off the lip instead of colliding with the vertical cliff wall in front of me.

Air Time:

As you come over the lip of the drop and plant your boof stroke, you want to thrust your hips forwards as you begin to become airborn.  This will help propel you out further and will help maintain the flat position of your hull.

Now that you have planted your boof stroke you are actually airborn and are beginning to fall. However the boof is not finished yet and there are still things to consider.  The first is body lean. Leaning forwards or backwards will impact the angle of your boat.  If you try to hit the back deck you will actually angle the boat downwards which you do not want if you are boofing.  However if you accidentally boofed a drop, you can angle the boat down by leaning back slightly and pushing your feet down.  Just remember to tuck forwards before you make impact so you don’t hurt your back.  If you lean slightly forwards as you come off the drop and thrust your arms and paddle in front of you, this will further propel you off the drop and will maintain a flat angle of your hull.  In fact leaning forward and pulling your knees to your chest is how the “overboof” is achieved.

The next thing to consider while in the air is the impact.  If the drop has a heavily aerated landing and is not that tall it should be fine to land perfectly flat (say under 25 feet).  Over 25 feet and/or without a heavily aerated landing can result in anything from knocking the wind out of you to a broken back. On drops such as these it is probably best to try to land at say a 45 degree angle or so.  On drops above 40 feet the general rule of thumb is you want to pencil in to the landing.  There are exceptions to this and you can boof drops taller than 40 feet and be ok, but it is not recommended.  If for whatever reason you do find yourself boofing a significantly tall drop there are three ways to decrease your chance of injury.  The most important thing you can do is to lean forwards as much as possible.  The next thing you can do is to stomp your feet down to help point your boat down.  Finally you can edge the boat to either side.  Edging the boat will decrease the impact simply because the side of your boat presents less surface area than the bottom of your boat.  Therefore, as you land, your boat will sink deeper into water and lessen the impact by as much as half.

The Landing:

The landing of a boof is the easiest part.  Simply land your boof stay upright and paddle past the boil line and on your way.  Congratulations, you just boofed!

Check this video out, it gives a decent description of the boof.

Questions:

I was asked this question by someone on facebook, which was an excellent question so I thought I would post the question and my answer here.
Alex, can you talk a little more about the lip? Am I assuming correctly that the lip is the outermost extension of water that still bites your paddle and you would grab it naturally when it is about at your toes (in a creek boat) or at least as far as you can extend your blade forward? Then, as you stroke, I get your idea that you don’t over-thrust the stroke, but smoothly execute. Would you typically pull the stroke out when it reaches your hips to eliminate drag, or do you try to max out the stroke by keeping it in the water past your hips?

Excellent question! Essentially you are correct as to what the lip is. If you look at this picture (the bottom vertical drop) you will notice that the water becomes brownish yellow in color as it falls. Follow that up to where it meets the rock formation that forms the waterfall. Here you will notice the water is a dark blue almost black in color. The lip is considered the edge of the rock formation right where the water begins to fall off (where the water changes from blueish-black to yellow white in color). Sometimes the lip is easy to spot as in this case and sometimes there is so much water flowing over the drop you can’t actually see where the rock forms the lip. Keep in mind though that every feature on a river is formed by water flowing over rocks. So for drops where you can’t see the rock forming the lip or for say just a hole in the middle of a wave train, to boof you reach out just past where the water begins to slope downwards as this will ensure that your paddle is just past the rock that causes the formation.

The lip is considered the edge of the rock formation right where the water begins to fall off (where the water changes from blueish-black to yellow white in color).

As for the stroke itself you start the stroke by reaching forwards as far as you can (just like a forwards stroke). As the bow of your boat begins to move past the lip you should be initiating your boof stroke. You want to pull the stroke out at your hips and begin begin to lean forwards and bring your paddle forwards as you pull the paddle out of the water. The idea being that you should have enough speed coming into the drop that by the time you pull your paddle out and move it forwards your boat should have just about cleared the drop. A big mistake a lot of people make is focusing way too much on the boof stroke itself. While it is certainly important, without all the other elements you are not going to end up with a successful boof.

If anyone else has any other question feel free to ask and I will certainly answer!

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