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The Landing

No matter how well you sky off some great boof, and no matter how cool you look sailing through the air; you still need to pay attention to LAND the boof correctly. Landing the boof can mean all sorts of things; basically landing the boof involves dealing with whatever it is that lies waiting at the bottom of the boof. You may be boofing into an eddy, or into a big hole, each landing zone will require a specific technique to land in control. If we don’t pay attention, sometimes we can get a great boof and then loose it on the landing.
Assuming that all went well with the Approach and the Launch of the boof, well want to make sure that we are landing with our body weight centered and even over the top of the boat with a paddle in the water. We may also need to be landing on a slight edge, like if we are catching an eddy. We may be needing to straighten out our boat, particularly if landing in a hole, or if the boat starts to become pointed at an obstacle downstream. There are many factors, but mostly it's just key that we stay aware and focused even while we revel in that glorious feeling of our boat sailing away airborne over a big boof.
Ideally we will want to begin our landing the split second that our boof stroke is finishing its job, by reaching immediately for our landing stroke. A left boof stroke will lead nicely to a right landing stroke, and visa versa. Reaching for another stroke in mid air will also provide us with a convenient way of keeping pressure on our knees to keep the boat level. While we are reaching for the landing stroke we can perform a “sit-up” type motion, bringing our knees up towards our chest (NOT the other way around!); this not only helps keep the boat level, but also lowers our center of gravity, and provides us with an active paddle blade upon landing.

(The Approach: finishing a draw stroke to set the boat up at the ideal launch pad, this draw stroke is about to turn into a forward/boof stroke. note the slight edge)

(The Launch: a big boof stroke, carried well past the hips while lifting up on the knees)

(The Landing: bringing the knees up to the chest, reaching for a stroke to control the boat in the critical moment of landing, also note the eyes focusing on the landing)

During the launch we may intentionally, or unintentionally, be edging our kayak to one side or another. We will want to transfer our weight off of that edge before we land the boof, other wise we will not land in a very balanced fashion. Landing in an eddy in particular tends to produce a need for an edge transfer in mid air. Say for example that you are driving your boat off a rock on river right, at about a 45-degree angle, into an eddy. When you drive off the shoulder of the rock, the height of the rock will tend to lift your right edge slightly higher than your left. Now as you come off the rock and land in the eddy, you will need to lift your left knee up and shift your weight to your right edge to prevent tripping over your downstream edge. Landing in a sticky hole, with your boat anything other than flat and level will provide the hole with more to grab a hold of to stop you. It is import to “un-edge” the boat before landing, by shifting your weight and lifting up on whichever knee is lower.
Landing involves keeping your kayak under your control during the entire boof sequence. Things to keep in mind are your angle, edge, and what paddle strokes you may need. There is no magic formula that works every time, the information of this tip represents some hypothetical situations to get your brain thinking of the different possible technique that you will need every time that you take a boof. Keep at it…
Safety note: This tip, does NOT apply to paddling over large drops and waterfalls. This technique is ideal for use on ledge holes, and smaller drops with a good deal of aeration in the landing zone. Landing flat on any drop CAN injure your back; the two greatest risk factors to consider are the height of the drop, and the “hardness” (more aeration will soften the landing) of the water in the landing zone. For safer landings this tip assumes that you are boofing off drops no higher than three or four feet, and that you are landing in moderately aerated water. For any higher drops or “harder” landings it will be imperative NOT to land flat! With experience much of this technique can be MODIFIED to use in a wide variety of applications (including certain play paddling moves); it is therefore highly recommended that intermediate paddlers learn to use this technique on smaller features in class 2-3 water. Look for more advanced boofing technique in future tips.
Happy landings…

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Since your description is for paddlers who haven't done this before --- You need speed !
In your example pic. Not enough speed would likely result pin to river R, or an ugly paddle backwards on river left.
Regarding speed... as is the case with a lot of whitewater kayaking, speed can be both helpful (when under control), yet it can also be a hinderance. I think that a lot of folks initially rely heavily on speed to be able to boof off of rocks or perhaps over holes (when I was trying to learn how to boof, speed was all I had); the reality is that the angle of approach, the timing and placement of the boof stroke, and the body mechanics to land the boof are FAR more critical than speed. When practicing how to boof, I have found that most folks will tend to do much better on being precise and timely while approaching the boof more slowly.
Then there are the complicating factors, and the reality that no boof is quite the same; some adjustments will be needed to optimize each and every boof. When you are consistently putting your boat in the exact optimal spot to boof, with an optimal angle, and a perfectly planted launch stroke... then by all means add a bit more speed, and the boof will tend to be all that much more dramatic. For an intermediate level kayaker trying to get a feel for how to do this I would recommend quite strongly that they not build up too much excess speed until they get the basics down a bit better, and I would further recommend that anyone new to boofing NOT try to boof anywhere that the consequences are serious.
BTW, the boof in the photo sequence did have a bit of a cushion off the shoulder of the rock which did require a slight increase in speed (one good stroke just upstream of the cushion), but was actually done (by me) with very little speed, mostly just going with the flow of the current.
Cheers, JB
A few more questions. One issue I have trouble with is keeping forward enough. I try to pull up with my abs but often get back too far or just end up with my chest down toward the deck rather than getting my knees up. When I am boofing at an angle, cross grain I find that I can get a lot of power from a boof stroke that is a bit of a modified sweep. I can get the pull I need and still stay up weight forward. On a really straight take off I have a harder time and often end up leaning back as I pull on my boof stroke particularly as it passes my hips. This puts me in a poor position after launch and during the landing. I am not sure if I am trying trying to boof too early. I have often tried to delay my launch stroke a bit but this also sometimes results in too much down angle on the bow and I melt the landing. I appreciate your points about edging but find this a bit more difficult in my creek boat (displacement hull). Similarly the increased length of my creeker seems to make it a bit more difficult. I realize each situation is different. Any advice on these matters would be appreciated.
Dan, great questions!
Let me try and help with some short "general" answers, since it is very difficult to actually trouble shoot without being present to see the "what, when, where and how's". On keeping your body forward, you may just be overdoing the boof stroke to the point where your upper body is becoming so involved that your torso is ending up back? Try lifting on your knees as you begin taking the stroke, and be certain that you're turning your torso in a side to side motion (torso rotation) rather than a front to back motion. This basic issue is something that most paddlers could be a lot better at with all their forward strokes, and in boofing this would cause some big problems. Perhaps take a look at how well you utilize torso rotation on your normal forward strokes, and then take it to boofing. I mention this both as a general issue that most folks have, but also specifically because you mentioned that you had more trouble once the paddle passes your hips... ie you may be pulling your whole torso back to launch the boat rather than twisting. Edging is a great way to make things a bit easier to lift the front of the boat, or rather to "hold" the front of the boat at the horizontal angle that it's starting the boof at. I'm not sure at all what you mean by the creek boat being harder to do this with being a displacement hull, as this is one area that I actually find a displacement hull really shines. I would more suspect that it's more of an issue of depth and width of the boat relative to your torso height, most creek boats are a bit on the large size in this regard and are thus a bit tougher to edge for a lot of folks. Length will make a HUGE impact on how hard it is to boof. I remember having a hell of a time with my first kayak, a Perception Mirage, with over 13' of kayak the boat often wants to start falling vertically long before you can get the paddle anywhere near the horizon line... OR... you end up finishing the boof stroke way before your whole boat has crossed over the lip of the drop. With today's modern creek boats, all are short enough to be boofing machines, but yours may be a bit tricky to properly time being that little bit longer.
Regarding cross current boofs, and using sweeps; those are great, and often a bit easier to perform in some situations. Take a look at the photo sequence in the first part of this series for a good example of where this may not work so well. Sometimes coming cross current can complicate the approach, especially if the launch point is much higher than the main flow to the side. Basically this can put the tail of the boat into water that's going somewhere else and can be tough to overcome, it also puts us at a somewhat exposed position above sticky holes and such. Don't get me wrong, cross current boofs, even those "squirting" the stern a bit can be very nice in the right spot... but sometimes you gotta hit em straight, or with minimal angle.
I hope this gives you some ideas to play with, and your questions have re-inspired me to finish the "Advanced Boofing" tip I'm working on... keep your eyes open for that soon.




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