Adventure photographer Taylor Robertson knows a thing or two about boofing. While he's down to kayaking a paltry 250 days a year, the former U.S. Freestyle Kayak team member has more first descents than you have cam straps, and he's stuck strokes carrying him over and out of harm's way in more than 22 countries.
But boofing, a technique that propels you over drops and lets you control your landing angle, knows no borders. It's the same in Bhutan as it is in British Columbia. And as the only reliable way to clear sticky holes and avoid pitoning, it's as crucial for Class III boaters venturing onto harder runs as it is for more advanced boaters frequenting unfamiliar horizon lines. Most boofs fail, says Robertson, for three reasons: a poor forward stroke; bad timing (shall we say, premature boofulation); and/or over-boofing, which makes you land flat. He should know. He once over-boofed 34-foot Spirit Falls on Washington's Little White Salmon, landing flat and breaking his nose on his cockpit rim.
If you're serious about creeking, a good boof is as essential as a roll. Following are some of Robertson's tricks to the airborne trade.
Know your drop—is the lip abrupt or gradual? If abrupt, plant your stroke early, right at the lip, and then pull the front of your boat toward your chest. If the lip is gradual, wait until you pass it to start your stroke. Stroke too soon and your bow might rise too early and then rotate back down, causing you to nosedive into potential danger.
"Close the scissors" after planting your paddle, use your stomach muscles to pull your knees to your chest (the proverbial scissor blades). How much depends on your position in the air. If your bow is angled too far down, crunch more to pull the boat up. If you're too flat, un-crunch your body into a more neutral position.
Don't overdo it. The only time to over-boof is when the landing is super shallow. Otherwise, drops as small as 10 feet can hurt your back. To prevent this, make sure your timing is on, and don't pull up too hard on your knees. "On Spirit Falls, which has a rolling lip, I usually only give it 10 to 15 percent of a full boof motion," Robertson says. "Except, of course, when I broke my nose."
Spot the landing. Know where you're landing and look where you want to go. This helps you know where to exit. "I try to pick out a two-foot by two-foot area and place my bow right in it," Robertson says. Also, the impact can hurt if you land wrong. Hold your paddle in a neutral position or slightly off to the side. Use it for stability and bracing once you hit the pool.
Don't stop paddling. Exiting a drop is just as important as the execution. Come out of your landing aggressively and ready for the next drop. You're not done just because you boofed the hole–even after a perfect boof, the backwash can pull you back.