When I first started kayaking no one ever told me about ‘the boof’ and I just plugged my merry way down anything. It was a few months before I realised that everyone else seemed to stay drier than I did and they never had as much fun with unexpected down-river freestlye. After consulting Dr Google and watching numerous Youtube videos, I was confident that the boof was my answer to stylish kayaking and that I would be paddling with the pros in no time.
Sadly, the reality of learning to boof was somewhat harder than my optimistic imagination was suggesting. Many experiments with misguided advice and numerous back-loops later, I thought it might be useful to share some of the tips that I have picked up along the way.
Boofing is the act of keeping the bow raised out of the water to land flat from a drop or to stay on the surface through a hole to maintain speed and control.
READ THE WATER
Boofing is all about raising your bow to keep your boat flat so look for river features that might help you. Perhaps there are obvious rocks or large-scale features which you can ride up to carry you across the back of the hole, but often it might be just a subtle curling wave which helps to raise the bow.
Notice the small kicker in the centre of the drop which can be used to kick the bow upwards.
POINT THE WRONG WAY
If there is nothing particular to aim for, then often you are committed to boofing the guts of the hole. Rather than pointing dead downstream, it can be helpful to direct your boat on a diagonal slightly towards the same side that you plan to boof off. This will allow for core rotation to bring the boat pointing back downstream out the back of the hole.
EDGE AND REACH
As you approach the hole, spot the piece of water that you plan to plant your blade into, reach for it and edge. You should have your blade nice and far forwards at this point. By edging your boat towards the side that your blade is on, you effectively have a smaller surface area of boat in contact with the water, which will make it less sticky when you come to launch your boof.
Reach forward, edge and hold it.
Be as patient as you can be at this stage. There is always the temptation to get an extra paddle stroke in before the lip of the drop, but you risk missing your boof and ruining your body position. Hold the set-up and wait for the spot that you have picked.
EXECUTION AND POSTURE
When you have hit that spot that you aimed for, dig the blade deep and imagine that you are thrusting your boat past that point by bringing the boat level again. As you do this, play around with what your feet are doing. Some people find that a big push with the same foot as the blade is engaged on will help to drive the bow upwards and bring the boat level and straight downstream again. Once you have kicked the bow up, remember to engage your core by pulling your knees upwards and your upper body forwards.
On a larger drop, take the time to smile for the camera and enjoy the free-fall. Remember to keep your elbows and face well clear of your boat for landing and consider a stomp to protect your back!
Keep your face clear of the boat!
The key with any new skill is practice. This doesn’t mean that you have to be firing up big drops all the time. Play around at your local whitewater centre by boofing some non-consequential holes. As you practice, it’s important to remember with boofing that everyone is different. Don’t get disheartened just because something that works for someone else doesn’t work for you. People who try and tell you ‘the way to boof’ are wrong because different things work for different people. I should probably also share my realisation that boofing is not the key to Pandora’s kayaking box that I had imagined. Yes, it helps you to look good in photos, but you can still take an absolute kicking when you boof into a bad place! Anyway, get out there and find your boof. If at first you don’t succeed try, try and take a kicking again!
To Austin Powers, mojo was not simply the essence of his libido; it was his raison d’être. When his mojo was stolen, not only did he despair at having to turn down the advances of Felicity Shagwell through fears of his own impotence, he also experienced something of a crisis of confidence in his own skill and ability to defeat Dr. Evil and inevitably save the world.
It came as a great shock to me this December when I suddenly felt like I had lost my mojo. I am not suggesting that I was in any way trying to save the world, or indeed that I became impotent (if such a thing is indeed even possible as a female), I simply seemed to lose my ability to roll.
People told me that it was a ‘head game’ and that if I was to find my mojo again then I needed to stop believing that I had ever lost it, but the evidence was insurmountable; my roll had completely deserted me. My once totally bombproof roll, simply didn’t work. I wasn’t panicking or rushing, I wasn’t afraid of being underwater, I couldn’t think of anything huge that had really changed, it was just gone.
I must admit that I was somewhat surprised by the knock-on impacts on my headspace. My overactive imagination suggested some unusual outcomes:
NO ROLL = NO CONFIDENCE = NO KAYAKING =
NO PARTYING + NO FRIENDS + NO RELEASE
= NO PURPOSE IN LIFE
Although I knew that this was irrational, it was clear that I needed to sort my roll out, so I took the only sensible course of action; I asked Facebook for help! It was heart-warming for me to receive so many messages of reassurance from kayakers, even the big deals, who have experienced exactly the same situation. I was however saddened to hear that so many people get their knickers in a twist about things without knowing what to do next, so I have thrown together a few of the tips from friends and family that I found particularly useful.
1. TALK ABOUT IT
One of my friends explained how the biggest barrier he faced whilst trying to find his roll again, was his concern over what his friends would think. He kept it quiet and worked on things alone. To paraphrase Pink Floyd (badly), our ability to talk is what separates us from the animals; it is by showing our weakness that we can save ourselves from a metaphorical drowning. Your friends will be your greatest allies when you’re rebuilding confidence and if they’re not, find new ones.
2. TAKE IT BACK TO BASICS
Think about how you learnt to roll and strip things back again. For me, this meant going to some pool sessions so that I could get some consequence-free practice in. I even went as far as wearing goggles and a nose clip to make sure that I was totally comfortable underwater and had all the time in the world to consider set-up and execution. Relax your body, hands and set-up to let your blade find the surface of the water, rather than fixing its angle with a solid grip. If there are no consequences, you can slow things down fully to make your roll solid again.
3. FIND A GREAT COACH
This can be tough but take the time to get it right, it probably matters the most. Avoid the people telling you that it’s a head game. Perhaps they’re right but it doesn’t help you to sort things out. Avoid the people telling you things like, ‘you’re brining your head up too soon’, or, ‘you’re leaning too far back’. Again, they are quite right, but these are most often symptoms of a weak roll, rather than being the underlying cause. A good coach will sit and watch. They will make recommendations for the slightest tweaks to your set-up and technique and could also help you to adjust your outfitting or equipment. These slight changes might just make an enormous difference.
4. BUILD CONFIDENCE
Once you have found your roll again, it’s time to make it bombproof and there is only one way. A bombproof roll is no different to any other roll, it is simply one that has worked hard for you and has pulled its weight in sticky situations. Get out there on some cold flat water, easy and then harder white water and roll like a trooper. If you’re going to artificial courses, make sure you mess around with mates doing boater x and such like to make capsizing and rolling feel natural again. Remind yourself that you can do it. Rekindle the feeling that a capsize is not a problem; when you roll before you think. That’s when you know that you’ve found your mojo again.
If you try the tips above and have no luck, go back to step one and see what else your mates have up their sleeves. If all else fails, remember that in spite of losing his mojo, Austin Powers was still able to divert Dr. Evil’s laser and saved the world. A roll isn’t everything, just stay upright more. If you’ve never seen an Austin Power’s film, make that step one instead!
The Diesel has long been a popular choice amongst white water newcomers, renowned for its versatility and predictable performance on low-volume rivers and play runs, but capable of pushing steeper creeks as boating skills develop. More recently, it feels as if the Diesel’s prowess on the British rivers has been buried by an influx of larger creek boats on the market. I fear that the humble river runners, perfect for British white water, are being wrongly forgotten.
My Diesel 70 is increasingly becoming my first choice, rather than my creek boat, for most of our British rivers.
The Diesel really enjoys being the correct way up! It really is a very stable boat under all circumstances - bigger volume rapids and holes, technical low volume rivers and surfing. This boat is truly versatile.
Any boat with a planing hull shape is slightly harder to roll than creek boats with a displacement hull, like the Recon. The Diesel's love of being upright makes up for this - you shouldn't have to roll it very often!
The Diesel's planing hull makes it fast. If you're a lazy paddler like me, this just means that you don't have to put as many paddle strokes in to achieve the same goal. It also means that the Diesel will fly over the top of holes that others will get stuck in on steeper white water.
Whilst the Diesel is easy to boof, its river running shape makes it less forgiving than a creek boat if you do miss your boof and plug a hole, but this is only really a problem at the top end of grade 4/5.
River runners like the Diesel have much harder rails than their creek boat counterparts. This makes them effortlessly manoeuvrable on technical white water.
The flip-side to manoeuvrability is that river runners are less forgiving than creek boats if the up-stream edge is dropped #powerflip
With different outfitting packages, you can choose the set-up and price point that best suits your paddling style and budget. A Diesel with the top-of-the-range CORE WhiteOut seat system offers unparalleled connectivity and comfort. The BlackOut option offers a lighter, cheaper but less technical alternative.
The Diesel is built to last, with relatively thick plastic in the hull. If you go for the heavier CORE WhiteOut outfitting, this makes the overall boat weight around 19.5kg for the Diesel 70 (medium size). This is heavier than some of the light river-runners on the market, but I feel that the added connectivity and durability is worth the weight.
Many of the top white water kayakers in the UK are increasingly paddling long-buried treasures; river runners that have been tucked up in the garage since the early 1990s. Whilst there is no doubt that old school is cool, perhaps we don’t need to dig quite so deep to find river runners that offer a bit more fun on the UK’s low-volume rivers.
The Wave Sport Diesel is a true buried treasure. Perhaps it’s time to get digging?
Lining up for the Welsh Open Boater X. Photography by Bob Lewis
A short but glorious period of time spent in the lead! Photography by David Steen
There has never been a general consensus on this one. Opinions have long been divided. Some are firm believers that ‘bigger is better’, whilst others argue that ‘it’s not the size that counts, but what you do with it that matters’. Personally, I had always held the latter belief, and whilst my weight often places me on the boundary of suitability for both small and medium boats, I had always opted for a smaller boat on the grounds that my muscles aren’t enormously impressive and I don’t drink protein shakes.
It was a smaller boat, the Recon 70, that I fell in love with after all. Whilst few would regard the Recon as being ‘small’, the 70 is certainly a small boat for my weight and for the chunky style of white water that it enjoys the most. Regardless of its size, I fell in love with the boat whilst falling off waterfalls in Chile and felt compelled to continue my love affair and buy one in the UK.
Sure enough, the Recon continued to perform both home and abroad.
More recently, having added a Diesel 70 to my fleet, the Recon 70 began to lose its place in my heart and felt pretty large on low-volume, technical runs, but fairly small for big volume, scary white water, especially when loaded with expedition kit.
Rio Fuy, Chile. Photo - Segio Vidal.
Indus, India. Photo - Stanzin Tanfan.
The release of Wave Sport’s new colours for 2017, and some encouragement from friend, was the final push that I needed to take the plunge. A big, pink boat was the way forward.
Only two weeks in and I wish that I had had the confidence to take the plunge sooner. My relationship with the big, pink Recon 83 is going from strength-to-strength. My fears of lacking the strength to control him were totally unfounded as he tracks a dream and I haven’t even had to pile on the protein. It helps that he is the same weight as my Recon 70 was, in spite of being larger, as the manufacturing of Wave Sports has changed since moving to the UK. A wider boat also means great stability and a longer boat means more rocker, so you really do have to get things spectacularly wrong to miss a boof. The greatest difference however is in my confidence; the Recon 83 feels like he is caring for me and wants me to get things right. He is a boat that breeds success.
River Dart, England. Photo - Mark Hurrell and Pip Spicer
Afon Mellte, Wales. Photo - Oli Kershaw
So although the general public can't seem to reach a consensus on whether or not bigger is better, I know my choice.
Everyone knows that outfitting is easier with your bum sticking out... It's just science
It's just scienceGetting a new kayak is normally accompanied by a great deal of excitement. I personally become a bit like an irritating new parent – constantly talking about the new addition to my family and showing photographs to people who understandably couldn’t care less.
Unfortunately, I have also found that getting a new kayak can often be accompanied by a fair amount of agro whilst you try and get the outfitting just right, but it’s worth putting the time and effort in, otherwise you may as well save yourself lots of money and buy a sit-on-top instead!
Now obviously ‘just right’ is a very variable concept depending on the particular kayak, what you are using it for and your own body shape and personal preferences, but I thought that I would share with you a few of my preferred outfitting techniques. They’re not particularly ground-breaking, but they might just save you a bit of faff time or add some extra comfort to your ride.
It's a balance between being heigh enough for reach and control but not so high as to lose stability
Your seating position will build the foundation for the rest of your outfitting, so it is important to try and sort this out as a first priority. Find yourself some flat water and a friend. Ideally, you want to position your seat so that the trim is even and the boat sits fairly level in the water, although you might prefer to have a different seating position depending on your style of paddling. Use your friend to advise you on whether you are level or not and don’t forget to take your allen key so that you can fiddle around with it there and then.
When you’re on the water, get your friend to have a look at how deep you are sitting in your boat. If the cockpit rim is somewhere around your (man)boob region or you are struggling to get your paddle vertical in the water then you might want to think about using foam to raise your seating position. This will give your more power and control through your stroke and will help to ensure that your blade is closer to the surface of the water when rolling.
This is the one that is really worth spending time on. Start by moving the footrest much further back than you need it to be. This will mean that you can build the footrest out with foam. This might seem to be a bit of a faff but I have been really grateful for have it when I have missed my line and piled into a rock or failed to boof into a shallow pool.
I tend to start by shoving paper on to the footrest and folding it over to create a template. I then tape the template to the foam (making sure that it is the right way around) and the cut the foam with a sharp kitchen knife. It’s important to ensure that your foot cannot pass around the sides of the foam and become trapped. I then add extra layers so that the heal area is built up more than the toe area which I personally find provides the most natural and comfortable seating position and provides more protection for your ankles.
These should hopefully be fairly self-explanatory with most boats. It’s worth mentioning however that people often remove layers of foam from their hip pads when they are causing cramp in their legs but this reduces your connectivity. Often, you can reduce cramp by moving your hip pads slightly further back, or by adding layers of tapered foam which are narrower at the end which is closest to your feet.
Again, these are hopefully fairly self-explanatory. Most boats will have some form of adjustment system, which allows you to move the thigh braces. I tend to find that having them as far from your knees as possible provides most control, but make sure that you have good connectivity all the way along the thigh brace to ensure comfort. I add an extra layer of tapered foam so that the thigh brace really wraps around my leg.
This is one must-add extra that I fit to all of my boats. The sorts of piton-based incidents that I outlined above can have as much of a painful result for your knees as they can for your ankles. A good layer of foam, not only helps to save your knee caps in such an even, but also helps to help your legs firmly into your thigh braces.
After many years of trialling different glues, and seeking advice from friends, I tend to find that a spray-on contact adhesive is your best bet. Spray the foam, leave it to dry for a minute until it is tacky and then it will stick right in with no need to tape it in place.
After hours of faff, your hard work will pay off! Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time you get it on the water. You might find that you want to change your seating position, which will probably then involve changing your footrest, hip pads and thigh braces. Think of your outfitting as more of a project – start with a good foundation and you’re onto a winner!
Whether you have been to Norway or not, you will either know or have heard about how incredible it is, so there’s not much point in me telling you that. Rather, I feel it is better to sum up my trip through a series of hints and photos which will give you some idea of what we got up to, as well as helping you to make the most out of your own trip.
TIP 1 - WILDCAMP
You can camp on pretty much any public land in Norway so make the most of it. With lakes and mountains everywhere and loads of roadside rest areas with picnic benches you’ve got everything you need. The photo above was our favourite place to camp in Voss... You can see why
TIP 2 - TAKE A RUGGED CAR
So many of the roads in Norway are privately owned steep, gravelly toll roads. Good traction and clearance will dramatically reduce your anxiety and will make you less bitter about having to pay to use a road that is ruining your car. Having a rugged car will also stop you from having to do the car-based equivalent of a walk-out with all of your kit.
TIP 3 - USE NEWISH KIT
Your boat and paddle will probably take the most intense and long-lasting battering possible, so make sure it’s in good condition before you leave, and wherever possible, take spares.
Luke proved that a good boof is not always a good plan
TIP 4 - TAKE FOOD AND BOOZE FROM HOME
People tell you that Norway is expensive, but nothing will prepare you for the reality. It costs about £4 to by a normal bag of Haribo. If you’re on a budget, simply avoid shopping.
TIP 5 - STAY SAFE
Get a spraydeck that will stay on your boat and a good helmet that stays on your head. If in doubt, simply avoid running things on your head or face.
What's the line?... Just don't run it on your face
TIP 6 - YOU WILL GET MOIST, AND STAY MOIST
We were very lucky with the weather on our trip, so don’t watch the video and be fooled by the glorious sunshine, it rains in Norway. Even if your weather is kind to you, the excessive splashiness of the whitewater will keep you wet for weeks.
TIP 7 - YOU WILL GET SCARED
Make sure that you recognise this and accept it from the start. Grade V whitewater should be scary and you may occasionally find yourself suffering from Acute Gnar-crisis, a condition in which all confidence is lost and even Grade I looks terrifying. Fortunately, treatment is effective by either continuing to paddle the gnar or by becoming jealous of other people paddling the gnar. Beware however that symptoms may be exacerbated by the overwhelming presence of Professional Boaters and God Boaters in Norway.
Coming this close to running a burly rock slide on your face will give anyone a touch of Gnar-crisis
TIP 8 - MAKE EVERYONE ELSE JEALOUS
Kiwi Supermarkets have free Wifi, toilets and water taps so you can make your friends jealous on a daily basis by telling them how much fun you are having. You are also highly likely to bump into other kayaking bums which can be useful for networking purposes.
So if you love the gnar and you haven’t been to Gnarway, you had better get planning. It is, without a doubt, the most beautiful country I have ever visited and is home to some of the most varied, continuous, exhilarating and scary rivers on earth. I will eagerly await my invitation.
Italian paddling is famed for that perfect combination of food, drink, sunshine and whitewater, so when I got the chance to spend a week in Valsesia at the beginning of June, I couldn’t resist.
The first day got off to a pretty sluggish start. Having all got a little over-excited by the existence of 10 litre bottles of wine, most of us found ourselves feeling a little bit precious. We decided to use the Middle Sesia as a warm up river but things quickly became fruity when all seven of us ended up in one recirculating eddie. There’s nothing like a bit of beatering to clear a hang-over and it’s always nicer to beater with a friend.
Fortunately, over the next few days, the paddling went much more smoothly with clean runs down the Lower Sesia, Gronda, Sorba Slides, Mastelone, Alpine Sprint, Egua, Sermenza and the Landwasser. It quickly became apparent however, that the River Gods were replacing our boat-based carnage with a bit of bank-based and kit-based carnage.
I put in a strong entry for the carnage award by climbing down a bank that I would never be able to climb back up in an attempt to rescue the Shewee I had dropped. Not in the history of mankind has anyone managed to waste quite so much time using a labour-saving device.
Oli arguably had a stronger entry from the carnage award when he somehow managed to acquire three big splits in hisboat on a high-volume river. Luckily, he had a ready supply of ‘Back-Seat Welders’ to annoy him and to provide useless and contradictory advice whilst he made his repairs. Unfortunately for Oli, the ‘Back-Seat Welders’ had failed to mention that using a blow torch alongside highly flammable contact adhesive might have some negative consequences. All’s well that ends well.
Overall, my trip to Italy was exactly what I wanted it to be: a holiday; a warm-up for Norway; and most importantly, a right laugh. Thanks to everyone involved for showing me such a good time.
It’s refreshing to paddle a small playboat that actually feels like it's designed for the smaller paddler, rather than feeling like a shrunken version of the medium size. I’ve owned my Wave Sport Mobius 49 for a week now. I meant to post up my initial thoughts sooner but I haven’t been able to leave the boat alone for long enough to actually sit down at my computer. Fortunately for my lack of self-control, all of my paddling buddies seem to be busy today so here’s a brief round-up of my initial thoughts on the Wavesport Mobius.
Set-Up and Outfitting
Wave Sport’s Core Whiteout outfitting was one of the first features which attracted me to their Recon, and has to be near the top of my list of favourite features of the Mobius.
The set-up was remarkably self-explanatory with pockets for extra foam in the hip pads, a hand-screw to move the seat backwards and forwards in 0.5cm increments, and two allen key screws to move the thigh braces.
The outer section of the thigh braces are also removable which gives a little extra leg room to the taller paddler. One of my favourite features of the outfitting is the seat pad which can be unhooked at the front to make space for the additional layer of foam which comes with the boat. This lifted me up nicely and overcame my slight concerns about the volume around the cockpit area.
Comfort is often overlooked by play boaters but in my mind, the more comfortable I am, the longer I can stay on the water and the more I can enjoy myself. The thing that has struck me the most about my last week of playboating is that I seem to have been able to paddle twice as hard for twice as long. The adjustable ratchet leg-lifter in combination with the wrap-around padded thigh braces offers unparalleled connectivity, control and comfort.
On the Water
My initial impression of the Mobius on the water is that it is surprisingly forgiving. This is true of all of the locations in which I tested it: in the surf, down the river, on a wave and in a hole.
In the surf, I had initial concerns over the short length of the Mobius and how it would cope with boofing out through the waves and with getting up the speed to get a decent surf but I was wrong to worry. The continuous rocker made it a dream to boof and in combination with the boat’s forgiving nature, would surely be an asset on the river. The width of the hull made it relatively easy to plane in spite of the short length. The length also meant that I could have so much more fun with messing around on the flat-water between sets of waves.
On the river, I found relief in the Mobius’ relatively high volume and its ability to retain the wave or the hole. This made it so much easier to have fun trying out new moves without the risk of losing playtime. The short length also delivered so much control and manoeuvrability whilst on the wave or in the hole and really allowed me to take my time in finding that perfect position to initiate a move.
Overall, my first impression is that the Mobius 49 actually feels like a boat which is designed for the smaller paddler, rather than feeling like a shrunken version of a medium sized boat. The combination of the unparalleled connectivity provided by the Core Whiteout outfitting, with the Mobius’ shorter length, wider hull and greater volume makes for a great day out wherever you are.