I'm going to be perfectly honest - it took me a very long time to really learn how to boof. It took years of penciling, pitoning, hole-surfing, and general frustration, before I gradually found enlightenment on the path towards boofmaster status. Perfection is always out of reach. That keeps us young, and keeps us tenacious and honest. I've come a long way, and though I feel I truly understand the boof on an experiential level, trying to figure out how to share my understanding in an absorbable medium for others has proven challenging.
As a teacher explaining any technique, it's important to first understand the basic concept of what use it serves, and to be able to pare it down and simplify it, and present it in a few clear, concise, key points. This is fairly reasonable for many paddling techniques, and though I do indeed hope that there is a way to make boofing so simple as to be clarified through a short step by step process, I frankly believe that it's too complicated a subject to confine to such simple terms. I've always had a hard time processing the typical explanations given for how the boof works, which often have broken the technique down to 1) reaching over the lip of a drop, 2) implementation of some kind of ab crunch/hip thrust and 3) bringing your weight forward/leaning forward/recovery, etc. I've also seen lots of folks out on the river who appear to be trying these same general steps, often with seemingly little success/improvement. I personally learned the most from just watching high-end paddlers do their thing, from early in my days of pushing the rewind button on the VCR to scrolling back the bar on youtube on the latest online videos, to having the luck to paddle with the world's best kayakers. And what I see in the playful movement and geometries that these paddlers create with their boats hardly emulates the instructions I've heard on the topic of how to boof.
So is there some secret new way of boofing that just emerged from the depths at some point in the recent past that I've been informed of? Not necessarily. Technique doesn't progress with the flip of a switch. It evolves, somewhat seamlessly, but also in punctuated bursts of advancement. The cutting edge in paddling ability is an emergent line, defined and bent by the explorers and perfectionists that inhabit the fringe of all directions of the sport. Whether searching for downtime in a fiberglass wing, maximizing the pop of a blunt on a glassy shoulder, or finding a perfect mindful eternity within 70 vertical feet of freefall, we're all working towards not just understanding, but because paddling is an actively participatory pursuit, matching our energies as boat riders with the energy of the water. Not only do we fill the voids of knowledge and ability through diligence and the help of others, but we come to find that there are after all, so many more facets of our movement with water that need further exploration. All horizons melt away if you chase them long enough.
So it's no surprise that the boof is not what it appeared to be 20 years ago. And unlike more static, chunky shifts in operability like which version of iOS you're running on your phone, the evolution of boof technique has been very gradual and piecemeal. I'm not going to try to define boof 2.0, but I do wish to describe the leading edge of the concept as I know it today. There are no doubt many paddlers who understand it more than I do, but I see a divergence, a gap, between the pushers, and the everyday boater with respect to the understanding of, and the ability to execute any boof the river requires. It's my humble opinion that to fill this gap, we need to move to a new and more holistic understanding of the boof. If I can set the stage well enough, and build it from the ground up, I think that it's possible that the beautiful, advanced boofing techniques that we see the sport's best athletes using can truly be appreciated and implemented by any weekend warrior.
I still remember how it felt when I started to understand the boof in a more complete way, and for anyone in search of technical mastery, truly hard whitewater, or full development as a paddler, it's extremely integral to the whole paddling process. Given the lack of public discussion on the topic, I think that the conversation needs to begin. Stay tuned to this blog for the first in several installations where we will slowly start to decode the boof.