Yeah, so, I understand protecting the integrity of the body is the main priority in running a waterfall. I'm a big fan of the "Oregon tuck", and practice it every chance I get. But on a few occasions, I've ended up executing the lay back technique and had some of the softest entries- like a diver.
Boofing is great, especially if you have downstream hazards to navigate. But you can also take a hit with a boof. And from altitude, I've seen people crack boats from the sheer thump of the boof.
Vis-a-vis broken backs, it looks like people break their backs more when they go for a tuck, but don't quite launch right and their bow starts to drift up. The instinctive reaction seems to be trying to "stomp" the bow back down, which leaves the paddler with a vertical spine on impact and a boat angle that is closer to a boof than a pencil.
The spine takes a softer blow do to the natural mechanics of the spine by tucking. The abs help keep your spine protected it's just like taking a punch to the gut. It's all about the body if you are reared back it's easier to get whipped over the stern cockpit rim and over the back band which can def break a back. People boof to big and break their backs that's just the consequence of landing with a straight spine. I've landed back seat and it's no good always tuck it up. No pun intended
The reason you had soft landings when you leaned back is that it pushed your bow down so you did not land flat. The problem with this technique is that if your bow does not come down, you land in the worst possible position. Ideally, you want to land with the correct angle for the height of waterfall you are running (more vertical for taller waterfalls), and be tucked forward…like you see really good kayakers doing.
Being in the back seat also makes you less stable, so if you land leaning back, you are much more likely to flip. Maybe not a big deal if you are landing in a big calm pool, but sometimes there are hazards downstream that you need to paddle away from.
Its simpler in Colorado because we do not have many tall waterfalls, so we just boof the crap out of everything and hope for the best.
Echoing what's been said above, I managed to get tossed over the falls while paddle surfing -- I was trying to surf off the corner of the breaking wave while essentially in a "layback" position. When I was sucked over the falls I was still leaning back over my cockpit rim, and the impact herniated a disc in my lower back. So yeah, not a fan of the layback position...
So... I don't run anything big and I'm happy to be corrected but... You always want to be in a forward aggressive posture. A good big drop runner is reading every lip differently. He/she wants a blade in the water to control their angle at the lip and sometimes mid drop. Worst case the head forward resting on the forearm across the front deck is the best crash position. (Too flat a landing.) Unless you are throwing your paddle you want your paddle parallel to your hull to help punch the surface. Shoulders and face are at risk otherwise. Watch vid of the best and you will see remarkably similar technique, for good reason. This is about bigger drops not the 20'ers I've run...
The most recent skillset in big drop paddlers seems to be getting a well timed stomp on slightly over-boofed drops. A few years ago top names were tucking and taking the hit. Now they use late body english to get the bow down. The end result is less tuck and in some cases sitting up or back. I do think a tuck is simpler and the first stop on the progession. If boofing is dangerous on a drop boofing and not properly executing a bow stomp would be especially so.
-Another under-qualified armchair big drop specialist.
In bomb flow episode... I don't know, maybe 4? The first pacific northwest episode, I noticed Kyle Hull going off a lot of big drops and slowly laying back as he rolled off the lip, then tucking once he was in the air. He said it gave him better control of the verticality of the boat. He still landed forward, though. I think part of landing tucked forward is that it gives you more buffer. When you hit, the water can peel you all the way back if it's necessary, whereas if you are already back, you're already at your limit and just get smashed against the rest cockpit rim. It is an interesting thing to ponder.
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Yeah, Leif, that seems to be the critical thing and the least clear- how to control the verticality of the boat. Both rolling off the lip and in free fall. How do you set yourself up for maximum control and optimal angle?
Maybe there are no hard and fast rules; the lip will always constrain the launch and the height of the drop makes for different air time and, hence, different lengths of time for your bow to drift up or go further over the handlebars or to try to correct those things.
the tuck also helps to protect your shoulders and forrest knows this better than anyone. leaning back opens you up and on impact your paddle tends to shoot above your head. it is like a wicked jarring high brace and can dislocate a shoulder or rip your paddle from your hands pretty easily.
Think about a Peyton Manning getting crushed by a Seahawks linebacker in the superbowl.... you don't want to stand there with your arms up in the air when you take a hit, you want to assume a crash position, flex every muscle possible and be ready to get crushed.
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