The Anti-Boof: Perfecting the Plug (aka the Oregon Tuck) - by Lane Jacobs
The NorthWest is a great place to practice running vertical waterfalls. We have quite a few large falls that I have seen people run and often I see the same mistakes. Over the years I have come up with a few things that help me when I want to style a waterfall without boofing or trying to stomp it.
Generally any falls over 25 feet should not be boofed. People have broken backs on falls as small as 15 feet. My personal preference is to plug or 45 anything 25 feet or above. Plugging a big waterfall does not always ensure a soft landing but it is usually softer than boofing it. Plugging waterfalls also adds a few sketchy variables to the run: skirt implosions, broken paddles, pitons, lost paddles, cave encounters, temporary loss of control/composure, blown eardrums, seeing stars upon impact etc. The main reason I began plugging drops recently is to save my back from discomfort, which it usually does.
Here are a few tips I have compiled that may help any meat-huckers or future huckers out there.
Water Awareness: Reading the water precisely is the first step and is essential to styling a plug. You need to know how fast the water is approaching the lip and whether you want to detach from the falling water or melt inside of it. If it is into a big mellow pool melting is generally the way to go. The melting technique also produces a lot of behind-the-curtain surfaces so make sure this won’t be a problem. Some falls have small ‘pocket caves’ behind or beside the cave so be aware of this as well.
Be aware of any seams or curlers at the lip which are usually a sign that it will want to melt you in the falls. In my experience, these features help a softer landing because you will get ‘sucked’ into the seam and falling water. If you are enveloped in the falls you will generally go way deeper but in many cases you won’t even feel the hit. Generally, my personal preference is to be enveloped depending on the falls and pool.
Watch carefully what the water is doing in the pool below so that you can anticipate where you will be rolling up.
Approaching Speed: Too often I have seen people all jacked up and crazed on adrenaline and hit the lip of a falls going faster than the water. What usually happens next is either a mega-boof or over-the-handle bars run into a very hard landing because the person totally detatched from the falling water. From my personal experience moving the speed of the water or slightly slower is the best option. What usually helps me do this is taking a couple strokes well above the lip of the falls and then just holding my blade in the water all the way to the lip so I don’t change my speed. Generally detaching from the falls and not being enveloped results in a much harder landing.
Body Position: Something that I see quite a bit on Spirit Falls, for example, is people sitting in an upright neutral position and only until after they hit they lip do they aggressively lean forward. What this does is lift the bow of the boat resulting in a boof. Instead, people should generally be leaning aggressively forward while approaching the lip. Stay in this position until you begin your freefall. Once you begin to fall your bow should gradually drop. When it drops enough so that you can spot your landing you need to keep looking at your landing spot and keep leaning forward until the last possible moment you can tuck. By delaying the tuck, this will keep the boat from over-verting. (If you tuck right as you start to fall your body momentum will most likely cause you to go over-vert – unless the lip is a very gradual roller.) At this point ‘hug’ your deck and turn your head so you don’t get an unexpected kiss from your cockpit. You want to be tense when you hit the water so you don’t get ripped out of your boat and this should help you from injuring yourself.
Paddle Position: Keep your blade in the water until you are totally freefalling and then make a very delayed, if needed ‘boof/pull’ stroke. You want to be leaning forward with your blade controlling the angle of entry. Once you go over the lip of the drop, your bow will fall and while it is falling you want to pull on the blade so your boat maintains the same entry angle. Be sure not to pull before the lip or you will surely boof. Once your angle is set, spot your landing, wait, wait, wait, tuck and put your paddle to the side.
Not watching the speed of the water when you approach the lip.
Letting the adrenaline take over, not thinking calmly and charging the lip.
Paddling up to the lip too fast.
Tucking too early/Tucking too late.
Not getting your paddle to the side.
Not leaning aggressively forward before you reach the lip.
***The more waterfalls you run, the slower everything happens and it becomes easier to control. That being said, many waterfalls have difficult lips which make it very hard to control your entry angle. Gradual, rolling lips are much easier to perfect your entry angle than an abrupt curtain style lip. Make sure the pool is plenty deep before you run any large waterfalls.***
A few photo examples:
At the top I am aggressivley leaning forward, waiting to freefall and begin pulling my stroke.
The second frame I am spotting my landing and getting my paddle to the side.
The last frame I am tucking, turning my head and tensing up for impact.
A sequence of Rush Sturges styling a 10-45 footer.
The entry to this drop shot you into the top of the 45 footer fast...
so Rush detached from the falls a bit.
Notice in the 2nd and 3rd frames that he is leaning forward aggressively trying to keep his bow down.
Thanks for the beta on perfecting the plug Lane!