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K A Y A K t e C h N i Q u e
fallinG flat
Running big waterfalls can be one of the most dan-
gerous aspects of kayaking. Witness professional stomp all over it.
kayaker Dunbar Hardy, who endured 10 days in
Photo StePhen wRiGht
traction followed by a year of rigorous physio-
therapy after breaking his back on a 50-foot falls
in Ecuador. Or Corran Addison, who says he still
feels intense pain nearly 20 years after shattering
vertebrae on a 70-foot drop. Both injuries occurred
landing flat from too great a height. When scouting
a significant drop, the foremost decision for any
paddler is whether to boof for a dry, flat landing or
plug for a wet nosedive into the plunge pool.
tO BOOf, Or NOt tO BOOf?
Identifying whether a landing is soft enough to ab-
sorb a flat landing takes practice and experience.
As a general rule however, the more flow going
over a drop, the more aerated the water at the bot-
tom. Frothy, aerated water acts like an airbag in a
vehicle and makes for a softer landing. If there is
very little flow going over a drop, the green water
below provides very little cushioning so landing flat
can feel a lot like slamming onto a concrete floor.
Nearly all of your boat’s momentum stops upon
impact, forcing your body—mostly your spine—to
absorb the shock. Therefore, the higher the drop
and greener the landing, the more vertically you’ll
want your boat to enter.
tuCK it iN
Consider this: you have left the lip of a waterfall
that you planned to plug but are now falling flat to
the pool below. To save your spine, you need to
drop your bow for a more vertical entry. The easi-
est way to do this is to tuck your body hard against
your front deck. Shifting your weight forward like
this will slowly start to angle your bow downwards.
When you’re running a fairly large drop, staying in
this position will cause your boat to become more
vertical throughout the fall. Tucking forward also
curves your spine which helps protect your back.
If your bow doesn’t drop enough and you are still
headed for a flat landing, prepare to be slammed
against your front deck. Turn your head to one
side so your helmet takes the impact instead of
your nose.
stOMP the DrOP
A second method to get vertical is to stomp the
drop. Stomping involves aggressively changing
your angle in mid-air. It is more difficult than simply
tucking forward and hoping for the best, but it’s away from your upper body. While the stomp can shorter drops. With such potential for serious in-
also more effective on medium-sized drops when drop your bow quickly, it also leaves your body in jury, it pays to practice both of the recoveries de-
you don’t have enough time for a slow-motion a very vulnerable position. The secret to stomping scribed above. Practice stomping drops that you
weight transfer. safely is to tuck forward again just before landing. can boof safely so you don’t risk injury if you land
Think of your body as a Swiss Army knife. Start This motion can pull your bow back up so be care- wrong. Although the stomp is very effective in the
closed in an aggressive forward position on your ful to shift your weight forward slowly by crunching right situation, tucking onto your front deck goes a
front deck, pulling your knees to your chest. Move your abs rather than pulling up with your knees. long way to protecting your back in all scenarios.
to an open position by sitting up and leaning The stomp technique works really well for small,
kelSey tHoMPSoN is a professional kayaker and three-time member
slightly back while pushing your legs and heels quick angle adjustments and is best suited to of the Canadian Freestyle kayak team.
20 Rapid early summer 2009
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