Thursday, March 31, 2011

"I like big boofs and I cannot lie"

Every once in awhile you learn a word that, despite having no home in the dictionary, seems to wedge its way into your vocabulary where it resides instead. After a week of kayaking with our Water & Wave semester course, my brain's language center has a new onomatopoetic roommate - in this post I'll introduce you to "boofing" and what it's like to paddle Central America's cleanest river as a first-time kayaker.

"Your kayaking experience depends largely on the roll. And I'm not talking about the Tootsie variety," explained the Whitewater Coordinator, Jody Jett. As the group, 7 students and myself, all brand new to the sport of kayaking, awkwardly boarded our polyethylene vessels we pondered not only the cheesiness of the joke but also how on earth we were actually going to manage said roll. Good thing we started in the pool because even in flat water, floating upside down underwater with your legs stuffed into a cramped kayak is a very unnatural feeling.

But then, it happens. I look over and see Jordan stealthily go from being pinned underneath his kayak to sitting upright on the surface with a huge grin on his face, like some kind of happy water ninja.

Everybody cheers, everybody gets even more motivated to do it themselves and it's a great positive learning atmosphere. Then Will gets it, then Kurt gets it, and slowly but surely we're all ready for moving water.

The Savegre River is a pristine river that scampers across the western pacific highlands much like the scaly iguanas that inhabit its banks. Although its water is impeccably clean and fresh, its rushing rapids aren't exactly taciturn - the rocks below the surface churn the water into a loud white mass of coiling water.

We've practiced safely navigating the river, though, and now we're comfortable in our kayaks. We start gliding down the river seeking wave trains to ride, eddies to catch, and yes, even rocks to boof.

Boofing a rock is the football equivalent to a celebratory touchdown dance (it stamps your style points with an exclamation mark). This is how to boof:

How to Boof

- Instead of avoiding the small broad rocks that barely poke above the water, steer your craft directly at them.

- Paddle hard to pick up speed.

- At the point of contact, simultaneously lift your arms and legs (basically, just think light).

- Catch 6-8 inches of air and land safely on the other side.

- Listen for the oh-so satisfying "boof" sound your kayak makes once it hits the water. Now fist pump because you just boofed a rock.

In addition to copious amounts of boofing, we also got the chance to hike up to some amazing waterfalls, stay with a Costa Rican family who served some delicious food, and most importantly, find a new passion for yet another outdoor hobby. If you're reading this as a parent of a student who just started their love affair with kayaking, don't be too surprised if they ask for a small loan to get themselves outfitted for the local river when they get home.

*Side note: Amongst the countless song titles/lyrics we came up with that incorporated boofing ("I like to boof it, boof it", "We all boof in a yellow submarine", "BOOF there it is!") our favorite one should be pretty obvious after reading the name of this post.

What was your first kayaking experience like? Any tips or resources for newcomers to the world of kayaking?