A few weeks back whilst running steep creeking clinics and coaching programmes in Valsesia amongst great pool drop white water. I enjoyed a golden spring day on the last few drops on the Egua filming with Alexander Sukhodolov. Valsesia in Italy is a relatively small network of tight valleys the have a high concentration of rivers and creeks with both pool drop and boulder garden rapids. This is very fair white water, in that I mean, the rocks tend to be round, the bedrock smooth and there is a notable lack of syphons and undercuts. The moves are fun and clean, and yet the season is short, mid-April to mid-June, would be the time to enjoy, although early on it is cold, and later some of the runs drop out due to lower runoff, as the snow melt has gone. The valley sides are full of green lush vegetation, which indicates rain, and lots of it can bring everything back into condition within hours.
The Egua, is a small creek, with 2 sections, the upper (main) section is pool drop rapids, lots of them. Arguably the steepest Class IV white water around, yet the moves are very fair and in the main clean. The run starts with the top drop, a 7-metre slide into a drop with a grand back drop, from here there is some boulder ugliness, and then the bedrock starts a plum. Although only 2 km in length, there is a lot of action in there, and it is steep, the access road have switch back up to the put in, and there are no portages either. The final straight of the run, has 4 fine drops, starting with the table drop, then a slide into a slot, another slide and then the Cylinder Drops to finish, a sense of a real bonbon at the end. This is very fine creek boating, and for most Class IV paddlers it is an excellent run.
We got some drone filming action, but with no satellites to stabilise the image capture, the drone shots were all shot manually, which appeared to be quite the task in the wind. Still, for myself, it was the first time the potentially of capturing a moving paddler whilst the camera is also moving. These angles open up the scope to reveal paddling’s many tactics and the nature of technique delivery and application.
In the main video above, I had a session the table rapid on the Egua whilst Alex filmed. I like this great move, you get to ride the edge of the table boulder rock for as long as you dare. Go too short, and the drop off has no boof onto the bedroom slide, wait too long and the boat hits the left rock dumping the paddler onto the said slide. To add another dimension, the way the water comes into the drop has changed in the last few seasons, pushing the paddler to stay too long riding along on the table edge. Trying to get off early is key, certainly before you even get to the table edge, the boat needs to be committed to dropping off, and as a result, the boat ends up dropping in the middle.
With a boat like the Nomad there are no surprises. The kayak holds its line, tracks well and with no sharp edges in the hull, there is just one spot for the hull to hang up on the bedrock. The progressive tail rocker allows for an easy and smooth roll off from edge to edge.
As the boat goes along the edge of the drop, the paddler is leaning over the drop, with their paddle holding onto the falling water. In the video below, this time on the Sorba Slides, the second drop, you can see the same technique, known as flaring the body, to get the boof, ie, the paddler leans and edges to get the maximum blade pressure on their paddle at and just before the lip of the drop.
Note the way the leading arm of the stroke (the one in front of the paddler’s face), pushes over the centre line of the kayak towards the end of the stroke. This makes sure the end of the stroke gets a bunch more power from the torso rotation and upper back, and aids the change of edge to either flatten the boat out or start to load the opposite edge. (A common mistake is to lead the change of edge with your head, which often locks out any affective torso rotation.)
Secondly, the landing stroke on the Sorba slides comes after the boat has made its landing impact. By doing so, the new direction of momentum can be easier to manage, rather than trying to reach early for a stroke before or as the boat impacts. Paddlers who tend to do this can quite literally pull themselves over, or at least get a huge face full of water.
So lots to consider … and I’ll leave the boof stroke itself for another time …
The original video was filmed by Alexander with a Sony camera capable of 420 frames a second, which makes for a very rich shot, especially on such fine whitewater. Book a Gene17Kayaking trip, course, or clinic to experience it for yourself.