Boofing and white water confidence

by Ian Tokelove

Last weekend I headed down to Dartmoor for a day’s coaching on the Upper Dart and a second day of kayaking on the Dart Loop section.

With three friends in the car, four kayaks on the roof and a boot full of luggage we hit the M4 on Friday evening and got to our hired cottage about 11pm. Hiring a cottage may sound a bit fancy to the average kayaker, but it worked out cheaper than getting beds in a bunkroom full of strangers. And how many bunkhouses greet you with a ‘welcome pack’ which includes a chilled bottle of good, white wine and half a dozen eggs from the owner’s chickens?

On the Saturday, myself and my friend Christine did a boofing clinic on the Upper Dart with Gene17, whilst Barbara and Steffi did a white water confidence clinic with Tom Parker. Both clinics were part of Gene17s River’s Source Symposium.

Unfortunately, the Upper Dart proved a little too boney for the boofing clinic to proceed smoothly, and with two of the students taking several swims on an incredibly cold day, the clinic wrapped up early. I’ll have to admit I was disappointed, as the day had started well, with our leader Simon providing enthusiastic feedback in both verbal and video form. But with one student taking quite a knock to the head and the harsh conditions, the leaders had to put the safety of the group first.

Whilst on the river I chatted with another paddler who had enthused about how enjoyable the previous day’s clinic had been – but that had been a warmer day with more water. White water kayaking can be like that – it is so dependent on water levels – and if people are swimming on a cold day, you sometimes just have to get moving and off the water. I’ve certainly made the same decision myself, whilst leading or coaching on white water.

Meanwhile, Barbara and Steffi were impressed with Tom Parker’s ‘White Water Confidence’ clinic, with a morning in the classroom and an afternoon on the Dart Loop. Other students we met also found Tom’s clinic very useful.

Events like Gene17’s River’s Source Symposium are a fun, affordable way for paddlers to improve on their kayak and canoe skills. There is always plenty going on, with evening events and talks. It’s also good to paddle with people you’ve not met before  – they may do things differently, and perhaps better, than you do – so it’s a great opportunity to share skills.

On the Sunday we paddled the Loop section of the River Dart, getting on quite a way above the normal get on point at Newbridge. Despite the long walk I’d do this again, especially if coaching on the river. It avoids the crowds and gives you plenty of space to play on the river. You can also pretend you have just run the much harder Upper section when you get to Newbridge!

Water levels were low, but a few new eddies did open up on named rapids, allowing for some experimental eddy grabs. Most importantly, I paddled with good friends on a beautiful river – and that always makes me happy!

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