Alps Alternative Week 2 Central and Southeast Scotland. Day 3 and 4

Alps Alternative Week 2 Central and Southeast Scotland.

Day 03 River Tay – Stanley

This is the most paddled section of river in Scotland according to the guidebooks. We headed off in 4 vehicles as the information said that parking was an issue. We navigated to get out car park which was much smaller than I expected. We met three retired paddlers from Edinburgh dropping a car off. We got talking to them and they informed us that the top car park was now locked and we had to contact the Scottish Canoe Association for the code for the gate. There was then some discussion of the fishing issues with paddling on the river Tay compared to open access across the rest of Scotland. Two redirected phone calls later and we had not been able to talk to anyone on the number(s) given on the SCA website. There was no one available in the offices. Stuart and I took a punt and went to take a look at the get on, it was down a long winding road with new no parking signs and even one ticketed car!

The three retired guys had left the padlock open, while I distracted them with more chat, Stuart was able to observe the code. Just after this, another car with a playboater arrived. I opened the gate for her. The paddler said, “you know they have changed the code”. Oh, I replied, I didn’t know that. She then told me the code. We now had access to a warm, sheltered beach with flat pool and a safe place to leave the cars. A quick shuttle back to let the others know the planned trip was on.

A child in a yellow kayak

Description automatically generated with low confidence

We paddled upstream to a small rapid to play a bit and practise our ferry gliding. After about 10 minutes we set off downstream. There was a Gillie with a client fishing from a small rowing boat but the pool was so wide here there was no problem. Before long we came across Stanley Weir. The river was very low but there was still enough water to go over either one of the three channels / chutes. The middle one had the most water and provided some excellent surf waves.

We played for a while and then headed off downstream to explore the rapids below. These consisted of large grade two rapids with easy lines and proved ideal for the groups. This was the closest we would come to the bouncy waves of the Durance and the volume of the French Alps. The looping meanders of this Stanley section meant that we had no idea of how long the paddle was. It was only supposed to be two km but seemed much longer. Only I had gone down the path to look at the get out (which was not obvious and covered in trees). I was 75% sure we had not passed the wing dyke (diagonal weir) directing the flow across half of the river that would mark out exit point.

Eventually we arrived at the wing dyke which gave massive standing waves and provided a lot of fun. We had all broken out into a large powerful eddy, I got out and climbed up the steep bank and wandered downstream to see if there was a better exit point. There was about 50m downstream. The group made short work of the ardious carry up the steps and steep path to the road above. What a great section of river.

A picture containing tree, outdoor, water, wave

Description automatically generated

Click for more photographs……. Icon

Description automatically generated

Day 04a Upper Lyon and the Bridge of Balgie

The SCA site suggested that the River Lyon had a release today, so some of the more experienced paddlers drove up the long Lyon Valley to explore. The gorge section did not look as if it had been paddled that regularly. There were reports of a rock fall / collapse which made the start very difficult and impossible to portage. The gorge itself looked ok but access was difficult so although it was useful to scout this section of the river, we decided to give it a miss this time.

This left a short section of grade 4 upstream at the Bridge of Balgie. This was described in the guidebooks but was a long drive up the Lyon valley. At the bridge we observed the falls and drops which made the crux of the rapid. There was an undercut feature on river left under the bridge and we all wanted to make the line on the left before tackling the last fall. Some of us decided to run the drops and unloaded our kayaks and carried up past the scout adventure centre and a farmhouse / holiday cottage to put in through an unlocked deer fence.

A picture containing outdoor, snow, nature

Description automatically generated A picture containing outdoor, tree, water, riding

Description automatically generated

Once on the river we shot over the first warm up drop. Reece then led the second bigger drop. This was a strong pour-over and needed to be “boofed” (See article below by KenWhiting). It caught a few of us out. Chris rolled up but was swept down the river right. I saw him pass my eddy in mid rapid vertical but looked ok. My attention then went to Nick who was back-looped in the top drop, he attempted to roll several times but decided to exit his cockpit as he was worried about being swept over the fall below on the right. He managed to rescue himself by clinging on to a rock above the final drop. I manged to paddle over to him, and he managed to claw his way around it to the middle chute. Over he went on a rather rocky descent. Aleksander paddled the whole section well but was forced to take the chute to the river right and was caught for a little while in the stopper below but skilfully paddled his way out.

Nick`s paddle was caught on a rock midstream and was finally released with a little fishing with a throw line (well done Stuart and Craig). Those watching the first run decided to leave the boats on their vehicles while some of us carried up for a second lap.

This time we all gave the rapid a little more attention. Stuart was back-looped in the top drop and it looked spectacular from the bridge, which now had a lot of tourist onlookers. Reece then played a little in the white water at the bottom but by now we had all thought we had earned our drinks and cake in the post office cafe in the village. We were all more than willing to support the local economy.

Click for more photographs……. Icon

Description automatically generated

Boofing by Ken Whiting

Boofing is the act, or art, of keeping the bow of your kayak from diving underwater, and it is without a doubt the most important skill to learn for paddling creeks. Most notably, you can boof waterfalls and steep drops, but you can also boof holes, pourovers, reactionaries, and even eddy lines.

Boofing lets you run drops while keeping your bow from diving deeply underwater.

You should acknowledge from the outset that although boofing is a crucial technique for running drops, it can also be quite dangerous if not done properly. Landing flat from a drop of any significant height is going to shock your spine. This shock has broken the backs of paddlers on surprisingly small drops. Only experience can tell you when or when not to boof a drop.

For now, though, we’ll focus on the general boofing technique that will take you cleanly over a small, vertical drop. This technique can be modified slightly to boof over many different features.

The success of your boof relies on two key factors: your set-up, and your boof stroke. As a general rule, you need forward speed directed at the steepest part of the drop, and away from the centre of it. The forward speed helps launch far enough to clear the hole at the bottom of the drop, and aiming for the steepest part makes it easier to achieve this goal. By directing your boof away from the centre of the drop, you are avoiding what is usually the stickiest part of the hole below. In many cases, you can even boof completely out of the main current and into an eddy. This of course requires plenty of lateral momentum on your approach.

This is also a great time to remember that rocks are your friends on creeks. If there is a rock at the lip of the drop, it might prove very useful as a launch ramp. The ideal boof rock is a rock that will give your bow a kick into the air without slowing your forward momentum too much. This means you want to hit the rock with your bow, but not with the rest of your kayak. Do this by establishing lateral momentum on your approach. If you hit the rock with too much force, or approach the rock too directly and catch it with too much of your kayak, then you’ll be slowed right down and you’ll have difficulty clearing the hole below.

Having successfully set up your boof, let’s now take a close look at the boof stroke, which is the last stroke that you take as you drop over the lip. The boof stroke requires a combination of timing and power. The timing of the stroke is fairly straightforward. Plant the stroke just over the lip of the drop, where you can get the most pull away from the falls. On shallow drops, this sometimes means that you actually pull against the face of the falls.

In regard to the actual stroke that you’ll use, let’s refer back to the “power stroke” that we covered in an earlier article. The power stroke is a vertical forward stroke that propels your kayak forward without turning it. Since your goal for boofing is to launch yourself over the hole at the bottom of a drop, it should make sense that this “power stroke” will come in very handy. You don’t need to worry quite as much about the stroke being perfectly vertical, but make sure it’s powerful.

  1. The steepest part of the drop is usually the best spot to boof.
  2. The boof stroke is a power stroke planted over the lip of the drop.
  3. With a vertical paddle, you’ll minimize how much your kayak turns while you boof.
  4. As you pull on your stroke, thrust your hips forward to keep your bow up.
  5. Bring your weight forward again for your landing.
  6. Control your boat during the landing with an active blade in the water.

As you approach the lip of the drop, you’ll reach forward and then plant your boof stroke just over the edge. At this same time, the bow of your kayak will begin to drop over the falls. Now is the time to pull aggressively on your boof stroke. As you pull on the stroke, you’ll thrust your hips forward and past the paddle blade. The further you pull this stroke, the more lift you’ll give your bow. This means that when you want to land the flattest, your power stroke will pull right past your hip and your hips will be thrust hard forward so that you end up in a leaning back position.

Contrary to popular belief, you’re not done yet! You now need to prepare for your landing. You always want to land in your default body position, otherwise known as the “moderately aggressive” position. Landing like this helps prevent your boat from being back-endered, it helps you cushion the blow, and it allows you to control your kayak from the moment it touches down. For further control, you should land your boof with a paddle blade in the water at your toes, ready as a brace or to pull you forward and completely away from the hole at the base of the drop.

Ken is a World Champion Kayaker and the author and producer of an award winning series of instructional kayaking books and videos. He was recognized by “Paddler Magazine” as one of their ‘Paddlers of the Century’. For more information, visit www.helipress.com.

Day 04b River Tay Stanley

The Lyon expedition had returned to the campsite for a spot of late lunch and we were so impressed with Stanley Weir the day before we thought we would return for round two. The pool above would be ideal for Clara to play on the beach but if we took Reece`s kayak perhaps she could even go for a paddle with her dad. We set off for the grassy car park at Stanley and we felt confident as the sun was out and now knew the code for the gate.

The group headed off for the weir and spent a while practising breaking in, ferry glides and experimented with surfing the green wave. We dropped in high with a slight angle and ready with a left stern rudder to surf across the face. We all developed our skill and confidence and soon most were surfing across the green face of the wave.

A person in a kayak

Description automatically generated with low confidence

After a while, Clara and Richard appeared at the top of the weir. They had come across to watch all the action. Ella and I carried up the face of the weir to join them and have another go at shooting the weir. Ella had to jump in and swim to fetch her boat which had drifted off from the edge. A lesson learned. We then thought that Clara would be able to paddle down the first of the three chutes as it only had a little water going over it. She was up for the challenge and paddled it with ease.

We spent another 20 minutes playing in the waves at the bottom and even Clara tried a little Olympic Freestyle as we rode up the weathered remains of a tree in the eddy below the weir. When we had all had enough of the wave trains we carried around the weir and paddled back to the cars. A two river day – just like the French Alps.

People in kayaks in a river

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Click for more photographs……. Icon

Description automatically generated