Featured in the Summer 2010 Edition of Standup Journal
Valley Falls, West Virginia “Running a big rapid safely requires evaluating the consequences and understanding the dangers lurking beneath the surface,” cautions Mr. Go For It, Luke Hopkins.
Perfecting The Drop On this late summer day, Luke Hopkins is shown at the top of Valley Falls of the Tygart River, using his paddle to measure the depth of the water. If the fins on a board hit a rock right at the lip of a waterfall it would be the worst case scenario. Jason Stender is below the waterfall as an added safety measure just in case something happens. Luke details the anatomy of a drop: “Running a waterfall is like dropping into a big wave and making the bottom turn.
It takes the perfect execution of a sequence of movements to make it happen right. Most importantly: have the right kind of board to take on the challenge. The first step is transferring your weight to the back of the board without sinking the tail. So a high-volume durable board will keep the whole board on the surface and in one piece.
“Make sure you have a lot of speed and that the last stroke taken is right at the edge of the waterfall. It is then important to propel the board out away from the waterfall and to keep the nose up. Once in the air, bend your knees to prevent the board from floating away or getting pushed away by over extended legs.
“Once you and the board hit the pool you have to use every bit of strength in your body to absorb the impact and to keep from crashing off the board. The last part of the recipe is to learn from your mistakes because this is never smooth the first time. Most mistakes are fun to learn from because water is soft, but wear a helmet because rocks and paddle shafts hurt, especially if you’re playing with nature.
“One day I was about to run a waterfall and right at the top I borrowed a left elbow pad from a friend and put it on my right arm so we both had protection on our right side. I flew off that waterfall and hit my right elbow on a rock so hard that my shoulder pushed up into my jaw and almost knocked me out. I am really glad I had that elbow pad.
“Pushing your limits is really exhilarating, and if done safely you can push those limits again and again.” -Luke