Kayak Support Instructional Video

ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member

Morning! I'm excited to begin putting together some plans to create an instructional video on proper kayaking while supporting a swimmer. As the Three Rivers Marathon Swim Race Director, I have modeled my 'dual kayak approach' similar to how the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim was run while observing, and competing in the race. I have always liked the approach, while using two kayaks, to have one as the guide (breathing side) kayak, and the other as the feeding/data recording kayak. Plus, having the two kayaks is nice in case one kayaker needs to use the restroom, leaving one on the swimmer at all times.

I am interested in any best practices that you might have used as a swimmer, or as a kayaker yourself. Also, I would like to include a section on a one kayak approach as well, just in case the instructional video can benefit marathon swimming events where a single kayak is used. Thank you!

SoloKarl_KingerySpacemanspiffdavid_barraevmoKate_AlexanderBridgetDanSimonelli

www.darren-miller.com Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

Comments

  • Karl_KingeryKarl_Kingery Denver, COMember

    As a kayaker: Tie it down or let it fly around.

    ForeverSwimDanSimonelliCathyInCA
  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    Wow what a great idea. There is also the variant of kayak and escort boat. Communication has been an important issue with this set up on my swims.

    ForeverSwimBridget
  • edited October 19
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    Great idea. I've been thinking about this for a few years. I think many swimmers dismiss the importance of having a good paddler and will recruit anyone with a pulse who is willing to meet them at the starting line.

    My opinion about kayaker skill and equipment has evolved from the first running of 8Bridges. I am almost embarrassed to admit that we purchased a fleet of sit on tops for that inaugural year. That decision was influenced by my Catalina swim, and I thought the SOT offered a level of safety that a touring kayak could not. I was convinced that SOTs would be: easier to launch from a boat, easier to switch paddlers, more stable, easier to rescue a swimmer in distress. I was wrong on all accounts. The only advantage of a SOT is that someone with little or no experience probably won't flip over, but in wind and waves, an inexperienced paddler won't be able to hold a good position anyway. By the third day of 8B, we had a kayaker mutiny on our hands... all demanding to be allowed to paddle their own kayaks. Of course we let them.

    malinakaevmoKarl_KingeryForeverSwimDanSimonelliCathyInCAssthomasSydneD

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    A few pieces of equipment that I really love. (Perhaps @evmo can add links), are:

    Railblaza starport fittings. These are available in a wide variety of mounting options and provide a quick mount for flag whips or light poles. They can be permanently screwed into the kayak deck or mounted to a piece of plywood that can be secured to the aft deck lines.

    Seattle Sports 20L catch bag is our standard insulated deck mount bag. It's large enough to hold a days feeds (for most swimmers) and keeps things in easy reach without requiring the paddler to peel back their skirt every feed time. With a freezer pack, it will keep things cool all day.

    ForeverSwimDanSimonelliSydneD

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member

    @Niek Good call on that comment. Do you have any specific recommendations which have worked for you with paddle board support, or the rescue of a swimmer through the kayaking team as referenced? *I would open this up for comments from anyone who has personally had to deal with an emergency as described. @david_barra I would agree on your comments with the SOT - cannot said I have ever been much a fan of those in any environment other than flat water. My experience of course. Do you have contacts with Railblaza, or Seattle Sports who could send me these products to use in our video? Or I could always get these from you as well. Whatever is easier... *I would also open up to all who have utilized an excellent product we could highlight for examples of products that work

    www.darren-miller.com Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    ForeverSwim said: Do you have contacts with Railblaza, or Seattle Sports who could send me these products to use in our video? Or I could always get these from you as well. Whatever is easier... *I would also open up to all who have utilized an excellent product we could highlight for examples of products that work

    I always just purchased retail.

    Be happy to loan you a couple of rigs though.

    ForeverSwim

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    Niek said: Instructions on how to help a swimmer in need / unconscious without jeopardizing the kayaker also.
    We don't want to rescue 2 persons.

    Maybe also for peddle boards?

    A kayaker is not a substitute for a lifeguard, EMT, boat pilot, etc.... but could be an integral part of every marathon swim. BTW, i dont know a single paddler that wouldn't exit their craft to perform any assistance necessary to a swimmer in need.

    ForeverSwimCathyInCAcourtneypaulk

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member

    My thoughts on this video would be to promote proper kayaking (or, insert any human powered craft) while supporting an open water swimmer. I did not intend to take it to the next level on how to deal with an emergency situation, or should I say, more of an emergency than a swimmer simply exhausted enough to give up their effort by holding onto the kayak before exiting the water via a powered escort, or pulled to land. I believe @david_barra said it best, that in my thought process, we would assume there would be emergency personnel present in all situations.

    Personally, my experience in the sport is limited to solo marathon swimming efforts, and not races on the professional circuit.

    I know our River Rescue here in Pittsburgh would be glad to participate in a mock emergency in the case of unconscious swimmer, if the marathon swimming community feels this would be an integral part of kayaker training. Perhaps it can include a worse case scenario on what one could do in an emergency situation until professional help arrives?

    BridgetDanSimonelli

    www.darren-miller.com Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    For basic kayak support, my team had a good rotation practice. My motorboat stayed more distant on my left, the paddler closer on my right, with the understanding that the motorboat would to forward, idle, etc., and I'd navigate mainly with the paddler. When the kayakers rotated (about ever 2 hours), the boat would cut engine, one kayaker would launch, paddle behind me, then between me and the original kayaker, and the original would back off and paddle behind me to the boat, tie up, board, and the boat would gear up and get more in my sightline. Very smooth. There was also a second motor boat tied up for the first night which served as a morning shuttle, getting two kayakers to shore and bringing one on for day paddling. Lake George is very narrow, and we had a few key locations for landing in an emergency, and of course radio contact what marine patrol.

    If I had needed assistance, the kayakers were able to throw a float to me, and my motor boat had an extension shepherd's crook on it in the event I was unable to grab anything. Old school, but there you are. They practiced hauling me onto the swim platform during one of our night training sessions. As the certified lifeguard of the team, I was alway aware of the situation and what my team might have to deal with, and was always monitoring them from the water. Can't help it. It's what I do. ;-) But just as they were there to support me, I owed them the courtesy of doing what I could to not push myself beyond sanity.

    And for the hard core paddlers out there, my 2 hour rotation was a very slight nod to the fact that most of my support team was in their 60s and 70s. A few 50s, and my whippersnapper son in his 20s (he was the poor slob paddling when the storm kicked up). Rock on, Team 32!

    flystorms
  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member
    edited October 21

    Great idea D! @ForeverSwim

    All good info here.

    My 3 cents:

    I've been on over 100 swims in different roles (Observer, crew, paddler, swimmer). I've seen good, bad and ugly.

    I've paddled over 30 marathon swims (mostly Catalina Channel, SCAR, some Santa Barbara Channel swims. I've used a touring kayak a few times early on, but have used SOT 11' Ocean Kayak Scrambler since. I prefer the SOT, especially in rough seas, at least compared to my few experiences with the touring kayak.

    The SOT is also much easier to do kayaker transitions in and out from the pilot boat, again especially during rough conditions.

    I've paddled in Force 4-5 conditions with waves breaking over the kayak and me, and though difficult and much more effort needed to stay on course, was able to keep in line with pilot boat and continue to guide swimmer well with SOT.

    @Niek As for safety: Having a paddler closest to swimmer, and much more maneuverable and quicker to respond than pilot boat, allows for first response by kayaker to be ideal.

    I carry a safety float (lifeguard rescue buoy) or extra PFD. In case of sudden emergency or submersion I'm able to easily and quickly exit kayak and reach swimmer within seconds.

    I keep hold of my paddle (tethered) so as not to lose kayak and be able to grab flotation device.

    The technique used to haul swimmer out of water is same as one would use with a rescue paddle board: Flip the kayak over, pull the swimmer's arms over the vessel, and then roll the vessel right side up with the swimmer on top, face out of water.

    I have not had to do this during a swim, but have done it several times with rescue paddle board, mostly in practice and some for real as ocean lifeguard, and have practiced same with kayak and it works the same.

    This of course is only as first response, giving Pilot/safety boat time to get over to haul swimmer on board for further aid.

    This hauling out onto to pilot boat can be the most problematic, especially with boats with only ladders to get aboard!

    I've thought about the design of a large, instant inflatable device that raises the swimmer several feet so as to make the transfer from water to boat easier, or even possible with such situations as large, heavy persons!

    -

    Other things for kayaker:

    ~ Like @Karl_Kingery said, TETHER EVERYTHING

    ~ A good seat is a must-have for longer swims/time in kayak.

    ~ Good light weight paddle for same.

    ~ Wide brimmed hat, other sun protection

    ~ gloves

    ~ booties or some foot protection

    ~ water for self

    ~ stretch and move legs and body, neck, often so as to stay loose and reduce fatigue and soreness.

    *(The idea here is kayaker takes care of self so they can take best care of swimmer).

    ~ learn to navigate course so that when the pilot boat inevitably falls off course for various reasons you can continue on course as best as possible until boat gets back on line.

    ~ practice getting back on kayak from water in case of tipping/dumping

    ~ if possible, practice getting off/on boat, especially in rough conditions

    ~ headlamp w red and white light

    ~ LED light on back of head

    ~ waterproof flashlight

    ~ waterproof radio, to communicate readily with pilot boat, or for emergency

    ~ emergency marine whistle

    Paddling w swimmer:

    ~ stay abreast of swimmer, so swimmer sees you clearly on every breath. Don't get ahead so as to make swimmer have to look fwd to follow!

    ~ establish comm signals prior Light signals at night; hand signals in day. (Relying on oral comm is usually futile or at least ineffective or annoying to swimmer)

    ~ establish w swimmer their preferred position for kayaker to be in sight for them comfortably (Some like it right along side, eye to eye; others like kayaker slightly behind).

    ~ Swimmer sets the pace, paddler sets the course (via pilot boat navigating) Swimmer needs to be able to trust that the paddler is holding course, so that if/when swimmer gets too close or too far from kayak, they need to be responsive and correct. Emphasize that kayaker w paddle cannot adjust and may hit swimmer with paddle if swimmer is too close!

    ~ paddler needs to direct and correct swimmer veering off. Pull slightly ahead and cut swimmer off if necessary. Don't allow swimmer to control the heading. Otherwise, swimmer will be zig zagging all the way across!

    ~ I use white light (either flashlight or switch headlamp from red to white) as alert or emergency alert (e.g. Veering off, getting too close to pilot boat, etc).

    ~ depending on swimmer, I use glow stick at night to signal feed time. Sometimes this doesn't work well with some swimmers, so I use the white light to signal.

    -

    When feeding from kayak:

    ~ tie down feed bag

    ~ have it readily accessible

    ~ mark bottles and other feed items clearly so to be visible at night under red light

    ~ tie glow stick on feed line near bottle for night

    ~ to maintain course and position w swimmer, do things in small steps: Paddle, unzip bag, paddle, pull bottle out, paddle, ready bottle for feed time, paddle...etc. Each step should only be around 5* seconds (*depends on pace of swimmer) so you don't fall behind swimmer.

    ~ best to have feed line with carabiner, especially in windy, sloppy conditions, so that swimmer can simply drop bottle when done and you reel it in. It's difficult and very time consuming and energy draining for swimmer and kayaker to have to reconverge!

    ~ if swimmer has other feed items or small items like pills, have some type of delivery system, such as snap open pill box or the like, to be able to simply hand the swimmer the container for them to retrieve the item(s).

    I've lost things many times when trying to do hand to hand delivery and retrieval. It's especially difficult in rough conditions and/or late in swim when swimmer is fatigued and dexterity isn't good.

    Can't readily think of anything more...I'll sleep on it and add more if anything comes up.

    KatieBunSolocurlyBridgetCathyInCASpacemanspiffKarl_Kingerycourtneypaulkcaburke
  • Kate_AlexanderKate_Alexander Cayman IslandsMember

    Very much looking forward to seeing the video. Great idea.

  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    I hope you'll include the importance of carrying a marine radio (assuming the support boat and/or race director are using one) and awareness of how to use it.

    As far as tethering, I've weighed in on this before (having helped several kayakers who were dangerously tangled up in their tether lines) and found no one agrees with me. So, including a section that includes safe practices using tethers would be very helpful.

    DanSimonelli
  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    Gadgetry idea that we used: I found cool flashlights on lanyards for my kayakers. They had 5 settings, so the kayakers could set them to lit up handles for routine visibility, and engage the flashlight lamp to see the supply packs as needed. Also, waving the lights got my attention, and seeing the lights change let me know that they heard me ask for a food/drink break, and I'd continue swimming until I could tell they were ready to hand me something. I stink at catching, and started in the dark, so it was easier to do a hand-off, then I'd drop the bottle and it could be retrieved. I used plastic jumprope with elastic tied to water bottles and the jump rope handle to limit tangles.

    DanSimonelli
  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    swimrn62 said: As far as tethering, I've weighed in on this before (having helped several kayakers who were dangerously tangled up in their tether lines) and found no one agrees with me. So, including a section that includes safe practices using tethers would be very helpful.

    Yes, I agree tangling can be a big problem, but (I assume you're saying don't tether because of it?) I don't agree not to do because of it. You never know when you'll dump (tip over), in rough or even calm seas, and lose everything! I've seen it happen to ill-prepared kayakers and lose all the feeds and more importantly the feed bottles swimmer/crew are relying upon for their feed system! Rather, use short coiled tethers for things like feed bag, flashlight, radio, and they don't get tangled up with each other. I use only one longer line for feed bottle(s). And I keep it organized after every feed and ready for next feed. Problem solved. :)>-

  • FilFil Derby, VTCharter Member

    For what it's worth. For most of our swims, we use a single kayak per swimmer and a motor boat for every ten swimmers. For our 25 mile swim the length of Lake Memphremagog we use 16 foot, two person, aluminum boats with caged propellers, and recommend a supplemental kayak. We have larger motorboats for use if we need to pull a swimmer. Here's a link to the advice we give to Kingdom Swimmers and "Yackers".

    http://kingdomgames.co/yackers-rule/

    DanSimonellicurlycaburke
  • @DanSimonelli love your suggestions! I too have tried the sit inside touring kayaks (that's what I actually learned how to kayak with) and the SOT kayak for rough water. I can't tell you how many times on a swim the touring kayakers had to be rescued and were out of service for the rest of the swim and the SOT kayakers did fine in the rough water. I have not had as much experience as you have @DanSimonelli but have helped in some pretty gnarly conditions on a SOT and so far have only dumped once....knocks on wood.

    I like the idea of dual kayakers on a marathon swim but sometimes it is not feasible/hard to find the second kayaker. It worked very well for the swim I helped support around Coronado last December 7th. We only had the 3 kayakers and 2 of us did the feed handoffs while the 3rd kayaker acted as documentary support.

    I can't emphasize the need to tether EVERYTHING down as a kayaker. As a swimmer I had a kayaker once that failed to tether my feeds and tipped. It almost ended my swim. Fortunately I was able to retrieve most of my feeds before they floated away.

    I look forward to seeing this video!!

    DanSimonelli
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    A skilled paddler skirted in a touring kayak can handle rougher conditions than anyone on a SOT. Got roll? Which brings me to the tethering issue. Yes! Everything should be secured. No one wants a yard sale in the middle of a swim.

    Solo

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    I understand the CA standard of SOT paddlers changing over every couple of hours. This situation works because the support boat provides primary support for course direction, feeds, etc. Paddlers don't need a lot of experience to accommodate this model of swim support, and indeed many swimmers are more than happy to bring along a swim buddy or family member and assign this task to them.

    @CathyinCA, I will go out on limb here and say that all those kayakers you mention needing rescue had no business being out on the water escorting a swimmer. A video of best practices would not feature them, and indeed a policy of best practices would disqualify a large percentage of the population who have kayaked in support of a swim from doing so.

    Eventually, the topic of availability, recruitment, and compensation will come up. I'm starting to some of our top paddlers getting booked months and sometimes years in advance by swimmers who recognize the relationship of swimmer/paddler as integral to a successful swim.

    evmoaafairmanForeverSwimDanSimonelli

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    Re: lights and feeding; from the point of view of somebody who has only just experienced swimming alongside a kayaker overnight, I found that the switching of the kayaker's headlamp from red to white to signal a feed worked extremely efficiently.

    DanSimonellitimsrootForeverSwim
  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    @ForeverSwim I have a ppt slide deck that I created several years back to share with pilots who are strangers to me. I covers a number of topics: navigation, spacing, managing traffic (swimmers/kayaks), communication, feeding, managing emotions (mine!) etc. It has some cool animations for visual demonstrations of best practices (some are "best" in terms of my personal preference).

    I've uploaded it to my firm cloud storage a this link I think I've set it up correctly for anyone with the link to have access to it, but if it doesn't work, let me know.

    DanSimonelliKate_AlexanderJSwimKarl_Kingery

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved Tides that I tried to swim against Have brought be down upon my knees Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • Karl_KingeryKarl_Kingery Denver, COMember

    While there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to touring vs. Sit-On-Top kayaks (as @DanSimonelli and @david_barra have both mentioned), fundamentally, having a longer kayak will allow the kayaker to keep pace with and course for the swimmer better. Longer kayaks also help a kayaker go "up-wind" easier. Skegs and fins also help with course and rough water. Short "river" kayaks sometimes can't keep up with a fast swimmer and may like to spin. One method I've used to improve very short kayak handling is to tow a sea anchor behind the kayak, but this slows kayak speed dramatically and it can get tangled in shallows.

    evmoDanSimonelli
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member

    There are some great posts here - thank you! I look forward to compiling all of this, and reaching out to some of you for help on filming; including both fresh water river/lake systems, and open ocean.

    SoloDanSimonelli

    www.darren-miller.com Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member

    Slightly tangential question - this weekend I'm paddling for a relatively large 5k. I'm used to swimming, not paddling. I won't be escorting or feeding anyone, but any advice, other than keep my head on a swivel for anyone struggling?

  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    .> timsroot said:

    Slightly tangential question - this weekend I'm paddling for a relatively large 5k. I'm used to swimming, not paddling. I won't be escorting or feeding anyone, but any advice, other than keep my head on a swivel for anyone struggling?

    If someone comes over to hold onto your kayak, make sure they're grabbing the bow unless you want to take a dip. If they're panicky and you're not sure they're really listening, back paddle so the only thing they CAN grab is your bow.

    Also SUNSCREEN.

  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member

    david_barra said: Seattle Sports 20L catch bag is our standard insulated deck mount bag. It's large enough to hold a days feeds (for most swimmers) and keeps things in easy reach without requiring the paddler to peel back their skirt every feed time. With a freezer pack, it will keep things cool all day.

    I cannot express how much my kayaker and I love this bag. It's incredible and Dave was totally correct in recommending it. I have now brought it to swims around the world and it's worth stuffing into my suitcase every time.

    Also, my husband and I put this together a few years ago. Maybe it will feel useful?

    https://swimcrest.com/2016/05/25/the-swimmer-and-the-kayaker-marathon-swimming-is-a-team-sport/

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    MoCo said:

    If someone comes over to hold onto your kayak, make sure they're grabbing the bow unless you want to take a dip. If they're panicky and you're not sure they're really listening, back paddle so the only thing they CAN grab is your bow.

    Honestly... if a paddler can be so easily jostled; they are more of a liability than an asset.

    I would recommend not signing up to paddle if you are not able to roll or at least re-enter your kayak unassisted.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    david_barra said:

    MoCo said:

    If someone comes over to hold onto your kayak, make sure they're grabbing the bow unless you want to take a dip. If they're panicky and you're not sure they're really listening, back paddle so the only thing they CAN grab is your bow.

    Honestly... if a paddler can be so easily jostled; they are more of a liability than an asset.

    I would recommend not signing up to paddle if you are not able to roll or at least re-enter your kayak unassisted.

    I've had panicky triathletes try to climb ONTO my kayak. Just because I CAN get back in my kayak unassisted doesn't mean I want to get wet.

    Well, I almost always want to get wet but it's safer for everyone if 'yakers stay rightside up.

    DanSimonelli
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    This is a great idea, and I'm looking forward to the video! Thanks for all the suggestions that could be incorporated into it. Also maybe worth including something on relay swims in which team members not swimming paddle for those who are swimming.

    This year, instead of doing the full Bender Memorial Swim (Schuylkill River, 8 miles), I decided to do the relay with a friend (or maybe 2-3 friends...we haven't decided yet; my friend did 2 miles last year and wants to increase her distance this year), which, in the case of this swim, involves those not swimming taking over kayak escort duties. This is a skill I'd like to develop and the relay is a great opportunity to do so--and a chance to give something back--and learn something that will help me offer more crew support for other swimmers.

    I'm not giving up marathon swims. I have my eye on Swim the Suck and/or another swim of 10 miles or so. Stay tuned!

    Bridget
Sign In or Register to comment.