View Full Version : kayaks and kayakers - roles and responsibilities

August 7th, 2012, 03:44 PM
want some feedback on experience with kayakers... both assigned and general swim support.

I have been hit by kayaks and kayakers approximately a half-dozen times... 3 times they were either not my assigned kayaker or they were simply general swim support.

I appreciate ALL volunteers but I think many races fail to communicate what is the role and responsibility of kayakers.

It is not my intent to bash kayakers with this thread but to solicit opinions on the role / responsibility of the kayaker to the swimmer.

Kevin in MD
August 7th, 2012, 04:07 PM
I have never run into a support kayaker either assigned or general support. That's in 11 years and roughly 44 races. I DID run into a kayaker who was just out for a paddle on the bay and happened to be there the same time we were.

I came close once, but it turns out I was swimming way off course and the kayaker had intentionally moved to keep me from swimming out to sea.

Is it possible you don't sight very often and so you swim more crooked than the average swimmer? Either that or bad luck I reckon.

My 2nd kayaker (we were assigned one for the first half and another for the 2nd half)at 25k nationals last year was underprepared for what it would all be about, and that was somewhat exasperating. But it wasn't her fault, she just volunteered to help out and I think had only a vague notion of what she would be asked to do. I was glad to have her there.

Also, I think Phil White the race organizer for the Kingdom Swim has an excellent page for volunteer kayaker so they can see what will be going on.

Rob Copeland
August 7th, 2012, 05:01 PM
In my experience, kayakers are as good as their training, experience and instructions.

This is why I provide water rescue staff at races I run with the attached. It is similar to Phil Whiteís instructions.

August 7th, 2012, 06:25 PM
I think "you get what you pay for" is appropriate here.

There are plenty of people that would love to spend a few hours paddling around, but it is up to the event directors to budget for skilled persons in supporting roles. (It is the entrant's responsibility not to snivel about entry fees)

August 7th, 2012, 09:14 PM
swam the manhattan relays saturday... my kayaker hit my hand with his paddle during the first leg of the race AND a second kayaker ran up my back - both during the early first leg working my way around the south tip of manhattan island.

needless to say i was pretty unamused, and actually stopped swimming to state, 'let me know if i'm getting in your way here.'

my thought was that our assigned kayaker MIGHT actually think one duty was to save us from drowning.

our kayaker improved during the length of the swim. our team saw him at the post-swim dinner. the fact is we had practically no communication with the kayaker regarding expectations - his or ours.

a few thoughts on a kayaker's primary duties;

- sighting for his swimmer in regard to landmarks, buoys and moving water
- water and nutrition support
- protecting the swimmer from vessel traffic, i.e. create a larger sight image / footprint

August 7th, 2012, 09:16 PM
thanks Kevin... and I thought the kayaker had run into me.

Rob Copeland
August 7th, 2012, 10:45 PM
swam the manhattan relays saturday... my kayaker hit my hand with his paddle...

the fact is we had practically no communication with the kayaker regarding expectations - his or ours...For escorted swims, I suggest you always meet with my kayaker / support boat to set expectations ahead of time. You need to work out feeding schedules, signals and positioning.

For me, I want my kayaker at my 3:00 position about 10 feet away. Since one of their main jobs is to navigate, if I get hit by my kayaker, it is my fault because Iíve drifted too far right. Or if I get too far away from my kayaker it is because Iíve drifted left. As long as I set the speed and the kayaker sets the direction, I never need to pick up my head to sight.

August 8th, 2012, 06:10 AM
Rob - i hope you do not mind but I have cut-and-pasted your attachment.

Kevin - I accessed the kingdom swim site and it is a very good resource though I do not care for this quote, Swimmers are stubborn Idiots who will take you into Canada if you let them.

the joke works by just calling us stubborn.

communication is critical.

Kayak assignment and instructions

#1 responsibility is the safety of the swimmers
Other responsibilities: 1) provide first responder assistance to swimmers in distress, 2) direct swimmers to stay on course, 3) notify race officials if any swimmer quits before the finish, 4) understand and follow any emergency evacuation instructions. OPTIONAL: identify any swimmer who cuts the course (does not round turn buoys).

Most competitors will not need to be rescued or assisted; guards can affect them positively and give them more confidence by just being visible. 1) Wear your life vest, even if you are an expert swimmer. 2) Be alert, watching things even when there's no one swimming across your zone. 3) Be positive to everyone, but not to the point of insincerity or inappropriateness.

Approach distressed swimmers quickly, but when you get close, slow down and begin a recovery dialog. "Are you OK?" "What is your name?" "Do you want any assistance?" "If you want assistance, what can I do to help?"

What to Expect: 1) Swimmers may have muscle cramps, mild or so totally debilitating that an athlete can't even hold a rescue tube. 2) Swimmers may swallow a little water (a little seems like a lot). 3) Swimmers may experience open water panic attacks. Most open water panic attacks take place at the beginning of the race; at the start of the race, before you move with your assigned zone, be extra vigilant for swimmers in distress.

Offer assistance. If they refuse help, return to your patrol zone and continue to monitor. If the swimmer refusing help is in obvious distress and not likely continue, contact a race official to make a ruling.

What to bring on board: 1) Fuel and Drink for yourself, 2) your PFD, 3) signal flag for assistance, 4) a whistle or air horn or other audible means to signal for assistance, 5) 2-way radio in zip-lock bag, 6) sunscreen, 7) a hat and rain gear.
Lifeguard jobs:

1. Lead Paddler: Paddle on-course just in front (5-15 yards) of the lead swimmers so they can sight off you and assist in navigation. Stay on course, even of the lead swimmers don’t. If they head off course significantly give a short whistle to get their attention. It is the swimmer’s responsibility to follow the course, not the lead paddler. Once the lead swimmers are nearing the finish, 1) break off, 2) insure that all paddlers are in position and not in need of assistance, then 3 moving into a guarding position. Optional: provide periodic radio reports on the progress of the swim.

2. Trailing Paddler: Try to stay with the slowest swimmer in the wave. However, you are responsible for responding to anyone else in trouble in your zone. When you are with the trailing swimmer assist them in keeping on course, but do not provide propulsion (stop in the water if they hold the boat).

3. Zone Paddlers: Most guards will be on kayaks guarding a zone of the race (examples lead pack, middle pack, trailing pack, etc.). Learn the names of guards in the surrounding zones. Your "zone" extends in front of you and to your right and left and occasionally, when you can, behind you for a swimmer who is off course, or trying to get to shore and deal with a cramp or quit the swim. You watch and cover the zone of the guards to your right or left when they leave their board.

All paddlers should stay clear of the start and finish areas, at least 100 yards up course. Except the Trailing paddler and the trailing pack paddler who should be off to the side of the course.
5K – is a loop around the perimeter of the lake. Zone Paddlers should be positioned on the lake side of the course
3K – is a loop that cuts across the lake. Zone Paddlers should alternate positions (left and right of course) on the cross lake leg then be positioned on the lake side for the rest of the course.
1K – is an out and back course. Lead Paddler needs to be on the lookout for on-coming swimmers on the return leg. Zone Paddlers should be positioned on the lake side of the course. Trailing Paddler should stay on the lake side of the swimmer.

August 8th, 2012, 09:19 PM
Whenever possible, I choose my own kayaker. Someone I trust, know I can depend on, and who knows me as a swimmer, knows my nutritional needs, knows when I need to feed, how best to interact with me during my, ahem, less than civil moments when I am tired and irritable, and at the grouchy part of a long swim. And sometimes, he makes silly faces when he knows I need it.

Plus, since he's my husband, he has to put up with me.

More seriously, he's the best kayak support I've ever had. I suggest working hard to find someone you can partner with effectively to get what you need during a swim.

In other circumstances, I agree. It's up to the race to give kayakers the best direction they can. But it's also up to us to communicate our needs.