how does my kayaker find me at the beginning of the race?

akswimakswim United StatesMember

I'm training for my first OW race, 8 miles, and my husband will be my kayak support. There's so much great information on this forum regarding kayak support. But I can't find any information on how the swimmer and kayaker connect at the beginning of the race.

Appreciate any info/tips on how to smoothly connect in the chaos of a race start. Thanks!

PS I'll take any other advice for newbies :)



  • ruthruth New Jersey, USAMember

    How big of a race is it? My husband kayaks for me, and he's had no problems finding me in small races (Kingdom Swim 10 mile and Bender Swim 8 mile each had a dozen-ish swimmers). He wears something distinctive and I look for him. He knows what I look like (easier in a swim where you wear your own cap) and looks for me.

    I didn't have any problems finding him at StS, which is much larger, but some people had balloons or inflatable pool toy things on their kayaks. That race had kayaks line up in approximate numerical order, which at least gave me a place to start looking.

    It helps if you breathe on both sides. At the Kingdom Swim, my husband reported that there were two kayakers near him who were each trying to get the attention of their swimmer at the beginning of the race, but each was breathing only to the opposite side of where the kayaker was located.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    One thing I've done before is tie a ribbon onto the back of my goggles. It's very noticeable but doesn't affect your swim.

  • akswimakswim United StatesMember

    The field is limited to 270. We're required to wear race-issued race swim caps. I love the idea of wearing a ribbon on my goggles, as well as my husband wearing something distinctive. He's really nervous about not being able to find me.

  • @kstricklan said:
    The field is limited to 270. We're required to wear race-issued race swim caps. I love the idea of wearing a ribbon on my goggles, as well as my husband wearing something distinctive. He's really nervous about not being able to find me.

    I don't know how well it works, but I've also seen some sunscreens that come in colors. Perhaps a swath of that on the backs of your shoulders as a second layer of sun protection could also be identifiable?

  • miklcctmiklcct London, United KingdomMem​ber
    edited March 2020

    I have done 2 races with my orienteering friend Gary as my partner. The first time was a relay which I was the kayaker at the start, the second time I was a solo swimmer.

    The first time my swimmer has a distinctive dark skin and he is the slimmest in the whole field so I had no trouble recognising him in the sea. The second time when I was the swimmer, the most important thing was to look for the colour of the kayak, and also what he wore at that time. That was also enough for me to recognise him.

    Furthermore, the position in the pack, whether I would be at the front or at the back in the pack also helps.

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaSenior Member

    As a swimmer, I want to swim, so I rely on my kayaker finding me. As a kayaker, I make sure I train with my swimmer as much as possible so I can recognize her. We train with others so there are groups of us, and we learn to recognize our swimmer’s stroke and body position. My swimmers have all worked endless hours to get to their races, I make sure I am ready to support them in any way possible.

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNSenior Member

    If the paddler can wear a bright, neon shirt and you put some balloons or something else brightly colored on the kayak, it makes it easier for the swimmer to find them. Also, make a plan for about where the paddler will be floating so that you both have an area to aim for. If there's a buoy or some landmark, make a plan that you'll meet ahead or behind that or nearby it.

  • Copelj26Copelj26 ChicagoSenior Member

    I put an Irish flag (small ish)in the back of my goggle strap (kind of by my ear). Easy to spot and then I give it to him at the first feed

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber

    I'm fully convinced kayakers all possess super powers that enable them to find their one swimmer in mess of others.

    I'm kidding. Things I've found that help:

    -talk about your speed relative to others- will you be in the lead pack, the middle, or toward the end?

    -make sure you know what your kayaker is wearing. Helps of they have on something bright or a hat.

    -make they know what you're wearing or what your number is.

    -in a perfect world, your kayaker knows why your stroke looks like because they'll have kayaked with you before. If not, try and give some tips to distinguish you from others.

    -as the swimmer, you need to be paying attention, too. I've done races where there was a group of us and my kayaker couldn't get close for a while - I could still see them following me, just at distance.

    -If you get past the allotted meetup area and can't find your person, stop and tell someone. Kayakers can usually help communicate to get you matched up faster.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    We have rigged our kayak with a mount for a flag. We typically use this for putting up the bright orange flag indicating a swimmer in the water. (At least that's the way it is on lakes around here. Mainly used by water skiers and wakeboarders.) But people know us and respect the flag... and my wife...

    It's a great solution because my kayaker seems to have an issue with trying to brandish a flag while paddling and messing with a feed bottle while texting her friends. But that's another story. In a crowded race, a unique looking flag on your kayak would be fairly easy to pick out. Maybe use a strut to have it fully out rather than hanging limply on the flagpole. Unique color or colors so that you don't all have orange flags. Maybe have a matching ribbon on your goggle strap. Team Spirit!

    This works fine if you have your own regular kayaker, but that's not always possible. It occurs to me that there would be a way to create a universal mount that would work on any number of kayaks. Maybe a little clamp type thing that fits in a cockpit or on the backrest of a kayak. Then a swimmer could use the clamp and their own personally designed flag on any random kayaker that they end up with. Just include that in your bag o' stuff.

    Lastly, I would agree with the ideas that you communicate with your kayaker about the general swim plan. Left side or right side or center of pack. Front middle or back. General waypoints about a mile out, etc. In the early crowded phase, there are plenty of kayaks and plenty of swimmers, so you don't really need to worry about where your kayaker or swimmer are. Wait until things thin out and then you can start hunting each other down. If you have a general game plan things should sort themselves out. Also if you are totally lost, there's no reason you can't stop, tread water and yell out for your kayaker. As long as their name doesn't sound too much like "HELP!"

  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    That is all very good advice, but if all else fails? Just keep swimming towards the first buoy or point of reference, You kayaker should understand the line you are taking, and will eventually figure out that they are the only one without a swimmer and you are the only one without a kayaker- and voila! Caution- this only works in the daylight- not for a night time start ;)
    At Kingdom Swim etc my kayaker just waits for a while. I don't need him for anything for the first 45 minutes and it is VERY annoying and dangerous if every single kayaker feels the need to be right next to their swimmer during a mass start. I have been run over by other swimmers' kayakers, which is not cool...

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