Paddleboard Escort

WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
edited April 2012 in Beginner Questions
Has anyone ever swam with a paddleboard as an escort? I'm doing a 5-mile swim this weekend with one. This will be my first escorted swim.

My paddler and I practiced a bit today. It was harder than I expected. When the wind was at her back, she got way ahead of me and couldn't do anything to slow herself down. It was better when she sat down on the board, but still not ideal. I had expected to be able to navigate by seeing her when I breathe in that direction. That didn't work at all. The best idea we came up with was for her to give me a landmark to sight on and don't even try to sight on her.

Any ideas?



  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Katie, sorry if this isn't timely for your needs, but hopefully it helps anyway. I sent your question to a well-known paddler in the CCSF/Catalina Channel community, and here's what she said:

    I have supported several swimmers on a "prone paddleboard" and it is a great alternative to kayak support. As a matter of fact, some swimmers prefer a prone paddler to a kayaker due to their close proximity to the swimmer, feeds are easily delivered and transported, and they are much more agile than most kayaks or SUPs.

    My question to the swimmer would be this: Is your paddler paddling a Prone board or SUP. A SUP (stand up paddleboard) is way more problemaic than a kayak or prone board. The SUP paddler is up high so it is hard to have effective communication, feeding can be an issue, if there is wind they are like a sail in it, and they tend not to paddle in a straight line.

    I know swimmers that swim with a SUP and they love it....the thing is for a swimmer/SUP relationship to work the SUP needs to be a VERY high level paddler, if not a pro-padder. Only a high level SUP will be able to handle feeds, choosing a line, holding a course no matter the conditions, and provide good communication.

    My advice to the swimmer would be to find a prone paddler or a kayaker. There are several paddle clubs all over the country and they are generally down to help if there is a need. If that is not an option, use your paddler as "the" landmark and set your feeds up around getting to her. Go over the course map and pick a few spots for her to be. Then have her set up at the spots you are sighting.....when you get to her have her go to the next spot, etc.
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    Thanks, evmo.

    I've heard about prone paddleboarding, but I've never seen it. I ended up having to cancel my swim because I'm sick :((

    I have kayakers lined up for most of my escorted swims, but I might go out with the paddleboarder next weekend. When she sits down to paddle (SDP?), it seems workable. She can stay close enough to protect me from boats which is the main concern. And if I tie my feeds to the back of the board, I can just swim up and take them myself.
  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    I agree with @evmo on the SUP thing... they're not so hot for supporting a single swimmer unless you have an extremely good SUPer.

    I do think however that SUPs are the future of safety craft for larger events like mass participation 1 milers or shepherding group work out swims like my Kelp Krawler friends in Monterey do. They have a much better vantage point to see trouble in the water and it's a lot easier to land a distressed swimmer onto an 11 foot surfboard than a tippy one person kayak. I actually want to get my hands on one to use for swim instruction but they're not cheap!
  • caburkecaburke Charter Member
    I'm a swimmer and a SUP paddler. Evmo and AquaRob are right on. SUP's are too prone to interference from the wind to be good escort crafts but the high vantage point they provide make them perfect for safety observers in races.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    I purchased an inflatable SUP to take with me to St John for an open water camp this past January. The water-sports concession at Maho Bay doesn't open until 10 AM, and I wanted to have a support craft available any time my group and I wanted to swim. The Sea Eagle long board seemed worth trying out. It folds into a duffel bag, and came with a 180 day no-risk trial period. I don't have a lot of experience SUPing, so I don't have a lot of boards to compare to. I assume that no inflatable is going to perform like a hard board, but it worked just fine.
    I rigged a towing belt, and even in strong wind, it was easy enough to swim with (hint: a short section of bungee in the rigging avoids the potential for jerking).
    When our group was crossing an exposed area, I would SUP... keeping lookout for boaters; when the coast was clear, I would swim with them, board in tow.
    Most swims were 1.5 - 2 hours, so there was plenty of room to carry along enough drinks and snacks for 7... plus cameras, sunscreen, etc.

    There were a couple of times in high wind where standing was impossible, but it was easy enough to kneel or sit and still paddle along with my group.

    I'm going to buy a hard board some time soon.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • caburkecaburke Charter Member
    edited May 2012
    Kayak, paddleboard? Paddleboard, kayak??? When in doubt, bring both.

  • Prone paddleboarding - ask any beach lifeguard.

    As a company, we use both paddleboards (a rescue spec one, not a racing paddleboard) and sit-on-top kayaks as swimmer support. Personally I prefer the paddleboard as platform to coach from, or to do any filming from... and I prefer the kayak if I was supporting a distance swim.

    Those comments are from the perspective of the paddler... as a swimmer, I wouldn't mind too much at all.

    Dan Graham - Gone Swimming Ltd.
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  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    Since I started this thread, I'll make a comment about how it turned out. I ended up not swimming with the paddleboarder because I was sick and had to skip the swims where she was going to escort me.

    She ended up escorting another swimmer on four 10-mile swims. It worked out great for them. She only has a few months of experience with the paddleboard (it was a Christmas gift), but she's amazing. She had to sit or kneel in windy conditions, but she had no problem positioning herself where the swimmer wanted and staying there. On the last swim, she even brought her puppy on the board with her.
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