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What do I need to know to be a proper support kayak to a long distance swimmer?
July 6, 2012 11:32 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to know to be a proper support boat to a long distance swimmer?

My brother is participating in the swim for freedom event (http://www.swim4freedom.org/pdf/SwimLakeGenevaFundRaiser.pdf) on August 5th up at Lake Geneva, and he's asked me to be his support boat -- paddling the course with him guiding him, and preventing other water traffic from hitting him. My game plan is to use my kayak to do so. While I have plenty of experience in my kayak in these sorts of water conditions, I haven't been a support boat before. Is there anything particular I should know? How much do we need to practice together prior to the event so things go smoothly? Since it's presumed that he may be done before the 8 mile swim is over, do I need a boat that we can pull him into, or just a lifejacket and a rope to tie him to my kayak?
posted by garlic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
 
I have been support boat for several water sports. Most important thing is having someone have an eye on you. Carry basic lifesaving equipment, life jacket, rope, radio or cell phone. What ever size boat you decide on practice makes perfect, get in the water and practice him going unconscious. Work out what your plan is and how to do it before hand and know exact movements to get him to advanced help. Its much harder to put a life jacket on a limp person or load them onto a kayak single handed then you would think. Chances are that everything will be fine and you will have a great day on the water, but its still nice to know you are prepared for the worst.
posted by Felex at 12:20 PM on July 6, 2012


Bring along a megaphone to make your presence known. I don't know what the water traffic might be like on Lake Geneva, but from what I've seen on other lakes and the ocean, people are nuts. I bet there's at least one idiot on the water who won't think twice about passing close to a kayak at full throttle.

Since it's presumed that he may be done before the 8 mile swim is over, do I need a boat that we can pull him into, or just a lifejacket and a rope to tie him to my kayak?

I've never been involved in something like this, but my gut feeling is that you probably want not only a boat that the swimmer can be pulled into, but another person to be with you on the boat. I'd recommend one person to tend to the swimmer, and another to pilot the support craft. That way if something happens and the swimmer requires a sudden rescue, someone can jump into the water without abandoning the boat.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:23 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not to be morbid, but be sure to familiarize yourself with what drowning really looks like.
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on July 6, 2012


I was going to link to the "what drowning really looks like" descriptions, since they really surprised me when I first read them. As a swimmer, the idea that I might start to drown and people might be watching yet have no idea is terrifying.

Hopefully, if he knows his abilities well, he'd be able to give you some sort of warning if he were getting in trouble, but you never know.

Some sort of throwable floatation device seems essential, but I'd definitely recommend practicing with an unconscious victim as well.

Oh, and I'd bring a whistle as a backup, in addition to some sort of waterproof radio or cellphone or other device for getting help.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:52 PM on July 6, 2012


Things went about as well as could be expected. We practiced food handoffs and getting him into a lifejacket in the water, and safety precautions the weekend before. The day of he swam 4 miles and then started feeling horrible. We got him into the life jacket and I towed him ashore, and then I flagged down a power boat safety boat to go pick him up and take him back to dock.
posted by garlic at 6:56 AM on August 6, 2012


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