A paddler is a person who follows closely alongside a swimmer and helps them with food, drink and direction. It’s not compulsory to have a paddler, but it’s highly recommended, especially for solo swimmers. Some solo swimmer’s use two paddlers on rotation throughout the day, as it’s also a long day for them on the water.
How can a Paddler help?
Paddlers provide great assistance on the day by:
- Helping swimmers remain visible by being far closer to the swimmer than their support boat
- Helping give the swimmer food and water from the support boat
- Helping swimmers find their support boat at the start line (swimmer locates the paddler, who locates the support boat)
- Supporting the swimmer after the 19km buoy (when the support boat must leave the swimmer)
- Leading swimmer safely into 400m swim channel at the end of the race (paddlers must leave the swimmer at the 19.25km buoy).
How do I find a Paddler?
Paddler training and events
Canoeing WA have put together a first-time paddlers course for those who want to prepare for the 19.7km crossing of the Rottnest Channel. Details for this course will be posted here soon when they’re available.
Tips for paddlers
These notes have been prepared by Paddle Western Australia Inc.
- Be aware of the scope of conditions you may encounter
- Prepare for the full extent of those conditions.
The Rottnest Channel is an exposed section of water and prone to strong winds. As a paddler, you’ll be on your craft between 4-9 hours, and you’ll need water, food and protection against the elements. The physical effort required to maintain an upright position close to your swimmer in challenging conditions will be considerably demanding. Make sure you prepare and maintain yourself, so that you’re not be a liability to your swimmer(s).
A back-pack drink system is ideal. You’ll probably need a refill during the event, so ensure there’s available water on your support boat.
It’s important to select the most suitable craft.
- You must be able to cope with rough conditions
- You must be stable enough to provide drinks and food to yourself and your swimmer
- You need to be able to secure drinks, food and accessories in case of capsize
- You must make sure you’ve paddled the craft for lengthy periods before the event, and are aware of any discomforts from the paddling position
- Keep in mind correct leg length aids stability and posture, and back support is recommended
- Bracing strokes will allow you to deal with the bumpy conditions in a relaxed effortless manner.
- Shorter craft are generally more manoeuvrable
- Keep in mind that maintaining a position alongside the swimmer can be difficult.
- Make sure you’ve got adequate sun protection
- A spray on screen is ideal for re-application – greasy sunscreen on your hands will make paddling difficult
- A chin strap on your hat will prevent it being blown off.
- Thermal clothing is ideal as it will allow you to keep warm when you’re wet.
- You’ll need to adapt to changing conditions and may need to shed or put on clothing during the event.
- If you’re planning to enter the water at Cottesloe Beach, be conscious of the shore break and how to negotiate it – all of your preparation can float away if you fall at the first hurdle.
- Manoeuvring your paddle craft around power craft and alongside a swimmer requires skill and competence, especially as swimmers travel much slower than most crafts are designed to go. This means effective forward, back, sweep and draw strokes are essential.
Awareness of power craft
- Most power crafts have large areas of poor visibility. It’s best to assume you haven’t been sighted and keep your distance.
Practice your skills
Canoeing Western Australia recommends you gain some paddling knowledge, practice at your nearest canoe club and undertake an Open Water Paddle Competency Assessment.
Support Crew Info Session
The Support Crew Info Session is designed for first-time skippers and paddlers participating in the Rottnest Channel Swim. The session will include a panel of guests from Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue Group, the Department of Transport (Marine), the RCSA Race Director, and experienced skippers and paddlers of the Rotto Swim.
You’ll learn tips and tricks, what to expect on event day, and invaluable information that some of our guests have learned along the way. While the session is designed for support crew first timers, everyone is welcome to come along!
The 2020 session is being held on Saturday, 1 February at HBF Stadium, 100 Stephenson Ave, Mt Claremont, following the Metro Safety Briefing, and is free to attend!