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Discussion: Adventure race water crossings technique/tips

in: Adventure Racing; Training & Technique

Feb 22, 2022 12:39 PM # 
Goodday fellow racers,

Last year we participated in our first multi-day adventure race and we loved it and learned a lot! Main points of improvement were the transition areas (took us way to long) and the many water crossings (rivers/lakes) that we had to take. On the race replay I can see that other teams don't loose any time and just go in and out the water. Our strategy was to take off shirts and backpacks and putt it into drybags, cross/swim the water and get clothes and backpacks out of the drybags and continue.

My question is, how do other teams tackle small/large water crossings?

- Do you just jump in fully clothed (and do you have all the gear pre waterproofpacked in your backpacks?)
- Do you use inflatable airbeds?
- Do you use stuff like swimmingpaddles (handpaddles), fins/zoomers?

I am very curious what the different strategies are and which one is the best/fastest.

Feb 22, 2022 1:31 PM # 
Which race was it? There is so much that goes into making these choices. Obvi first is safety/ legality - making sure that the race rules allow you to cross (need PFD or not?) and then making sure it’s actually safe to do so.

Apart from that I would say that most teams don’t spend time removing shoes/clothes or even waterproofing stuff. Assuming most experienced teams already have their most clutch spare clothing/gear and extra food stored in dry bags inside pack - that is best practice. Just go right in and come right out. For sure anything waist deep and shallower just charge thru - use buddy system if current is strong or footing is uneven. Waist deep and above might require some time on the shore/bank picking the most advantageous place to cross. And if (water/air) temps are cold there would be more water avoidance.
Feb 22, 2022 3:38 PM # 
It was the Nordic Adventure Challenge in Denmark, a really great race (

The crossings were at mandatory places shown on the maps and safe to swim (no huge current). For longer crossings a PFD was mandatory. At all crossings you had to swim (or bring a inflatable airbed) and ranged from 50 meters to 1 km. After the third swim we already got really cold (the stage was at night)

So question is not really about the waist deep crossings, but the pure (long) swim crossings.
Feb 22, 2022 3:39 PM # 
To add on to silky's thoughts, there are a number of factors at play. If it's cold, night, and far from the next TA, I would consider loosing some layers to keep my clothes dry. If there is a TA in my near future and the weather is decent, I would just charge in. Although I haven't used them, I would consider hand paddles for a swim if it was long enough.
Feb 23, 2022 4:49 PM # 
Ahhhhh thank you for the additional details, Wonka!

That is a tough situation - cold and long water crossing requiring a swim. Similar to glewis, the proximity of a TA could change strategy.

If it was my team, I think we'd be unlikely to carry paddles or inflatables or fins. We'd rely either on required PFDs or inflated dry bags or strong swimming skills for buoyancy.

To stay warm, we'd probably remove a (hopefully only 1) layer on top and bottom, put that in a drybag, and start swimming. It won't be fun and usually the only way I get through these is thinking "the cold water is like an ice bath and I'm actually recovering right now". Once out, do a body shake/squeegee to the best of your ability and put on non-water absorbing layers - it may be best to just get your HR up right away to warm up and then put on your fleecier layers later when you're dryer.

I guess the best way to think about it is...there is no great way to cross a lot of water, frequently, when temps are low. Either you will be uncomfortable wet or uncomfortable carrying floatation devices.

This discussion thread is closed.