Swim the Suck Seeking Pilots Do you have a kayak or SUP and want to go on a 10-mile paddle alongside an open water swimmer through the TN river gorge, get a free shuttle, 2 free meals (a pasta dinner and a taco bar), Chattanooga Brewing Company beer at the end, a t-shirt, an original art award, and make a new appreciative friend? REGISTER AT LINK ON REGISTRATION PAGE!

Swim the Suck is seeking volunteer kayakers and Stand Up Paddlers to pilot alongside a swimmer for the 8th Annual Swim the Suck 2017 (10-13-18), part of the RiverRocks Festival.  In 2017, we had 115 swimmers coming to swim in our beautiful river gorge from 29 states and one from England.   The primary responsibility as a pilot for an open water swimmer is to guide your swimmer and keep them on course, provide them with a “feeding” or a little snack every 30 minutes, and to keep your swimmer safe from boat traffic.  The pasta dinner is on the night before at Miller Plaza on Friday, October 12th.   The takeout and after party both are at TN River Gardens, where you park in the morning.  Shuttle service to the start (Suck Creek Boat Launch) provided. 

The swimmer's registration fee covers everything for you (2 full meals, a t-shirt, an original art award and beer at the end).  

Motor Boat Pilots - If you have a motor boat, we’d love to have you pilot!  Your job will be to patrol up and down the course and watch after swimmers, communicate with kayak pilots, and pick up swimmers should they need to end their swim early and shuttle them to the Pot House.  If you can help with this, please email the Race Director at karahnazor@gmail.co

What is my job as a kayak pilot?


You will be required to attend the pasta dinner on Friday night for the swimmer and pilot briefing and to meet your swimmer.  Please see the schedule.

1) Keeping Swimmers Safe From Motor Boats

A primary responsibility as a pilot is to keep your swimmer safe from boat traffic. Stay near your swimmer so that they are more visible to boats.  
If a boat is coming near you and your swimmer, wave your paddle in the air so the boat knows to stay away.
If needed, position yourself in between the swimmer and the boat.
We will hopefully have the US Coast Guard slowing down boats.  We will have several motor boat volunteers out on the water patrolling the swim and assessing any needs you or your swimmers may have.  In case your swimmer needs to quit, they will load the swimmer up on the boat and take them to the finish.  You can paddle to the end of hitch a ride on the boat as well.

2) Where do I stay in relation to my swimmer?  

This will be up to your swimmer. They might want you to stay immediately in front of them, beside them, or slightly ahead of them either on their right or left side.  I prefer my pilot to be slightly ahead and to the left and a couple of yards away, at least.  

3) Keep your swimmer on the swim route/course.

Our permit with the coast guard mandates that we swim on the river left side.  You do not need to hug the bank exactly but just try to keep your swimmers left of the red buoys to stay out of the main channel in case of boat traffic.

4) Feedings

Your swimmer will want to eat a little snack we call a feeding every 20- 30 minutes.  Most swimmers feed every 30 minutes.
One of your jobs is to keep time so at the 30 minute mark you wave at your swimmer,  stop them, and say "Snack Time!"  The swimmer will come over to you next to the kayak and you will hand them a snack while they are treading water.  
Do not pull over the the side and get out as this takes too much time.  Also, swimmers are not allowed to get out.
Some swimmers may want to keep their snacks on the back of the kayak (depending on the kayak and if there is a place) where they can grab it themselves.  You may also keep their feeding back in the cockpit either near your legs or behind your seat.  As long as it is easy access for either you or the swimmer to grab it, that is fine.  
Most swimmers will bring bananas, gu, gatorade, energy bars and drinks such as hot chocolate and gatorade.  Most pilots will open the snack for their swimmers and hand it to them so it is ready to eat/drink.  Hopefully the swimmer will bring some extra snacks/drink for you as well!
You will need to collect the trash from the feedings in the kayak.
Swimmers should try to avoid touching the boat or your during theie feedings.

5) What to wear?

It's up to you, really, but you may want to have layers for if it's chilly or if it's warm.  A wetsuit would be ideal.  River shorts and a rash guard, a spray jacket and water shoes would b great (wear clothes like you would wear to go rafting).  A fleece and a warm hat may be good to have.  Sunglasses!  If it were me I'd wear a wetsuit with a bathing suit underneath so I could peel it down half way if it gets hot.  Wear clothes that you don’t mind peeing through if you have to jump in and go number 1.

6) Kayaking Experience

You do need to have experience in a kayak on a river with current.  If you are from Chattanooga there are plenty of opportunities to come out and practice with our swim group the COWS on Wed evenings.  The swim course is flat water (with some downstream current) and flat water is the easiest water to paddle on.  There hopefully will be a little current that pushes us downstream.  You do not need to know how to roll a kayak and in fact will likely not even wear a spray skirt. 

7) When nature calls

Since the swim will take most people around 3-4.5 hours, most pilots will have to go number 1.  My suggestion is to pull to the side of the river, get out, and stand in the water and go.  The best time to do this is during a feeding.  Feed your swimmer and let your swimmer go ahead and hug the left bank, you do your business, and then you paddle up and catch them.  This is what I have done in the past when piloting for swimmers.  

8) Packing list:

  • A digital watch for timing your swimmer.

  • A dry bag or box if you have one for your cell phone and keys.

  • Your cell phone

  • wetsuit or river clothes to stay warm

  • hat (visor or warm beanie)

  • gloves

  • sunscreen

  • sunglasses

  • fleece

  • drybag for fleece

  • your swimmers should bring you some snacks and drink, but it's best to bring some snacks and drinks for yourself in case you do not like what they bring for you.

  • waterproof camera if you have one

9) Can I SUP instead of kayak?  

Stand up paddling will be fine, but you will have to bring or rent your own.

10) What do I do at the finish line?

The swim finish is at 10.35 miles at a residence/property called TN RIver Gardens.  There will be several finish line buoys.  The property there is flat next to the river and you will see the tents and the Barge Cell.     Your swimmer will finish at the buoy and exit the water at the small beach.  There will be a changing tent, snacks, food provided by The Big Table, a keg, and prizes at the finish.

Questions? email karahnazor@gmail.com or call karah (423-488-3143).