Hydration systems in surfski

When you are considering a long distance surfski event, it is a very good idea to build yourself a “hands free” hydration system. This will allow you to keep both hands on you paddle while having a drink; so you can keep paddling or minimize the risk of loosing your balance while having a drink.

I like the Camelbak line of hydration systems as the starting point for building a surfski specific system. I start with their 3L reservoir and hold this in place in the foot well using the stock bungees.

It is important to set the reservoir in place with the drinking tube exiting at the lowest point possible so you can drain as much liquid from the reservoir as possible. I know it should be obvious, but…

Seeing as how I store the hydration system reservoir in front of the pedals, I add a tube extender kit to lengthen the hose so it reaches me easily. You can feed the tube under the foot board if there is room, or over the foot board and under the foot strap.

From here I attach the tube to a Camelbak tube director that is a thin neoprene sleeve with a narrow wire sewn into it that allows you to position the tube around your neck and arrange the bite valve where you can reach it without using your hands.

I use self adhesive velcro to hold the hydration system tubes in place on the ski, so I won’t get tangled in the tube when I get in and out of the ski.  In events where wearing a PFD is mandatory, you can thread the tube director onto the PFD to hold it in place better.

In longer or very important self-contained races where I’ll anticipate using more than 3L of fluid (which for me is anything longer than 2 hours in moderate temperatures), I will carry a second 1-3L reservoir next to the first in the foot well.  Between the tube director and regular feed tube I install the male portion of a Camelbak filtration system quick release valve.

The complementary part of the valve has a shut off lever built into it (big yellow thing in the pic) so you can seal and open the reservoir it is attached to very easily.  The smaller yellow  thing on the pic is the quick release.  With one hand you can pop off the empty hydration reservoir and snap on the replacement in 1-2 paddle strokes.  This way you can swap reservoirs quickly and easily with no risk of spills.

In longer races where you can have support boats handing you feeds, the quick release valves are great; pop off and exchange the empty reservoir for a nice cold one to keep you going!

Its also nice to disconnect from the reservoir attached to your ski so you can walk away without dragging lengths of tubing behind you, or tripping you up.

NOTES: the valves and connectors are easy to install by soaking the tubing in hot water until it softens, then adding isopropyl alcohol to the connector before slipping the tube in place.  If you use a towel or light gloves it will minimize the risk of working up blisters if the connectors are tight.

As an added “just in case”, you can wrap each connection with electrician’s tape to ensure no leaks


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