Hydration Blog

Sweat, sodium, sea and surfski

Saturday, February 11, 2023



This recent article on surfski.info really jumped out at us for a couple of reasons; firstly because a few of us at Precision Hydration have got into this exciting and growing sport in the last few years and secondly because it ties in so appropriately with what we’re trying to do with our sweat testing and H2Pro Hydrate drinks.

To set the scene: International long distance surfski racing pulls together some of the best flatwater kayak paddlers in the world, many of the greats of surf lifesaving and a small but talented band of professional full time Surfski paddlers from around the world.

Races take place over distances from about 10km up to 50km on the ocean in very fast but unstable boats, with paddlers constantly chasing waves to increase speed and push for the lead. Often the environment is hot (Australia, South Africa, Middle East) and the races can last upwards of 2hrs – exposing the paddlers to a lot of heat stress and sweat loss. ‘The Doctor’ in Perth at 27km is one of the major events in the surf ski calendar.

In the 2012 Doctor Tim Jacobs (Pro Aussie ski paddler) and Australian surfski racing legend and Clint Robinson (also an Olympic Gold Medallist in from 1992 amazingly challenging for a spot in the Australian team for London 2012!) were duking it out for the lead with Jacobs eventually taking the win and Robinson dropping back to just 7th near the end.

It’s interesting to note that Clint was leading for a good part of the race but towards the end was losing power and starting to get cramp in his forearms; symptoms that often accompany electrolyte depletion. In his post race interview Tim credited the fact that he’d been taking sodium capsules before the event to load up on his electrolyte stores and maybe that had made the crucial difference? Even Clint said he’d consider taking them next time having talked to Jacobs after the race….

What do we think happened?
It does seem likely that Clint’s cramps and slow down could have been electrolyte depletion related due to the hot conditions and high intensity of the race…See this Gatorade article about the link between cramping and sodium:

Although Tim’s sodium tablet approach got through the day this time around it is still something of a hit and miss approach using those things – especially given the risk of gastrointestinal upset that can occur if you get the tablet/fluid intake wrong or take too many capsules….

What we also don’t know too is how much difference there is between the amount of electrolyte and fluid they are both losing when racing see this article that highlights the potential differences.

So if Clint did decide to copy Tim’s regime next time round there’s nothing to say it would work as well for him, given his own physiology…

The huge differences we see in sweat sodium levels across the population

Our position? – with a quick test to identify their own unique sweat physiology and appropriate electrolyte replacement both Tim and Clint could be replacing exactly what they need during the race. Leaving Clint to finish as strong as he started it and Tim to finish without the risk of gastrointestinal issues associated with popping salt capsules as well as avoiding the long-term health risk of taking excess sodium.

We’ll bring our sweat testing kit to the European races if you’re there guys!

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