My life as a camel: Gardiner reveals his hydration secrets (Molokai Update)

Wednesday, 14 April 2010 08:30 | Written by  David Vincent
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Hydration tips from the experts Hydration tips from the experts

Dean Gardiner confessed at an ocean paddlers’ forum that he has completed the epic Molokai Challenge - which he has won nine times - while consuming as little as half a litre of water.


And in a refreshing admission in an era when most elite athletes are sponsored by sports drinks purveyors, Gardiner said he doesn’t believe there is any “magical” sports drink and that he tends to buy whatever brand is in the service station on the way to the event.

Bit Weird

Speaking at a Manly Warringah Kayak Club event on the edge of Narrabeen Lake in Sydney in December last year as part of a panel of five champion paddlers, Gardiner began by acknowledging he was “probably a bit weird” on the hydration front. “

 Dean Gardiner Molo08

Dean Gardiner: mid-channel during the 2008 Molokai

“I actually don’t drink unless it’s two hours or more generally. It’s not uncommon to do [the 25km] 20 Beaches without taking a sip, it’s also not uncommon for me to have done Molokai with less than 500 millilitres of water consumed from my bottle.

“It’s one thing I just sort of don’t do - I’m probably a bit stupid not to do it, but I just generally forget to do it, it’s not something that I really find that I need.

“Sometimes I’ve raced in super-hot conditions in Tahiti and Hawaii and found that I have needed to take more [drink] and probably erred by not taking more”, he said.

He finds that cold drinks leave him feeling uncomfortable.


“I believe if you’re going to take substances in a hot race over...  two hours, then you want to make sure it’s probably at air temperature or close to it. Although it might taste weird to you at first, it’s actually probably better for you and easier to absorb.

“With regard to what goes in [the water bottle], I don’t have any set stuff, I just buy whatever the service station sells on the way to that particular race, he said (to much mirth from the audience).

“I don’t believe there’s anything really magical out there. Every one of these people will tell you they’ve got the magical solution to hydration and the mineral salts and all the other stuff they’ve got in it

“You could probably just use red cordial and get the same result a lot of the time”.

“There’s probably some out there that are pretty good, but I think generally it’s a marketing pitch for most of those.”

Carry it in front

He says that when he does carry water, it’s in front of him, where he can see it. “I have done races where it’s been behind me and it’s leaked out”, he said.

Dave Kissane – mostly uses water

Veteran Dave Kissane said he was similar to Dean in not drinking much during races.

“I tend to be pretty cynical about the mixed drinks and tend to be pretty happy just to go with water for most races, except for Molokai”, he said.

 Dave Kissane - Molokai 09

Dave Kissane had a strong Molokai in 2009

“If you’re going to be out there for four hours like it’s been for the past couple of years at Molokai and it’s hot”, he said, paddlers have to think not only about hydration but keeping energy levels up.

Murray Stewart – hydrate the night before

Murray Stewart, speaking ahead of winning the fourth and fifth rounds of Sydney’s Ocean Series and his fourth placing in Dubai, said he only takes a drink with him in events 15 km or longer.

 Murray Stewart

Murray Stewart only takes a drink for races longer than 15km

For sub-15km events, he’s careful to hydrate before the race, starting the night before for a morning race, or in the morning ahead of an afternoon race.

For events longer than 15km, he takes water with him or a “fairly diluted” sports drink, because he finds undiluted sports drinks burn his stomach, particularly if he drinks a lot.

“If you drink a litre of gatorade and it’s not a diluted mix, it burns your stomach halfway through the race and you don’t really want that”, he said.

He said Camelbak systems, or anything on his back, make him uncomfortable. He uses what he says is a simple hydration system, with a tube feeding through his shorts, so he can start drinking when he’s ready.

Jimmy Walker – try it ahead of time

Jimmy Walker says the most important thing is pre-race hydration. But the biggest mistake people make  is to try something new on race day. He suggests trying both water and electrolytes in the weeks preceding a race.

“Now is the time, between now and the 20 beaches coming up in December, put your drink bottle in the right spot, try it in a different spot, use the camelbak - whatever you use - try it in training.

“It’s better to make a mistake in training, because if you make a mistake in training, it’s not a mistake, it’s only a mistake when you do it again. That’s what training is... preparation for racing.

“There’s a hundred different things that people will tell you. What is right, is what’s right for you”, he said.


The session also included a primer from Gardiner and Kissane about Molokai. “It’s an exceptional race to do, it’s a logistic nightmare, but the actual on the water part of the event is fun and one of the best things you’d ever do if you ever plan to do it”, Gardner said.

“Be prepared to spend a lot of money and get messed around a lot because there’s a lot of things you need to do to prepare for it”.

The forum also canvassed topics including paddles and catching runs.


Below is a podcast of a segment of the forum in which Gardiner, Stewart, Kissane, Walker and Olympian Yanda Nossiter provide their tips on how to catch runs. The podcast can also be found on Jimmy Walker’s website,




Molokai 2010 Update

The latest from Geoff Graff is that:

  • The Makapuu Challenge scheduled for 9 May – the weekend before Molokai – has been cancelled because most of the overseas paddlers won’t have arrived.  However, there will be organised training runs over the same course during the week.
  • Some of the top paddlers expected at the race include Dean Gardiner, Tim Jacobs and Jeremy Cotter.  Clint Robinson has also indicated that he wants to paddle.  Lauren Bartlett will be racing the likes of Maggie Twigg-Smith.

“There are 33 entries to date.  From past years, we know that there will be a burst of entries in the weeks leading up to the race and we’re expecting around 50 paddlers on the day,” Graff said.



ISPA World Series Race?

The ISPA is considering requests to include the race in the 2010 ISPA World Series.  A decision is expected in the next few days.

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