Team Clifford, A Father-Daughter Dynamic Duo


Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Finding an escort in a marathon swim is a key ingredient for a successful finish. It is important for your team to know you well when it comes to your preferences, pacing, and habits. An experienced escort, trainer, coach or kayaker can sense what you are capable of and also know your limits.

Devon Clifford of Westchester, New York knows she has a solid companion on her long distance open water swimming adventures. Her choice? Her father Richard Clifford who is a two-decade veteran of marathon swimming competitions.

“For my big swims my dad is always my kayaker. I really like having him by my side because I tend to be a bit lax in the water – don’t get me wrong, I do push myself but I am in the water because I love to be in the open water. The race aspect is a secondary thought for me. It is nice to have someone next to me that I trust because I have seen him do this for so many years and for so many of my role models. He knows my mentality behind my participation and helps make sure there is a good balance. He also knows currents and tides better than I could ever imagine.

I think my dad probably does not push me as hard as he might push others since I’m his daughter, but I know he will push me as far as he knows I can take it without taking the joy out of it. I don’t think I’d swim as comfortably with others by my side initially just because its sort of a lifetime of connection that my dad and I have to make it work for us.

This year Devon is planning to do the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, Stage 5 of 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, and the Catalina Channel, along with a few shorter 5 km and 10 km races here and there. The English Channel and Strait of Gibraltar are also on her checklist.

Richard states, “I kayaked for Devon on her 13-mile leg in July 2012 for her 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim and again for her 2 ice swims on February 20th (34-35ºF) and March 23rd (37-38ºF)). It was good for me that she knew exactly where she wanted me positioned as her kayaker at her head which is just a bit more forward than usual for me. She also impresses me that she has been able to do this with a vegetarian/Vegan life.

One very tough aspect for me as her kayaker is that I will push her or any swimmer to give a 100% effort. It’s also important on the water to put aside the father-daughter relationship and to go with the kayaker-swimmer relationship that has worked so well for me. That can be a tough dynamic if the swimmer is your daughter and living with you.”

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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