Vessels – in the widest sense – travelling on a water surface continuously do work the water surrounding it, causing energy to be radiated in the form of surface waves. The concomitant resistance force, the wave resistance, can account for as much as half the total drag on the vessel, so reducing it to a minimum has been a major part of ship design research for many decades. Whether the ‘vessel’ is an ocean-going ship or a swimming duckling, the physics governing the V-shaped pattern of radiated waves behind it is in essence the same, and just as fuel economy is important for commercial vessels, it is reasonable to assume that also swimming waterfowl seek to minimise their energy expenditure. Using theory and methods from classic marine hydrodynamics, Yuan et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 928, 2021, R2) consider whether, by organising themselves optimally, ducklings in a row behind a mother duck can reduce, eliminate or even reverse their individual wave resistance. They describe two mechanisms which they term ‘wave riding’ and ‘wave passing.’ The former is intuitive: the ducklings closest to the mother can receive a forward push by riding its mother's stern waves. The latter is perhaps a more striking phenomenon: when the interduckling distance is precisely right, every duckling in the row can, in principle, swim without wave resistance due to destructive wave interference. The phenomenon appears to be the same as motivates the recent US military research project Sea Train, a row of unmanned vehicles travelling in row formation.