10/06/2013 by Carl Reynolds


Today whilst swimming I mused on a man swimming in the wetsuit. I was in a 25C pool with just a pair of budgies, googles and earplugs. Was he cold, I thought? It was strange to me, but only as a distraction; and it provided the stimulus to a chain of thoughts. Later, on Facebook, I repeated the tale. Someone asked if perhaps he wasn’t protecting himself from the sun, or whether he perhaps had body image issues. I thought a little more and posited the idea that perhaps he enjoyed the bouyancy – the wetsuit as adult rubber ring.

In the open water swimming community there are a few issues that stir up enmities. One is the wearing of wetsuits. I have one. I haven’t worn it for a while; in fact its on long term loan to a much slighter-than-I friend of mine called Jawad. And he’s only worn it once or twice.  I know another fella called Dan Martin who, despite himself swimming in rubber at the start of his ventures into cold water, excoriates rudely about people in wetsuits. He says they are the black plague. And that they should HTFU. My view – some people go up the mountain in a t-shirt, others wear layers of down.

Another issue is lane etiquette. Thankfully at Tooting Bec Lido there are no lanes. There are no black lines down the pool. People are swimming at every speed imaginable – from national standard to ‘thank God I’m in a place where I can actually be mobile’. And we interact. There is no pool rage, there are no simmering resentments, there are no ‘this is the way it should be – isn’t it clear and obvious?’. I’ve also had the pleasure of swimming in our national pool at Crystal Palace over the winter. They have lanes. Most swimmers have a good idea of what speed they are. Some don’t. Some people let you pass at the end, some are deep in their rhythm or stroke and don’t. Some are oblivious to the needs of others. I swim past them, under them and tumble before the end, if needs be. But there is no point in getting mad. Others I know, who need to get some training in, split the cost of a dedicated lane between them, so they can swim uninterrupted by either their ire at what they perceive to be an inconsiderate swimmer; or by the adrenal response that this provokes. But I’m not going to go on about it. The pages of FB and sundry blogs (see a recent post at for example) will fill you with all you could ever want to consider about the subject.

Kit is another bone of contention. Some coaches argue that you can’t swim a race with a pull bouy, so why start now? Others will regale you with a technical argument about its pros and cons; the benefits to your stroke of mitts and gloves; the need to practice your kick and all. Reader, I do not think there is a right way. There is your way. It may not be my way or her way. It’s one of many.

I have a list of other contentious swimming issues, but at this juncture I just can’t be bothered to go on. Just go for a swim.


4 thoughts on “musings

  1. Karl Christen says:

    Amen, just swim. Why make it too complicated.

  2. Ian says:

    Slightly confused by the picture of Tooting & 25 degrees but never the less a well written piece, as always. I know you are not exactly a lover of the wetsuit brigade but I think the SLSC would be better off if it adapted your more open views.

  3. Chris says:

    A friend of mine is just doing her first triathlon. Wetsuits are compulsory in the race so she is doing all her training in a wetsuit despite the burst of tropical weather. Maybe there’s your answer.

    I have somehow ended up with 4 wetsuits, but the only time I wear one is out at sea in the kayak. But then I also wear a floatation jacket and a helmet. That way if for some odd reason I end up in the water unexpectedly I have warmth and buoyancy.

    I also ‘climb’ mountains. We did Ben Nevis in the first week of July and carried rucksacks with everything from suncream to swimwear (oh yes I did) to survival bag and woolly hats, whilst around us people were in t-shirts and shorts and very inappropriate footwear. The latter was OK at the bottom where the temp was 20+C and no wind. Less good at the top in the cloud, 6C and windy and now you are sweaty and damp so add a good measure of wind chill.

    Apparently it snowed a blizzard overnight at the top but the 3 of us could have camped down and walked off next morning. I’m not sure how the t-shirt brigade would have got on.

    As you say, in the end it is pretty much each to their own so long as you’re mindful of the people around you and don’t spoil their day.

    • Chris – thanks for your stories. Good to know people are thinking it through. The various OW groups around the UK seem to be tolerant of both skin and rubber; it’s just a few so-called ‘purists’ who stir it up. I do feel sorry for people who are forced to either wear a wetsuit, or be persuaded (agin their will) to shed it. Tri-events in particular seem over zealous on H&S. Mind you, I don’t ever fancy entering an event that means starting with several hundred people at the same time.

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