There is nothing quite like swimming in the open water. Unlike a pool, the open water doesn’t have defined boundaries, allowing you to stretch your limits and genuinely swim your heart out. However, with open water comes its own unique set of challenges. In a contained pool, you know what to expect. In the open water, you are vulnerable to changes in water temperature, surges from boats, different types of terrain, and sea life.
After putting on your swimsuit, here are the essential pieces of gear to consider while swimming in open water:
1. Swim Cap
Although a swim cap is useful in a pool to your keep hair from being affected by the chlorine, it’s also helpful in maintaining warmer body temperature. Unlike the pool, which is usually a more reasonable temperature, the open water has many variables. Having a swim cap keeps your head and ears warm just in colder water. The most common types of swim caps available are latex or silicon. Slightly more expensive of the two, a silicon cap is thicker and more durable, which is ideal for the open water. To keep even warmer, many swimmers wear a neoprene cap (the material used in wetsuits) underneath a swim cap, which helps contains body heat.
If you’re doing a long distance open water swim, consider investing in a wetsuit. Neoprene wetsuits do a great job in containing your body heat and keeping you insulated. When purchasing a wetsuit, it’s essential to get one that fits snug, so only a minuscule passage of water is possible between your skin and the wetsuit. Wetsuits also provide an excellent barrier against any wayward sea life or rocks that may accidentally sting or scratch you.
When it comes to goggles, one size does not fit all. Every face is different, and it’s essential to test a few different kinds to make sure you find one that is both comfortable and a fits snuggly. The snug fit is to ensure minimal fogging and excellent vision. Open water is rarely as clear as pool water, so it’s helpful to be able to see your surroundings as much as possible. If you’re an avid open water swimmer, you may consider investing in different tinted goggles (darker tinted goggles for sunny weather, yellow/orange tinted for overcast days) depending on the weather.
4. Cold Water Gear
If the water is cold, staying warm is of the utmost importance. Keeping your core temperature warm is what keeps you moving and prevents you from getting hypothermia. Getting swimming boots, socks and gloves for the open water helps keep your hands and feet warm and can also prevent injury. It’s important that these fit correctly though, as ill-fitting boots and gloves could result in limited swimming abilities that would hinder performance.
5. Lubricant / Anti-Chafing Stick
When swimming long distance, swimmers often have issues with rubbing and chafing. This happens due to the repeated motions of swimming, and as a result, skin is often irritated in the underarm area between the legs and even the neck. Interestingly, it’s worse in salt water, as salt causes more friction on the skin. There are brands like Bodyglide that many swimmers use, but some lubrication alternatives are vaseline and cooking spray.
6. Flip Flops / Water Shoes
Swimming in open water often means that you’re often walking through rocky terrain to get to the sea. Grabbing a pair of flip-flops or waterproof shoes is essential for navigating the rocks, especially with the weight of all your gear and your otherwise bare feet.
7. Ear Plugs
If you’ve ever suffered from ear infections, you know the importance of having earplugs. Having silicone ear plugs can help prevent “swimmer’s ear” also known as an outer ear infection, and are helpful in keeping the ears warm during long-distance swims.
Other things of note: If you’re planning on entering in any competitions over the summer, being prepared means more than having the right gear! Make sure you bring your pre-entry documents if you’ve signed up ahead of time, or bring extra cash just in case there’s a registration fee. Enjoy the summer and happy swimming!