If you’re feeling particularly brave, then a pair of speedos may be all you require when swimming in the open water. But of course, the waters around the UK aren’t the Costa del Sol. For those who take to the open water in the UK, you’ll want to be kitted out accordingly with appropriate open water swimming gear.
From combating the cold to ensuring optimal visibility, and from staying safe to preventing skin irritations, the challenges associated with swimming in open water go far and beyond those encountered in a temperature controlled swimming pool.
For those who long for the freedom the open water provides, here’s what you’ll need to pack.
Perhaps the essential piece of open water swimming gear is the wetsuit. The waters that surround and traverse the UK are anything but tropical. Even in the summer you may struggle to maintain body temperature if you stay in for a considerable length of time.
A good wetsuit will help keep you warm. The body expends considerable energy in maintaining body temperature, and with a warm core, the energy you save with a wetsuit can only be a good thing.
Wetsuits also have the advantage of aiding in buoyancy. This enables you to swim not only faster but also more safely. A good-fitting wetsuit is important. It should provide a snug fit, neither too tight nor too loose. Too tight, and it creates a restrictive uncomfortable experience, while too loose, and it'll allow water to enter the suit, thus negating the benefits. At Decathlon, we stock a wide range of wetsuits specially tailored for the open water.
A silicone hat will help insulate your head. More importantly, however, it ensures you remain visible. In open waters, it's all too easy to become separated from a swimming partner. This becomes even more important in choppy conditions. When choosing a swimming cap, choose a brightly coloured one!
If you happen to swim alone - something we don’t recommend - then a swim buoy can prove to be an essential piece of kit in the event of an emergency. They can be strapped across your chest and allow you to tow an inflatable buoy. It gives you something to grab a hold of in the event of cramp or extreme fatigue.
Some models also come with an inbuilt section where valuables can be stored while swimming. Inside they’ll remain dry while you’re in the water.
If you're swimming in waters around the UK outside of the summer months, then it's going to be cold. To maintain core temperature, the body removes blood from the extremities - the hands and feet - thus leaving them more prone to feeling the cold.
To help maintain equilibrium, consider wearing boots, socks and gloves. It's extremely important however to ensure they all provide a good fit. Ill-fitted boots and gloves, in particular, can really hamper your swimming style.
A good set of goggles is an essential piece of open water swimming gear. However, a good-fitting pair can be hard to come by. Ensure you try them for fit before purchasing. It's a case of trial and error. A good pair of goggles should feel like a natural part of your body.
There are several things to bear in mind when purchasing goggles for the open water. Typically goggles have an oval window, which is great if you’re looking straight ahead in a swimming lane. However, in open water, you don't want to block your peripheral vision. Try out different lens types.
The tint is also important. If you swim in bright sunshine, they help shade your eyes and also aid in creating a more pleasing contrast.
Double strap goggles are always recommended for open water swimming. With a single strap, goggles tend to slide down. A double strap helps ensure they stay firmly in place. The last thing you want to have to do in open waters is to repeatedly readjust them while swimming.
One additional feature that has become prevalent in more recent times are prescription goggles. They allow those who wear glasses to maintain perfect vision thanks to the corrective lenses built into the goggles.
If you're swimming long distances in the open water with a wetsuit, then the rubbing between your skin and the wetsuit can lead to skin irritation and rashes. This is particularly common in the neck area. A good-fitting wetsuit will help greatly with this, but by applying some anti-chafe cream to potentially problematic areas, you can prevent any irritation. The most common types come in a wax-like form, and can simply be rolled onto the skin.
If you do decide to get out there and enjoy that free resource that is the open water, then at Decathlon, you’ll find all you need. We stock a wide range of open water swimming gear and related accessories sure to keep you warm, safe and efficient while swimming in the open water!