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best equipment for open water swimming

Entry-level

April 12, 2021

CHOOSING YOUR EQUIPMENT FOR OPEN WATER SWIMMING

When you are starting out in the world of open water swimming, it is totally normal to deal with doubts and questions, such as: What equipment should I have? What type of wetsuit should I wear? How many millimeters thick should it be? Do I need accessories? 

Obviously, there is no one answer to all these questions, since every athlete is different and will have different needs depending on their experience and future goals for swimming in open water.

An experienced swimmer who has been training in the ocean for years and knows the area won't need the same equipment as one who is just starting out in the discipline. There will also be differences depending on whether you swim in winter or summer, if you are considering competing in any event or triathlon, or if your goal is simply to swim for sake of it (our favorite).

THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCE LEVEL IN OPEN WATER WHEN CHOOSING EQUIPMENT 

Apart from your swim cap and essential swimming goggles (best mirrored to prevent discomfort due to the sun) that everyone should wear, if you have little or no experience in the ocean, you should first be concerned with safety and comfort. As a newly initiated swimmer, you will want to stay comfortable and calm. You want to plunge into the water with the confidence that you can swim your first strokes in the ocean without worrying about the cold or the new equipment you're using affecting your swimming. A wetsuit that has high flexibility, neutral buoyancy and provides the right amount of thermal insulation will be ideal as you begin this new adventure in open water swimming. 

And of course, when talking about security, we must also mention visibility. It is important, especially if you have limited expertise in open water swimming or if you do not know the area where you are going to swim, to be clearly visible to others while in the ocean. Wearing items such as a high-visibility cap (neoprene or silicone depending on the water temperature), a buoy or a wetsuit with orange sleeves will provide extra safety in your training sessions and prevent any unnecessary scares with other swimmers, surfers or boats. 

The buoy, in addition to providing high visibility, is an essential item for any open water swimmer and should always be present. Not only is it a basic safety accessory, but it gives you added buoyancy in case you have to stop to rest. It also allows you to carry your personal items in a safe, practical and watertight way.

DIFFERENT EQUIPMENT FOR DIFFERENT PURPOSES 

Regardless of your experience level in open water swimming, the equipment and accessories you need will also vary according to the goals you set for yourself.

For example, if your idea is to start swimming in cold water, you will certainly have to take into account a wetsuit with superior thermal insulation that prevents as much cold water as possible from entering the suit while swimming. In this case, you should also consider neoprene accessories like a cap or a hood, booties or gloves which will help you retain as much body heat as possible in order to endure longer workouts at low temperatures.

On the other hand, if your goal is to swim in warmer waters while always maintaining buoyancy and a high level of freedom of movement, you should look for a sleeveless wetsuit  or you might like the option of a two piece that you can alternate depending on the situation. 

If you want to compete, you will not have the same needs if your goal is a triathlon as you would if you were preparing for a long-distance event. For a triathlon, for example, you will not just focus on flexibility and buoyancy (depending on your level) but you will also look for a wetsuit that is especially easy to put on and take off, allowing you to make transitions as fast as possible. Whereas if you are preparing for an event that will take you many hours in the water, you should again look for good thermal insulation so that the cold won't phase you.

There are certainly many variables to take into account and many options available to you, but only you know what the best fit is when choosing equipment for open water swimming. To sum up what we just discussed, you should consider your experience and your goals. From there, you can make the selection that best suits your needs and the way you will use your equipment.