Origins of Modern Swimming Goggles

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Prior to the late 1960’s almost no swimmer wore goggles in either practice or competition. Those that did use them wore the large, triangular shaped rubber goggles that we can often see in old photos of swimmers crossing the English Channel. The challenges with those big rubber goggles were that they made swimmers see double, so the swimmer would have to close one eye to avoid confusion. They were also bulky, often leaked and caused more drag for the swimmer.

Gertrude Ederle traverse la Manche (août 1926). By Le Miroir des sports – Le Miroir des sports, 11 août 1926, Public Domain, Link

Swimmers from that era will recall the painful tears being shed after goggle-less practices from the toxicity of chlorine to the corneas. For some of us, that was also a great excuse for not doing homework. Without using goggles, we also struggled to judge the turns correctly from the blurred vision.

In the summer of 1965, a swimmer in Anaheim, California at the Sammy Lee Swim School by the name of Peter Frawley (brother of NCAA 50 free champion from USC, Dan Frawley), saw a small add in the back of a skin diving magazine from the Melbourne Sports Depot in Australia selling small plastic goggles. They were being marketed to pearl divers.

Peter ordered a box of a dozen goggles for 40 cents apiece and when they arrived in Anaheim weeks later, he sold some of them to his team mates at Sammy Lee for 80 cents. I was one of first to purchase a pair.

Read more on The Race Club

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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