Open water swimming can be as simple as a pair of togs, your hat, and goggles, but in cold water and busy locations, there are a couple of other items you need to put in your kit bag.
Let’s start with a swimming hat. Swimming hats help keep you warm, keep your hair out of your eyes and help other water users see you.
It’s important to always wear a bright orange, yellow, pink, or green hat in open water because all other colors just don’t contrast enough with the water, so don’t help your visibility.
A lot of cold water swimmers – swimmers who swim regularly in water that is less than 18C – often wear two silicon swimming hats, or even neoprene swimming hats – like a wetsuit for your head.
Next up is genuinely an essential item for anyone regularly spending time in Irish waters. Earplugs.
When cold water – that’s all Irish water – gets into your ears, your body immediately starts reacting to protect your eardrums. Over time, growths form in your ear canal, aiming to block access for the cold water, and if these growths are not treated, they can lead to hearing loss.
Earplugs protect your ears from this. They come in lots of different varieties, including ones that allow you to hear almost perfectly with them in, so there are no excuses not to put them in your kit bag. Try out a few different types to see what works best for your ears.
Next up is the tow-float. A tow-float is an inflatable that attaches to your body via a waistband and floats along behind you on a leash as you swim.
They make you more visible to other water users, particularly motorized boats and jet skis, and you can rest on them while you wait for your friends. Some are also drybags, so you can pack valuables, like car keys and your phone.
Goggles seem very obvious equipment for open water, but the important note is that you need a couple of different types to account for the varying light conditions you might encounter.
Clear goggles are ideal for dark and low-light conditions. Tinted goggles work well in moderate sunshine or cloudy day times, then mirrored goggles are essential for bright or low sunshine.
Many people in Ireland swim without a wetsuit, but there are benefits to swimming with one, and they are particularly good for beginners as they provide warmth, buoyancy, and general confidence, while you’re learning all these new things.
For swimming, choose a wetsuit that is specifically made for swimming not surfing. It should be very tight-fitting and take about 8-10 minutes to put on. Don’t worry! As soon as you get in the water and let the water into the suit it will expand.
So that’s a quick run-through of some essential kit for open water swimming. Of course, it’s also dead handy to get some kind of changing robe, so you got protection from the elements and a mobile changing room, and in winter, something to stand on is an absolute lifesaver!