A lifelong passion for sea swimming, a four year Master of Science in Oceanography and a move to the Isle of Wight have all given me both insights into the fascinating complexity of the oceans’ movement and the opportunity to swim almost every day.
Over many years I have honed my kit according to the weather and time of year as follows:
- Swimsuit – I favour Slazenger’s ‘boy-leg’ design (~ £11 from Sports Direct which are comfortable and wear well in the sea.
As it is for swimming and not a fashion parade, I have several of the same colour.
2. Gloves and socks – which I do wear in the colder weather, my current ones are made by Blue Seventy (www.wiggle.co.ukhttp://www.smile.amazon.co.uk socks, £15 to £37.50, gloves, £27 to £35) I am disappointed that the gloves have started coming apart after less than a year though. Would I buy them again? probably not, too much of a ‘throw away’ product.
C-Skin 3mm gloves – http://bit.ly/cskin3mm £24.99 (as reviewed by fellow sea swimmer) Feel well insulated, good fit, don’t ‘flap’ when swimming. Seem to keep hands warm, easy to put on and off, quick to dry. Cons: none. Would buy again.
Ann Smyth – My c-skins 4mm socks are fantastic. Reinforced sole, and so warm that there have been times when I have taken them off and seen my feet steam!! Mine are 5 years old now and still do a great job. They seem to be about £20 now, though you can get thinner, cheaper ones.
Orca 3mm Socks – http://bit.ly/orca3mm £29.00 (as reviewed by fellow sea swimmer) Pros: Very comfy, like wearing nothing. Seem to keep feet warm, easy to put on and off, lightweight and dry quite quickly. Cons: Can feel a little lightweight, flimsy. Year on, let in water so have ‘jelly’ feet. Would buy again. Ed: Currently seem to be only available from Orca (see link above)
Blue Seventy swim socks – http://bit.ly/blue70socks Initially delighted with these – they even seem to have a left and right BUT despite having a textured bottom, they have large holes in the bottom. At £37.50 direct, I would shop around as they are not robust enough for frequent use.
As they wear out quickly if you walk over any hard surface either wear e.g. Crocks over them or flip flops and put the socks on when you reach the water and then put the flipflops up the back of your swimsuit!
Tip – Neoprene Sock liners – aka Bread bags – worn in tight neoprene socks greatly aid getting on and off without ripping your QL. Not sure if bread bags count as kit but they work and they’re virtually free and they don’t fall off 😊 Also, it doesn’t matter what type of bread you like! (Is there an emoji for tongue in cheek?)
3. Wetsuits – I don’t wear one so can’t offer advice BUT you are no less of a swimmer. I find the gloves and socks enough
4. Hot water bottle – I take a flask of hot water and as soon as I come out of the water I add it to the ‘hottie’ and stand on it to warm my feet then, once changed, cuddle it whilst downing copious quantities of tea.
5. Flask number two – in the absence of a warm cafe, hot tea, hot squash, anything hot. It is also useful to take a mug as most flask cups are insulated and don’t warm your hands.
6. Change Towel, changing bathrobe, change poncho – this is down to personal preference. I change in a towelling change towel. This helps dry you and keep you warm. I do have a Dryrobe but use this before and after I change. I find it difficult to change in this and if you put it straight over a wet swimsuit, sit down, change, sit again, the water from your swimsuit soaks into your dry clothes.
7. Tow float – there are many available, different sizes and colours. I use mine if the sea is flat and I can actually swim. Using it in rough conditions can be painful as they tug forcefully back and forth with the waves. You are, however, FAR more likely to be seen by others on and in the water. Some tow floats have lights but, something to consider, speaking to the local Shanklin and Sandown Inshore Lifeboat (http://www.sandownlifeboat.com) flashing lights from the water can result in multiple calls from concerned members of the public.
8. Car keys – I have a blank car key that just locks and unlocks the doors but has none of the electronics. It cost only a few pounds and I pop this in my tow float or wear it around my neck. NB, it can become very stiff in the lock so I carry a can of WD40 and squirt it into the lock on a regular basis. However, I am considering one of these.
There are many available. Remember to check the size before you buy! You may also need a cable to attach this to the car although most cars have a towing hoop loop at the front which would suffice.
9. Change Mat. There are so many options from pieces of yoga mat, specially designed wet suit change mats with draw strings to carry them home all nice and snug, pieces of artificial grass – yes, really! Some are cheap, others less so. My experience is that people who swim outdoor are far less worried about image than swimming so take your pick but having something to stand on is a good idea.
10. Waterproof Robe. I have a Dryrobe and it is warm and can also be used when it is just tipping down – or if you need extra warmth when you go to a supermarket which is the only other time I seem to be cold! I don’t find it that easy to change in so I use the towelling robe to change and then don my DR. There are quite a few alternatives on offer now and they can be picked up on sale sites.
11. Wet Suit Dryer. I had to add this! Found it on a surf website – this is definitely one of those things that you never knew you needed!