December 13th, 2014

The Wetsuit Journey

Photography by Darren Atkin

Photography by Darren Atkin

My personal opinion is that swimming in normal swimsuit/bathers; the freedom of shoulders, the feel of the water, is the best form of open water swimming on earth. It’s a personal thing.

Why take a wetsuit journey?




-          To be able to swim further in colder water

-          To keep warm when swimming slower

-          To protect oneself from jellyfish and UV

-          To keep up with other wetsuit wearers

-          To understand what it’s like to swim in a wetsuit

A wetsuit journey is unique. Mine started with a mid-range (budget conscious) purchase, as it does for many of us. I bought without input from others,  without seeking expert advice. It felt comfortable and was fairly easy to get on. When swimming it filled with water and was like swimming with a sack of potatoes.

The next wetsuit came courtesy of some contacts in the industry. A top of the range blueseventy Helix wetsuit. A fantastic wetsuit. Lots of flexibility through the shoulders. Properly fitted. Very comfortable to put on. Built for performance. And for me, absolutely useless. I had two of my worst swims ever in this suit. I am very relaxed in the water and quite buoyant throughout the body including my legs. The Helix held my legs up so high I couldn’t swim properly anymore. It made swimming hard work.

Next I managed to get my hands on the Huub Archimedes. Another top of the range wetsuit. A very considered design with lots of good features . The 4mm neoprene (1mm less that the Helix in the leg) allowed my body to sit more naturally in the water. I couldn’t believe the difference 1mm less neoprene made. However, once again the results were very poor. Why? The equivalent size Huub wetsuit that I had in the blueseventy wetsuit was in fact to big. It filled with water invoking the ‘swimming like a sack of potatoes’ result once again. Dropping down two sizes in wetsuit I found my wetsuit swim nirvana.

What did I learn from this process?

-          A wetsuit that is going to be suitable for you needs to fit your swim style, body type and your budget.

-          If you are buoyant in the legs 5mm neoprene in the legs is most likely going to hinder rather than help & the reverse if you have sinking legs.

-          You are very unlikely to be able to size your first swim wetsuit correctly on your own.

-          The top range wetsuit isn’t always going to the best performing one for you.

-          A wetsuit that matches your body type, swim type and fits well can enhance your swim enjoyment in certain conditions and will greatly enhance your swim performance.

*The swim wetsuit manufacturing game is very competitive these days. Companies don’t survive long if they make rubbish; wetsuits are all of a pretty good standard. The key is finding the right wetsuit for you. Find a store with a range of brands. Go in with plenty of time in hand. Find a representative with the time, interest and knowledge to help you find the right wetsuit for you and your swimming.  You’ll find some helpful folk on our friends page

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November 18th, 2014

Queen Charlotte Sound

_DSC8566A jewel of a waterway located at the top of the South Island of New Zealand is Queen Charlotte Sound. This is the location for Queen Charlotte Sound RealSwim Adventure starting on 27 Feb 2015. The Queen Charlotte Sound is very well known for its stunning scenery, the Queen Charlotte track and as an arrival and departure point for the interisland ferry. It also happens to be a direct link with New Zealands Cook Strait, one of the world renowned ‘Oceans Seven’ Marathon swims.

The Queen Charlotte Sound RealSwim begins with a meet up in Picton. We take a charter boat out to our accommodation; The Point. Our hosts John and Nicky will quickly make you feel welcome in this stunning slice of Kiwiana paradise. That evening we have a quick dip of the wharf in Blackwood bay followed by a classic Kiwi bbq dinner soaking up the views of the inner sound.

Day two of this trip and the swim exploration of Queen Charlotte Sound begins in earnest; in the morning properly explore Blackwood bay with a deep water swim followed by a coastal adventure swimming the coastline back to The Point. After lunch we head out into the main waterway with options of steep  ledges to swim along, Islands to circumnavigate and fun point to point swims.

Day three swimmers are normally well in their ‘swim groove’ by now and we head straight out into the main water way to continue our RealSwim exploring, adventures and fun. We head back to The Point for lunch and an early afternoon siesta before literally swimming for our dinner, your clothes will be delivered, a hot shower awaits and a fantastic final night dinner.

Day four is the final day of the RealSwim adventure starting with a wake up swim and breakfast. We back and return to Picton for farewells.

As with all out RealSwim adventures the focus is on fun, friendship and photographs in a stunning New Zealand location all set around the wonderful sport of open water swimming.

Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound

If this sounds like it might be for you click below for bookings   or e-mail us

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October 9th, 2014

RealSwim Bag

Realswim bag V2What is it? The RealSwim bag™ is an inflatable tow bag specifically designed for the open water swimmer. It has dual air compartments providing safety back-up, an inner storage compartment to take water proof phone, drink or food on your swim. A simple to use waist belt that allows the bag to be towed behind above the thighs ensuring minimal disruption during the swim – most of the time you will forget it is there.

The RealSwim bag™ sits on top of the water therefore is it extremely low drag. Its buoyancy provides an added layer of confidence to the more anxious open water swimmer. Most importantly the RealSwim bag™ is bright orange, it exponentially increases you visibility to other water users such as boat traffic and observers on shore.

High Viz, Low Drag.

High Viz, Low Drag.




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September 24th, 2014

Why Swim?


Why do we swim?

Why do we swim?

Why do we swim? It’s often hard to capture the ‘why‘ . What makes us want to head back to the water again and again. Two swimmers were gracious enough to share some amazing words from their swim experiences this summer. Both, very differently, answer their ‘why’:

For Karen Wellings…

There is the water itself which enables freedom, healing and relaxes. Which meditates, invites curiosity and brings childlike joy to the fore. There’s an unexpected raft of emotions to navigate.  And whilst I may have displayed the odd bit of grumpiness, annoyance, fatigue and incomprehension at times the overriding emotion is delight. There’s the thrill of progress made and achieving goals set and of getting further beyond the vestiges of illness (both physical and psychological) and beginning to see myself differently. There’s the beauty, challenge and sheer fun of swimming with others. The beauty of friendships made.

For Alice Gartland …

Seals, cormorants, chilly temps, underwater forests and seaweed wigs – I looked up at one point and it was just me, in the middle of the sea, looking out to the never ending horizon. I have dreamt of a moment like that for a long time.

Alice swimming Isle of Skye. Picture credit: Gill Williams

Alice swimming Isle of Skye. Picture credit: Gill Williams









Why do you swim?

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August 24th, 2014

The Athletes Goggle Guide

As a swim coach I get asked regularly ; “Can you name a brand of goggles that fit comfortably, don’t fog and don’t leak?”  No I cannot . We all have different shaped faces.  What works for me might not work for you. A good set of goggles should … be comfortable , not leak, be appropriate for the conditions (tints for sunshine or clear/blue/orange for cloudy days) . All goggles will fog eventually. The only way to find a good pair for you is to try them on. There are so many options. I looked around our swim squad a while back and realised just about every swimmer was wearing a different set of goggles. Within the group we probably had a broader spectrum of goggle styles than any swim store. Therefore I thought I would ask our Rio swimmers for their comments and goggle preferences. Here are the results in no particular order:

Introducing our Rio 2016 Talent squads athlete goggle guide…








Carolyn …TYR Goggles - Purple and Pretty!








Chris … These are Aqua Sphere Kaiman EXO Clear Lens Goggles SS14 White/Black. They worked very well this morning. Good vision, light, comfortable and no leakage.







Charlie… It’d be useful to those of us with imperfect sight to have a range of prescription goggles. I get the option for vision but I have to compromise on all other factors others would be looking at eg depth, fit, etc. Since the advice is never to swim in contact lenses (in case of infection) it seems a missed opportunity.






Nicola… At the last Cold Water Swimming Champions at tooting lido there was a company selling Swans Goggles. Nancy said they were the best. They are extremely expensive.. More than £20 but I’m a complete convert. They are really comfortable and never leak. And lasted about a year. I bought a pair of open water Swans that are hexagonal. They are the most agonising goggles I have ever worn. Therefore I reverted back to the regular type.. They only had these pink ones at Swimshop. They are quite cool. I wouldn’t consider any other brand now. :-)








Mark … The Aqua Sphere Kayenne’s are simply the only swim goggles that have proved to be both water tight and robust whilst offering a wide 180 degree view. Perfect for open water swimming.

Pip Barry








Mr Pip Barry… My Goggles are so great I can even use them when on the computer

Pip Barry2






Pip also says…Zoggs predator and predator flex. I like both my predator and predator flex so much I sometimes use both at once. My yellow Predator goggles get used when its overcast or dark or cold they bring out the sun even when it is not there.The predator flex normally get used when entered in races as they do not leak or steam up and have great vision

Anna Brim






Ann … Aqua SphereVista .These are the only goggles that work for me. Great 180 vision. Work best when put on dry. Anti fog wears out eventually so then need spraying. Quite pricey.







Barbara … My lovely new Aquasphere ladies Kaiman goggles. Comfy, easily adjustable, don’t leak or leave goggle dents, come in clear or tinted and you can get them in pink! What’s not to like?

Pip Tunstall







Pip T … my  goggles… AquaSphere ‘Vista’  – until I got these I hadn’t found any that didn’t leak – I would like to have smaller streamlined ones so that I don’t look as if I’m just going snorkelling but I think my eye sockets are a bit misshapen or face just odd! These work a treat for me.


Alex says … I have 3 pairs…







TYR Flexframe:I found these goggles difficult to adjust with narrow visibility and uncomfortable nose piece.  They dont have a “natural” fit to the face and you constantly have to push them to your face to get a good seal.  I stopped using these a while ago.









I replaced them with a pair of Tinted Predator flexes which I have been swimming with for the last 2 years and will continue to do so.

Alex3They are easy to adjust and have good visibility.  The nose piece is comfortable and they  form a nice seal without have to tighten them much.  These goggles have done me well on crowded swim starts where you get the occasional foot to face.  Comfortable on the long swim.







I have recently purchased a pair of Aqua Sphere Kayenne’s as I wanted some clear goggles for the more gloomy days.  I was just going to purchase a pair of clear Predator Flexes but thought I would try something new.These goggles are slightly larger than the Predators and provide a greater degree of visibility which I have been enjoying.  They are just as comfortable and easy to adjust as my Predators.  I haven’t tried them on a long swim yet but might give that a try on the weekend.









I can’t comment on the anti-fog abilities of any of the goggles as I use anti-fog religiously (a habit formed from diving and under water photography) {Take note swimmers – Ed}











Gail says …

Please find my helpers modelling our favourite goggles.

The first is the Zoggs Sea Demon, always good for a surprise in the pool, if better suited to a smaller (rather grumpy) face. Holographic lenses and UV protection. Nice.












Mandy says…

Aquasphere women’s Seal Xtp goggles, are the most comfortable goggles I’ve ever worn, they don’t leak and have great visibility.  The soft silicon skirt means you don’t have to walk around with goggle prints around your eyes all day.  They are particularly good for winter swimming as the silicon seal is quite wide and you can tuck your hat over the seal to prevent icecream head.  They’re great for open water and swimming in the lido but would be really un cool for indoor swimming and not good for diving.  They rarely fog up but best to rinse out with shampoo every time.








Will says… They’re pretty simple but they’ve served me well for over a year. I think they’re Zoggs Fusion Air.  I like the fact you can see out the side – handy when you’ve got a eye out for the blue clock!

Thank you to all the athletes who submitted to our athletes goggle guide. Swimmers take note – spending some time finding the right goggle for you and your swim needs can make a world of difference to your swim enjoyment. Ed






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August 7th, 2014


polluted riverAs a an open water swim instructor and guide I would like to sing the praises of New Zealands clean green practices … but I can’t. Unfortunately New Zealand is excellent at watching the mistakes the rest of the world makes … and then copying them. My local river … too polluted to swim in. My local river flows into our largest catchment area river which Silver Fern Farms believes is a viable option for dumping waste    and

In this next article (below) Patrick Smellie asks if New Zealanders should expect rivers and lakes to be swimmable as standard or if having only some bodies of water as swimmable is acceptable while allowing others to remain polluted to a level not suitable for swimming is OK for economic reasons. How do we really feel about having rivers measured as ‘swimmable’ or ‘wade-able’ ?  Is it really acceptable to aim to have our waterways good enough for just ‘wading and boating’ or would we like to know that our dog can drink it without dying and we can dip our toes in on a hot day?

Want a snap shot of the future of New Zealand ? … Water plant operators along western Lake Erie have long been worried about this very scenario as a growing number of algae blooms have turned the water into a pea soup colour in recent summers, leaving behind toxins that can sicken people and kill pets.

In fact, the problems on the shallowest of the five Great Lakes brought on by farm runoff and sludge from sewage treatment plants have been building for more than a decade.

But wait there is more … Scientists’ annual survey found an area of 5,052 square miles of “low oxygen water,” or hypoxia, off much of Louisiana’s coast and part of Texas, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.

The zone is formed by nutrients that wash into the Gulf’s waters — largely agriculture fertilizer and wastewater coming down the Mississippi River. These boost algae blooms that suck up the oxygen in deep water, according to NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Clean water is already in scarce in many places in the world. New Zealand still does have some of the most fantastic swimmable and drinkable water sources in the world. However our tiny population has yet to put any of the pressures on our water resources as many have already in the big wide world. The mistakes out there are plentiful. The lessons learnt are widely available. If you like bottled water and being crowded in an indoor swim pool as your only swim option … continue doing what you’re doing. Am I scaremongering? I would like to be proved wrong; unfortunately I think time will show that I am not.



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