Regardless of your swimming ability or confidence in the water one piece of equipment that is becoming more widely used and available for swimming outdoors is the open water swim buoy. This is the one item, also known as a pull buoy, that in my humble opinion is the one essential piece of your kit that you should own if planning to swim anywhere that might take you out of your depth, into water that might have a current or if you are to swim alone or away from your main group.
In this article I will be explaining what a swim buoy is, how it can help, where you can find them and also some of my own personal experiences when swimming with one.
What is a Swim Buoy?
A swim buoy will help to keep you safe in open water whilst making you more visible to others.
It is an ultralight piece of equipment that is inflated as if blowing up a balloon usually into a torpedo shape and attached around the waist via a belt, trailing behind you on the end of a piece of cord whilst you swim. They come in various sizes and colours, always bright so to aid visibility and also add little or no drag whilst swimming.
An added bonus is that you can buy swim buoys that include an internal dry bag, i.e somewhere where you can put small items such as car keys, bottled water, etc. Also those sunglasses and a book for holiday swims which will keep dry and safe inside the buoy as you pull it behind you.
How Does it Help?
A swim buoy will give you a means of staying afloat in open water if required whilst also making you highly visible to others, be they friends and family watching you from afar or other users of the water such as boat or jet ski users. Without any significant drag or inconvenience they can be used to hold onto should you get a cramp or an injury, or just need to take a breather and look around at maybe some stunning coastline views.
Also, especially when sea swimming, you can find yourself quickly outside of your comfort zone if you get caught in a current or if the weather changes or the wind picks up. Having this piece of equipment trailing behind you gives you a “go to” should you need it and it will keep you afloat without expending energy until things sort themselves out.
My Swim Buoy and Me
When I first started swimming in open water and especially in the sea swim buoys were not such a well known piece of equipment, or at least I had not come across them. When I think back now to those early morning swims, before most people were out of their beds, and whilst an absolutely wonderful and a great way to start the day I always had in the back of my minds “what if I get cramp” or “can that boat see me”!
Obviously one answer is not to swim out of your depth or far from the shore line, but to me beauty of sea or open water swimming is the feeling that it is just you and the elements which can mean the sea bed or lake bottom is some way below you, maybe with shoals of brightly coloured fish swimming between you and the bottom. Then one day after swimming I saw two others doing the same route but towing some orange buoys behind them. That was my introduction to swim buoys, and now I will never venture out into deep water without one.
What it does is give me the comfort of knowing I can just hold onto it if I need to take a minute, be it to have a breather or just to take some time out and enjoy what I am doing. Also, come vacation time and if by a beach the swim buoy comes into its own.
Vacation Time – Visibility
Where my swim buoy really comes into its own is when I take it on vacation if going to be close to a beach during my stay, and this is also why I would always recommend getting a swim buoy that includes a dry bag.
The first thing to remember is that the sea, especially if near a popular resort, can become a busy place during the day. Whilst it is lovely to swim first thing when not many people are about this is not always possible and you may therefore find yourself sharing the water with a myriad assortment of boats, jet skis, pedalos or other such like. And if you are swimming, especially in a dark wet suit, you are not at all visible to these especially if you are swimming someway off shore where they might not expect you to be. What the swim buoy does is make you very visible to others.
Vacation Time – I’ll Be Back Later…
The other benefit is to see somewhere in the distance, be it a beach or a piece of coastline that needs to be explored and packing some hydration, maybe a book and some sunnies into the buoy and just heading off. No longer does my long-suffering other half have to worry that she can not see me, or I have been gone some time as she knows I have the swim buoy as a means of safety should something unexpected happen. And for myself, I can stay out a bit longer without worrying that she is concerned where I am and usually catches sight of me via the orange float.
Also, those early morning swims. Whilst I would not advise to swim alone unless you are a competent swimmer having the swim buoy just gives an added layer of safety when there might not be anyone about.
How to Get Hold of One
Now that these are such a high profile piece of equipment they are readily available be it down your local sports equipment outlet or via the internet and I purchased mine directly from https://www.saferswimmer.eu/
They come in a range of sizes and colours but I would always recommend something bright and visible whilst being big enough that you can sit with it happily pulled to your chest for however long you need. Personally I have a bright orange, large (12 litres) buoy with a dry bag that works just fine. I am 5 ft 10 inches (1.77m) and 186 lbs (84 kg).
So Just to Finish
I hope that you have found this article helpful and if you are already swimming in or thinking of giving open water a try will think about using a swim buoy. It is such a simple piece of equipment that is no hindrance to your swimming but will really give back so much confidence in the water, helping you to swim for longer and further from the shore to really experience the joy that open water can bring.
For myself, twice this year I am glad I had it on, once when getting caught in an unexpected current. Also, a swim buddy of mine found it to be a real friend when swimming off shore on vacation as it gave her the confidence to push herself harder and swim close to the edge of her comfort zone without others having to worry about her.