I’m a lifeguard for Olympic swimmers. Our job isn’t as ‘useless’ or easy as people think.

Olympic lifeguard James Meyer in the pool at the 2016 US Olympic swim trials with two swimmers
James Meyers (top, facing right) in the pool at the 2016 US Olympic swim trials.

  • James Meyers has been a volunteer lifeguard at four US Olympic swim trials since 2008.
  • He says that lifeguards are essential at these events, not “useless” like a recent meme implied.
  • He tells writer Ryan S. Gladwin what it’s like being a lifeguard for the best swimmers in the world.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A meme from the Rio 2016 Olympics said “if you feel useless today, remember somebody is working as a lifeguard at the Olympics.”

It is a misconception that we’re useless. Unfortunately, people do get hurt so we have a role. Of the four Olympic trials where I’ve been a lifeguard, this year was the first we didn’t have to get in the water.

I’ve been a lifeguard in Nebraska, Omaha for 26 years now. The Red Cross does the lion’s share of lifeguard training, I’d been working for them back in 2008 and they asked me to help out with the trials.

It sounded like fun so I said yes and I’ve kept on doing it ever since.

It’s not just the athletes we have to look after, oftentimes you have outside groups that use the pool in between trials’ prelims and the finals. We’re not just life guarding the athletes, we are also lifeguarding for those events. We’ve never had to go in for an athlete, it’s always been for everyone else.

The only reason we didn’t have to enter the pool this year was because of COVID, there were no outside groups allowed in.

James Meyers by the pool at the US Olympics swim trials in 2021
James Meyers by the pool at the US Olympics swim trials in 2021.

It’s kind of like the fire department. Our whole goal is to be in the background, if you have to see us generally something bad has happened.

The flipside of that is if there is an emergency and we make a mistake, it ends up on YouTube or TV – nobody wants that.

Lifeguards at these events are mostly trained to respond to medical problems or injuries where the person can’t get out of the pool. That is more likely to happen at Olympic trials, compared to a public pool where lifeguards are trained to respond to drownings.

The whole lifeguard crew are volunteers, people come from all across the country to get involved. We’ve had people from the business world to nurses – to college students with friends in the trials.

Working these events is generally a great experience. You get to sit on deck to watch Phelps and Lochte battle it out or when somebody sets a record.

Some of the volunteers swim competitively, they pick up a lot of techniques, habits and drills they’ve never seen before.

The closest we’ve come to rescuing an ‘athlete’ was back in 2012. Once the Olympic trials were over, we also hosted the National Masters Meet – which is like a swim team for older people.

We had a guy go into cardiac arrest while swimming. Luckily, he survived but you can see why we’re needed.

Back in 2016, I’d just had hip surgery but still wanted to be involved so I had a scooter to get around the building. Apparently, I got too close to Michael Phelps and he had to jump out of the way. I never saw him, so in my mind it never happened but it’s quite fun to say I nearly ran him over.

As volunteers, we’re asked not to request autographs while in uniform but backstage you have an opportunity to get them.

There’s about 700 volunteers for the trials with only 50 of them being lifeguards. People travel here on their own dime, paying for their own hotels, just to get involved. We turn up at 5:30 a.m. and sometimes go till 10 p.m..

Nothing happens without the army of volunteers behind the scenes who get no credit at all.

We hope not to have a role but we do. When we are called upon we have to be prepared for it. We can’t sit there disinterested like the girl in the meme.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Katie Ledecky will swim for gold at the 2021 Olympic Games – here’s how to watch the event on NBC

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Katie Ledecky
Olympic swimming events will be broadcast live on NBC and USA.

  • Tokyo Olympic swimming events started on July 24 and conclude July 31.
  • Swimming events will air on NBC and USA Network via live TV streaming services.
  • On the USA team, expectations are high for Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyTV (small)

Swimming events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics started on July 24 and continue daily until July 31. Live coverage will be broadcast on NBC and the USA network.

The USA team has several strong competitors in women’s and men’s divisions, but all eyes will be on Katie Ledecky when she gets in the water. Ledecky already has an impressive collection of five gold medals and one silver medal coming into the Tokyo Olympics. If she snags three more gold medals in Tokyo, Ledecky will tie swimming legend, Jenny Thompson, as the winningest female US Olympian of all time.

In the men’s division, Caeleb Dressel is expected to lead the pack after his impressive showing at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Dressel earned two gold medals during the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

During the first three days of swimming events, the USA team earned three gold medals. In an unexpected victory, 17-year-old Alaskan Lydia Jacoby took home the gold medal for her performance in the women’s 100m breaststroke. For the men’s swimming division, Americans earned a top podium spot in the 400m individual medley and the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Katie Ledecky posted the fastest qualifying times in 200m and 1500m freestyle, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. On July 27, the women’s finals for both events will air live during prime time coverage on NBC.

How to watch Olympic swimming

Live broadcasts of Olympic swimming events are split between two channels: USA and NBC. For both men’s and women’s events, you can watch the preliminary heats on USA and the finals on NBC. Swimming heats will air in the mornings starting around 6 a.m. ET, and final races will air later in the evening during primetime coverage.

If you already have access to NBC and USA through a pay-TV provider, you can also stream every swimming event live via the NBC Sports app or NBCOlympics.com.

If you don’t have cable, you can get NBC and USA through a variety of live TV streaming services. Sling TV is the cheapest subscription service for watching all the Olympic swimming events. New members can get their first month for just $10 (regularly $35). NBC is only offered in select markets, however, so be sure to check Sling’s website for availability first.

FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV are additional live streaming services with access to both channels for watching Olympic swimming, but these options are more expensive at $65/month each.

TV (small)TV (Starter Plan) (small)+ Live TV (small)TV (small)

Viewers who can’t tune into events live can stay caught up on the action by catching highlights and primetime coverage on NBC. For free swimming highlights and videos from additional Olympic events, you can download the Peacock app or visit NBCOlympics.com.

(Free Plan) (small)

Men’s Olympic swimming schedule

Caeleb Dresse stands during Olympic trials in 2021.
Caeleb Dressel.

July 27

Event Time Channel
100m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Breaststroke (Heats) 6:50 a.m. ET USA
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Heats) 7:17 a.m. ET USA
800m Freestyle (Heats) 7:37 a.m. ET USA
100m Freestyle (Semifinals) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Final) 9:49 p.m. ET NBC
200m Breaststroke (Semifinals) 10:21 p.m. ET NBC
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Final) 11:26 p.m. ET NBC

July 28

Event Time Channel
200m Backstroke (Heats) 6:25 a.m. ET USA
200m Individual Medley (Heats) 7:15 a.m. ET USA
800m Freestyle (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
200m Breaststroke (Final) 9:44 p.m. ET NBC
200m Backstroke (Semifinals) 10:04 p.m. ET NBC
100m Freestyle (Final) 10:37 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Semifinals) 11:08 p.m. ET NBC

July 29

Event Time Channel
100m Butterfly (Heats) 6:50 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Heats) 7:28 a.m. ET USA
100m Butterfly (Semifinals) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
200m Backstroke (Final) 9:50 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Final) 10:16 p.m. ET NBC

July 30

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
1500m Freestyle (Heats) 6:48 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay (Heats) 8:50 a.m. ET USA
100m Butterfly (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
50m Freestyle (Semifinals) 10:11 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Final) 10:43 p.m. ET NBC

July 31

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
1500m Freestyle (Final) 9:44 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay (Final) 10:36 p.m. ET NBC

Women’s Olympic swimming schedule

Katie Ledecky at the 2021 Olympic Trials
Katie Ledecky.

July 27

Event Time Channel
200m Butterfly (Heats) 6:28 a.m. ET USA
200m Freestyle (Final) 9:41 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Semifinals) 9:57 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Final) 10:45 p.m. ET NBC
1500m Freestyle (Final) 10:54 p.m. ET NBC

July 28

Event Time Channel
100m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Breaststroke (Heats) 6:52 a.m. ET USA
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Heats) 7:34 a.m. ET USA
100m Freestyle (Semifinals) 9:53 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Final) 10:28 p.m. ET NBC
200m Breaststroke (Semifinals) 10:54 p.m. ET NBC
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Final) 11:31 p.m. ET NBC

July 29

Event Time Channel
800m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Backstroke (Heats) 7:08 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Heats) 7:28 a.m. ET USA
200m Breaststroke (Final) 9:41 p.m. ET NBC
100m Freestyle (Final) 9:59 p.m. ET NBC
200m Backstroke (Semifinals) 10:35 p.m. ET NBC

July 30

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Heats) 6:24 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay (Heats) 8:36 a.m. ET USA
200m Backstroke (Final) 9:37 p.m. ET NBC
800m Freestyle (Final) 9:46 p.m. ET NBC
50m Freestyle (Semifinals) 10:32 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Final) 10:43 p.m. ET NBC

July 31

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Final) 9:37 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay (Final) 10:36 p.m. ET NBC
Read the original article on Business Insider

How to watch swimming at the Tokyo Olympics – the qualifying heats begin on July 24

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Katie Ledecky
Olympic swimming events will be broadcast live on NBC and USA.

  • Tokyo Olympic swimming events start on July 24 and conclude July 31.
  • Swimming events will air on USA and NBC via live TV streaming services.
  • On the USA team, expectations are high for Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyTV (small)

Swimming events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics start on July 24 and continue daily until July 31. Live coverage will be broadcast on NBC and the USA network.

The USA team has several strong competitors in women’s and men’s divisions, but all eyes will be on Katie Ledecky when she gets in the water. Ledecky already has an impressive collection of five gold medals and one silver medal coming into the Tokyo Olympics. If she snags three more gold medals in Tokyo, Ledecky will tie swimming legend Jenny Thompson as the winningest female US Olympian of all time.

In the men’s division, Caeleb Dressel is expected to lead the pack after his impressive showing at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Dressel earned two gold medals during the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

How to watch Olympic swimming

Live broadcasts of Olympic swimming events are split between two channels: USA and NBC. For both men’s and women’s events, you can watch the preliminary heats on USA and the finals on NBC. Swimming heats will air in the mornings starting around 6 a.m. ET, and final races will air later in the evening during primetime coverage.

If you already have access to NBC and USA through a pay-TV provider, you can also stream every swimming event live via the NBC Sports app or NBCOlympics.com.

If you don’t have cable, you can get NBC and USA through a variety of live TV streaming services. Sling TV is the cheapest subscription service for watching all the Olympic swimming events. New members can get their first month for just $10 (regularly $35). NBC is only offered in select markets, however, so be sure to check Sling’s website for availability first.

FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV are additional live streaming services with access to both channels for watching Olympic swimming, but these options are more expensive at $65/month each.

TV (small)TV (Starter Plan) (small)+ Live TV (small)TV (small)

Viewers who can’t tune into events live can stay caught up on the action by catching highlights and primetime coverage on NBC. For free swimming highlights and videos from additional Olympic events, you can download the Peacock app or visit NBCOlympics.com.

(Free Plan) (small)

Men’s Olympic swimming schedule

Caeleb Dresse stands during Olympic trials in 2021.
Caeleb Dressel.

July 24

Event Time Channel
400m Individual Medley (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
400m Freestyle (Heats) 6:48 a.m. ET USA
100m Breaststroke (Heats) 7:55 a.m. ET USA
400m Individual Medley (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
400m Freestyle (Final) 9:52 p.m. ET NBC
100m Breaststroke (Semifinals) 10:33 p.m. ET NBC

July 25

Event Time Channel
200m Freestyle (Heats) 6:22 a.m. ET USA
100m Backstroke (Heats) 7:19 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Freestyle Relay (Heats) 8:10 a.m. ET USA
200m Freestyle (Semifinals) 9:37 p.m. ET NBC
100m Breaststroke (Final) 10:12 p.m. ET NBC
100m Backstroke (Semifinals) 10:31 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Freestyle Relay (Final) 11:05 p.m. ET NBC

July 26

Event Time Channel
200m Butterfly (Heats) 6:29 a.m. ET USA
200m Freestyle (Final) 9:43 p.m. ET NBC
100m Backstroke (Final) 9:59 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Semifinals) 10:35 p.m. ET NBC

July 27

Event Time Channel
100m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Breaststroke (Heats) 6:50 a.m. ET USA
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Heats) 7:17 a.m. ET USA
800m Freestyle (Heats) 7:37 a.m. ET USA
100m Freestyle (Semifinals) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Final) 9:49 p.m. ET NBC
200m Breaststroke (Semifinals) 10:21 p.m. ET NBC
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Final) 11:26 p.m. ET NBC

July 28

Event Time Channel
200m Backstroke (Heats) 6:25 a.m. ET USA
200m Individual Medley (Heats) 7:15 a.m. ET USA
800m Freestyle (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
200m Breaststroke (Final) 9:44 p.m. ET NBC
200m Backstroke (Semifinals) 10:04 p.m. ET NBC
100m Freestyle (Final) 10:37 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Semifinals) 11:08 p.m. ET NBC

July 29

Event Time Channel
100m Butterfly (Heats) 6:50 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Heats) 7:28 a.m. ET USA
100m Butterfly (Semifinals) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
200m Backstroke (Final) 9:50 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Final) 10:16 p.m. ET NBC

July 30

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
1500m Freestyle (Heats) 6:48 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay (Heats) 8:50 a.m. ET USA
100m Butterfly (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
50m Freestyle (Semifinals) 10:11 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Final) 10:43 p.m. ET NBC

July 31

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
1500m Freestyle (Final) 9:44 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay (Final) 10:36 p.m. ET NBC

Women’s Olympic swimming schedule

Katie Ledecky at the 2021 Olympic Trials
Katie Ledecky.

July 24

Event Time Channel
100m Butterfly (Heats) 6:28 a.m. ET USA
400m Individual Medley (Heats) 7:30 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Freestyle Relay (Heats) 8:15 a.m. ET USA
100m Butterfly (Semifinals) 9:40 p.m. ET NBC
400m Individual Medley (Final) 10:12 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Freestyle Relay (Final) 10:45 p.m. ET NBC

July 25

Event Time Channel
100m Backstroke (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
100m Breaststroke (Heats) 6:59 a.m. ET USA
400m Freestyle (Heats) 7:39 a.m. ET USA
100m Butterfly (Final) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
100m Breaststroke (Semifinals) 9:50 p.m. ET NBC
400m Freestyle (Final) 10:20 p.m. ET NBC
100m Backstroke (Semifinals) 10:53 p.m. ET NBC

July 26

Event Time Channel
200m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Individual Medley (Heats) 6:56 a.m. ET USA
1500m Freestyle (Heats) 7:32 a.m. ET USA
200m Freestyle (Semifinals) 9:30 p.m. ET NBC
100m Backstroke (Final) 9:51 p.m. ET NBC
100m Breaststroke (Final) 10:17 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Semifinals) 10:58 p.m. ET NBC

July 27

Event Time Channel
200m Butterfly (Heats) 6:28 a.m. ET USA
200m Freestyle (Final) 9:41 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Semifinals) 9:57 p.m. ET NBC
200m Individual Medley (Final) 10:45 p.m. ET NBC
1500m Freestyle (Final) 10:54 p.m. ET NBC

July 28

Event Time Channel
100m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Breaststroke (Heats) 6:52 a.m. ET USA
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Heats) 7:34 a.m. ET USA
100m Freestyle (Semifinals) 9:53 p.m. ET NBC
200m Butterfly (Final) 10:28 p.m. ET NBC
200m Breaststroke (Semifinals) 10:54 p.m. ET NBC
4x200m Freestyle Relay (Final) 11:31 p.m. ET NBC

July 29

Event Time Channel
800m Freestyle (Heats) 6:02 a.m. ET USA
200m Backstroke (Heats) 7:08 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Heats) 7:28 a.m. ET USA
200m Breaststroke (Final) 9:41 p.m. ET NBC
100m Freestyle (Final) 9:59 p.m. ET NBC
200m Backstroke (Semifinals) 10:35 p.m. ET NBC

July 30

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Heats) 6:24 a.m. ET USA
4x100m Medley Relay (Heats) 8:36 a.m. ET USA
200m Backstroke (Final) 9:37 p.m. ET NBC
800m Freestyle (Final) 9:46 p.m. ET NBC
50m Freestyle (Semifinals) 10:32 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay, Mixed (Final) 10:43 p.m. ET NBC

July 31

Event Time Channel
50m Freestyle (Final) 9:37 p.m. ET NBC
4x100m Medley Relay (Final) 10:36 p.m. ET NBC
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I’ve been swimming for over 30 years. Here’s the best swim gear and accessories for faster and more comfortable laps

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

swimming
  • Well-designed goggles, swimsuits, swim caps, and accessories can make you faster and happier in the water.
  • I’m a gear editor and have been swimming laps for almost 30 years, so I know good swim gear.

In the world of modern high-intensity training and boutique fitness classes, swimming is a refreshingly simple workout. All it requires is a basic swimsuit, access to a pool (which most towns have at a low community-center rate), and the basic stroke skills many of us learned as children.

For this low cost, you get serious gain: Swimming is a full-body workout that taxes your upper and lower body, plus delivers cardiovascular training without feeling overheated and sweaty. Even just leisurely swimming can burn roughly 220 calories in 30 minutes, while more vigorous strokes like butterfly can torch upwards of 400 calories in that same time.

Swimming is also low-impact on your joints compared to other cardio workouts like running and comes with a slew of health benefits from lowering blood sugar to improving mental health.

I’ve spent most of my life reaping the benefits of this super accessible workout: Growing up in the North County of San Diego, I swam in the ocean and in backyard pools, often from dawn to dusk. In college, I joined the triathlon club and started counting laps by meters and yards. I’ve since swum with Master’s programs in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and in my current home of Boulder, Colorado. But I mostly swim on my own, heading to local pools (primarily outdoors) to swim laps for fitness and enjoyment.

Now, as a gear editor, I truly appreciate swimming’s simplicity – in addition to a swimsuit, goggles and a swim cap are all you need for comfortable laps. Beyond these essentials, items like buoys and fins add excitement to the activity, while something like a warm coverall makes the pre- and post-pool experience more comfortable.

The amount of swim gear at even the most casual of swimmer’s disposal is extensive – and not all of it is designed to help set or break a PR. For this roundup, I researched and tested a variety of both new and tried-and-true gear from a variety of swim brands, including cutting-edge suits, goggles, and swim caps.

Beyond the basics, I also tested training equipment and extras that make fitness lap swimming as comfortable, and enjoyable, as possible. While some of the additional gear isn’t critical to swimming laps, it did enhance my lap-swimming experience, some in ways that quite surprised me.

Here’s the best gear for swimming laps:

A chlorine-resistant, hydrodynamic swimsuit for women

nike amp axis cutout 1 piece swimsuit N4hRMl

Nike Swim Women’s HydraStrong Axis Modern Cut-Out One-Piece, from $48.14, available at Amazon

This one-piece suit is made out of Nike’s HydraStrong fabric, a unique polyester that’s chlorine and heat-resistant. For lap swimmers, that means it takes longer for the suit to stretch out and thin down to a too-revealing shell of itself.

Nike offers multiple suits in HydraStrong fabric, including a line of good-looking bikinis meant for lap swim, as well as men’s briefs and jammers. I like this one-piece for its balance of coverage and style — the open back and straps are summery and fun, while the overall cut makes the suit (and me) ready to crank out hardcore swim sets.

The HydrasStrong fabric also has a low-water absorbency, making it feel fast in the water, and dry quickly on deck.

Hydrodynamic but modest brief-suits for men

Speedo Wave Wall Team Jammer

Speedo Wave Wall Splice Jammer, $39, available at Speedo

Not all Speedos are brief-style suits. “Jammer”-style swimwear — the longer-cut options that resemble bike shorts — offer the hydrodynamic performance of a suit built for lap swimming with a (much) more modest silhouette. The polyester/spandex blend, “feels fast and compressive, but not so compressive that it’s uncomfortable,” said my male tester.

The suit features lining in the front and backside, and a drawstring to help the suit stay put during flip-turns, hard push-offs from the wall, and aggressive strokes, like butterfly sprints.

A warm post-pool coverall

Arean Team Line Parka

Arena Team Line Parka, $150, available at Swim Outlet

This cozy, fleece-lined parka is intended to keep competitive swimmers warm between sets or races, but it’s also amazing as a cover-up for winter or general cold-weather outdoor lap swimming.

I wear this parka over my swimsuit to the outdoor pool in the Colorado winter or early summer mornings alongside a pair of sweatpants for easy undress. As soon as I’m out of the water and towel off briefly, I pull it on for the drive home. A bonus is that the waterproof exterior keeps my car seats dry, despite me wearing a soggy suit underneath.

The pandemic turned many indoor swimmers into all-the-time outdoor swimmers, and this parka is a game-changer for seasonal comfort.

Large-lensed goggles for outdoor swimming

Nike Vapor Mirror Performance goggles

Nike Swim Vapor Mirrored Goggles, $35, available at Nike

For outdoor swimming, dark mirrored goggles are a must as they cut glare while offering protection for sensitive eyes. The Nike Swim Vapor Mirrored Goggles are low profile and sit close to the face.

The large, curved lenses deliver maximum peripheral vision that allows me to have mini races with the people swimming in lanes next to me because I can see them easily while pretending not to. They also let me see the bottom of the pool without any excessive head motion, either horizontally or vertically. 

The soft, flexible gasket does a good job sealing against my skin to minimize annoying leaks, though the goggles do leave an “I just swam” goggle ring on my face.

Clear goggles for indoor swimming

TYR Tracer X RZR Racing Adult Goggles

TYR Tracer-X RZR Racing Goggles, $54.99, available at Swim Outlet

For indoor swimming, or outdoors in low light, these clear-lens TYR Tracer-X RZR Racing Goggles work great. I was amazed at the instantly secure, leak-free fit. Because goggle fit is an individual matter, these do come with five removable nose bridge size options and have adjustable straps for customization. The silicone gaskets seal to my face comfortably and the goggles never fogged up on me (this is likely due to its advertised anti-fog coating).

Like the Nike goggles, these are low profile for ideal hydrodynamics while providing good peripheral vision.

A reliable pull buoy

Speedo Team pull Buoy

Speedo Team Pull Buoy, $14.99, available at Speedo

Swimming with a pull buoy gives your legs a rest and lets you focus on arm stroke and body rotation. Over my lap-swimming lifetime, I’ve swum with a lot of different pull buoys, but this one continues to impress me with its buoyancy and comfort.

While others can be scratchy (i.e. the pontoon-like models held together by rope), or become waterlogged, this one’s dense foam keeps my legs afloat impressively during pull sets.

 

An ergonomic kickboard

TYR Hydrofoil Kickboard

TYR Hydrofoil Kickboard, $19.99, available at Amazon

Due to the pandemic, the communal bins at almost all public pools are non-existent. This means that if you want to use a training tool like a kickboard, you’ll need to bring your own — and this TYR kickboard is so great that even if communal kickboards make a comeback, I’ll still bring it along. 

Its arrow shape puts my shoulders in a comfortable position while kicking, and it’s a shape that mimics my arm position during regular strokes far more than a large, rounded kickboard. The convex hull allows both the board and my body to rock naturally side-to-side through the water.

As a bonus, the board doesn’t become waterlogged and carries more easily in a bag than a clunky, traditionally shaped kickboard.

A well-ventilated bag for quick drying

TYR Big Mesh Mummy Backpack

TYR Big Mesh Mummy Backpack, $19.99, available at Backcountry

I tended to carry my swim gear in either a regular duffel or backpack for a number of decades. But once I made the change to this mesh carrier from TYR, I realized what I’d been missing: An easy and efficient way to transport all my gear. This not only includes my goggles, cap, and towel, but also a pull buoy and kickboard — and the bag’s mesh design does well to air everything out after a swim.

The bag features two backpack-style straps for comfortable transport and a pull-cord closure system on its main compartment that keeps whatever’s packed secure.

A swim cap that doesn’t pull your hair

Speedo Silicone Printed Cap

Speedo Silicone Printed Cap, $14.99, available at Speedo

Latex swim caps notoriously pull your hair, so I much prefer a silicone option that is far gentler. This one from Speedo doesn’t pull or break off any strands when pulling it on or off, and the silicone lasts longer than traditional latex.

There are a lot of great silicone swim caps out there, but I love the prints here to add some fun to my swim without compromising performance in the water.

Comfortable headphones for music

Finis Duo

Finis Duo, $92.32, available at Amazon

I may be a gear geek but I do love the simplicity of swimming laps without music, and instead rely on the sound of water and my breath to create workout Zen. That said, this underwater MP3 player can be a fun way to change things up, and I know swimmers who say they can’t endure laps without it.

Though the Duo is simple to set up, it isn’t Bluetooth compatible, so I had to convert music files on my laptop to MP3 files, then drag them over to the connected device. This was easy enough but does present a bit of a learning curve. In the water, the device sits against your temples (not in your ears), and the music is remarkably clear.

If it is Bluetooth you’re after, the Finis Amnis Stream, which I didn’t test, pairs with a smartwatch via Bluetooth.

Fins to improve your form

Finis Z2 Gold Zoomers

Finis Z2 Gold Zoomers, $35, available on Amazon

Like other training tools, fins help improve form by targeting specific muscles and parts of your swim stroke. These Z2 Gold Zoomers are a good length for all levels of recreational to competitive swimmers — any shorter and it’d take a lot more effort to kick across the pool and any longer would feel like scuba fins. 

The Zoomer length gives me plenty of power to kick across the pool either with or without my kickboard. Wearing them for faster sets or while attempting butterfly stroke is a fun way to use them, and they also do a good job working your hamstrings and glutes.

A towel poncho for easy changing

Arena Icons Hooded Poncho

Arena Icons Hooded Poncho, $44.97, available on Amazon

Pull this towel-material poncho on over a wet swimsuit on any pool deck, and you’re basically wearing your own portable changing room. There’s plenty of room underneath to strip off a wet suit and pull on dry clothes without revealing anything.

This poncho comes in handy at pools that don’t have locker rooms (or those that haven’t yet opened them), or for anyone who doesn’t want to use a locker room, whether they’re open or not.

What else we considered

Finis Smart Goggles ($235): For swimmers who like to hone in on splits and enjoy super high-tech gadgets, these goggles have an on-lens display, which appears in the left corner, for pace and splits visible while swimming. Paired with the Ciye app, swimmers can log workouts, and connect with others. Note that when I tried these, I got a headache from looking left mid-swim, but I also have sensitive eyes so I don’t think these would cause the same issue for everyone.

Zygo Solo ($299): This headset works via bone conduction to stream workouts from the accompanying Zygo app to guide swim sessions. The Transmitter that comes with works as a sort of underwater walkie-talkie, which coaches can use to instruct swimmers mid-lap. While the headset took some futzing to feel comfortable under a swim cap and goggles, the sound clarity was good and the workouts interesting.

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The 5 best wetsuits for surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Wetsuits protect you from cold water, allowing you to surf, swim, or dive longer than if you didn’t wear one.
  • Choosing a wetsuit depends on how you’ll use it as surfers have different needs than kayakers, for instance.
  • Our top pick, O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, features water-resistant neoprene, durable stitching, and a comfortable fit.

For anyone who doesn’t live in the tropics, wearing a wetsuit while surfing is a necessity. Paddling out to a break with water temperatures anywhere below 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit without a generous helping of rubber can range from slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly – but wear the right wetsuit and you’ll quickly forget all about the hypothermia-inducing water temp (for the most part).

Surfing isn’t the only water sport one might wear a wetsuit for, however. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and divers, among others, also don neoprene getups to keep cold water from cutting their outings short – but not every wetsuit is a jack-of-all-trades type of suit. What one person might need for kayaking might be too cumbersome or ill-fitting for a surfer.

To help anyone shopping for a new suit, I’ve field-tested a number of wetsuits from top brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl, consulted with diving and surfing enthusiasts, and conducted plenty of research to come up with a list of the best currently available.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included some tips on how to shop for a wetsuit, including the differences in suit types and thickness, as well as some insight into the best way to care for your wetsuit and how to pick out a dive suit.

Here are the best wetsuits:

The best wetsuit overall

ONeill wetsuit

The O’Neill Psycho Tech is made with water-resistant neoprene to keep it from retaining water, and its top-notch stitching makes it almost watertight.

Pros: Warm, almost watertight stitching, lightweight, quick-drying

Cons: A little pricey

O’Neill’s Psycho Tech is the kind of cozy, stretchy, almost watertight suit that becomes oh-so-precious to cold-water surfers when winter storms roll through and leaky seams threaten to end surf sessions early.

If there’s one company I’d put all my good faith in keeping me from the wrath of hypothermia, it’s the late, lauded laureate and godfather of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill.

O’Neill puts a lot of money into research and design, and while the US military doesn’t exactly endorse or use any single wetsuit, they’ve frequently sent personnel out in O’Neill suits. That alone may or may not speak volumes to you, but the US military is not known to be one to skimp on matters of national security.

This wetsuit is flexible, and I’ve found it to hold up in temperatures considerably lower than their rating. My old Psycho II model from 2009, which saw heavy service through 2010 and has seen service in most of the years since, is still, shockingly, in pretty good shape. The new Psychos are miles ahead, but there aren’t enough problems or even one single tear in my suit that warrant tossing mine out just yet.

Cleanline Surf, the Pacific Northwest’s coldwater surf aficionados, called the Psycho Tech “the pinnacle of wetsuit technology and performance.” The site goes on to taut it for being lightweight, warm, durable, and flexible — I don’t disagree.

Also, the TechnoButter neoprene rejects water so well that it stays light even when wet, and it dries much faster than most suits.

The best budget wetsuit for women

RipCurlDawn

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits cost less than $200, feature an easy-to-use rear zip entry, and have both stitched and glued seams for added durability. 

Pros: Easy in and out via a rear zip entry, stitched and glued seams, inexpensive (as far as wetsuits go)

Cons: Its 3/2 millimeter thickness won’t keep you warm very long in colder water temps

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits are extremely flexible, thoroughly stitched, taped, and glued, and very reasonably priced.

The suit has been a bestseller for several years and being blindstitched, glued, and taped for under $200 certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation. It also comes in both men’s and women’s designs, but, I must make a full disclosure: I’ve never owned one, though I’ve envied them from close and afar over the years. 

The best budget wetsuit for men

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VISSLA’s 7 Seas is economical but doesn’t cut any corners to deliver a functional wetsuit at a fair price.

Pros: Price tag, sleeve gaskets, stitching and gluing, 1-year warranty

Cons: Neoprene retains water and gets a little heavy

I tried VISSLA’s 7 Seas model in New York this late spring and was hot in the 3/2-millimeter full suit. That’s a good sign. I also caught up with an old friend on Montauk who’s in his third season with the same model, which is as much as most people ask of even a luxury suit. That was good enough for me.

It fit me exceptionally well, which is a shock because I’m six feet tall, generally, stay shy of 160 pounds, and almost no company designs standard suits sized for stick-figured string beans like me.

The seams are held together by double blind-stitching and taped three times over, which somewhere around five years ago was unthinkable for a suit under $200. Matter-of-factly, this suit is designed in much the same way one of my nicer suits from about 10 years ago was, only that one cost me about twice as much. The suit’s also backed by respective 1-year warranties for both the neoprene and the stitching.

Although the neoprene retains water and gets heavy, the suit is remarkably stretchy — maybe stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex suits — and the wrist gaskets that are located a few inches above the cuff really kept water from getting up my sleeves and slowing my paddling. Further, taking water up the sleeves in fall or winter is shockingly chilling.

I also liked the fuzzy lining, which is akin to Patagonia’s, but, again, this suit is less than half the price (at the time of this publishing). While Patagonia’s suits are nice, and I love mine, I don’t see any need to step up unless you really feel like spending the extra money or you’re going to be surfing in exceptionally cold waters where you’ll probably want the best technology you can get.

The best non-neoprene wetsuit

Patagonia wetsuit

There are other non-neoprene suits emerging on the market, but my Patagonia suits have lasted through a lot, and it will take a lot for another suit to knock them off their throne.

Pros: Long-lasting (as long as if not longer than most neoprene suits), neoprene-free, almost petroleum-free, very warm, so you can often get away with a thinner suit

Cons: Not cheap, maybe a little stiffer than neoprene suits

Patagonia’s current crop of wetsuits comes via a biochemical company called Yulex. Yulex manufactures neoprene from the guayule plant, a hardy shrub native to the Southwestern United States that’s used to make rubber that’s both renewable and nearly chemical-free.

The latest Yulex-branded suit now has a new patterning intended for “improved fit and increased mobility.” Yulex’s brand of rubber often had a reputation among wetsuit users as being stiff compared with neoprene, which isn’t generally a good thing for water enthusiasts. However, the suits do feature a fuzzy synthetic liner that makes the inside of the suit feel silky smooth while also doing well to make me feel warmer in frigid water. 

The company now uses a water-based glue in all its suits, eliminating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were used for decades. The new suit also includes solution-dyed fabrics that reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions by 86% and 96%, respectively.

Of course, as goes with the Patagonia story, everything is Fair Trade Certified, and you’ll also get Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee, so if you’re not thrilled with your new suit, you can send it back.

What excites me most about this suit is that, although Patagonia hasn’t made the leap to zipperless suits, the corrosion-resistant zipper on this suit is now actually replaceable, so if it wears out before the wetsuit does, you can extend its life a little longer. This is great news because oftentimes the collar or zipper area is the first thing to wear out on a wetsuit.

Learn more about Patagonia and Yulex’s bio-rubber here.

The best wetsuit for paddlesports

Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 5.16.06 PM

If you’re tired of hanging up your paddles for the winter, O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is just enough to keep you comfortable as water temperatures reach the 60s and maybe the 50s. 

Pros: Flexible, breathable, affordable

Cons: The chest rubber can be overly sticky

Because our bodies are mostly out of the water when paddling, we tend to work up a sweat beneath a neoprene wetsuit. While any combination of layers can do the trick, I’ve found that a farmer john-style (sleeveless) wetsuit with flatlock seams works best unless you’re dealing with temperatures below 50° F or so, at which point I’d opt for a dry suit. Stohlquist makes a good one for men and women.

Since you’re getting such a thorough upper body workout, I’d suggest avoiding sleeves, which apart from causing you to overheat also tend to constrict movement and cause chafing. O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is 2 millimeters thick and comes with flatlock seams, and at less than $100 can’t really be beaten.

If it’s a little cooler, you might want one with full-length legs (the women’s model, the Bahia, comes in a 1.5mm), or a 3mm. O’Neill doesn’t make the sleeveless suit in a 3mm, but Aqua Lung does, for men and women. Anything above 3mm tends to get a little too hot for paddlesports, at least if you’re not getting in the water.

If you want to spend even a little more money — unless you’re surfing in one of these suits, keep in mind that quality might not be quite as paramount — Patagonia’s Long John (men’s) and Long Jane (women’s) are $169 and worth it. They’re made of the same non-neoprene Yulex rubber as Patagonia’s other suits, but flatlock-stitched so that they breathe a little better.

How to shop for a wetsuit

Open-cell vs. closed-cell wetsuits

Apart from temperature, what you’ll be doing in or on the water is a major deciding factor for which wetsuit is best. If you’re swimming or surfing, a floaty, hydrodynamic closed-cell or single-piece suit is likely your best bet. These are either chest- or back-zipped and come with different sleeve and leg cuts.

But if you’re diving, a closed-cell wetsuit allows too much water flow between it and your skin. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and cold, and stiff and cold are never what you want while diving for long periods of time. An open-cell wetsuit provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While these types of suits are a pain to get in and out of, they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.

Editor’s note: If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap, getting into an open-cell wetsuit is much easier.

Open-cell suits usually don’t have zippers apart from the wrist and leg cuffs but closed cells come in a variety of different zipper configurations. Some manufacturers are starting to develop zipperless models, too, which could eliminate zippers altogether — at least on more expensive suits.

Zipper variation

Back-zip suit: Back-zip wetsuits are the original design, and almost always cheaper than chest-zip or zipper-less suits. They’re fine for swimming in temperate waters on relatively warm days, but I’ve found that having cool water seep down your back on a chillier day — or in the middle of winter, for that matter — can be miserable.

Chest-zip suit: Usually more expensive, chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer thanks to a smaller, well-protected zipper that sits on the front of the suit. This also makes them the most difficult to get in and out of, but, overall, we think they’re worth it. They tend to last longer, and some even allow for the neckpiece to be replaced, which is often the first thing to wear and tear on a wetsuit.

Zipperless: I haven’t yet tried out a zipperless wetsuit, though I’ve been hearing positive buzz about O’Neill’s Hyperfreak Comp zipless model. It would be more of a performance suit than most require, and it’s hard to say whether the lack of a zipper will, in turn, stretch the suit more or keep us warmer, but we will see how they fare over time and update this guide with our findings.

Wetsuit thickness and temperature rating

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, and the core is most often thicker than the extremities to keep your body temperature up while allowing for more mobility in the arms and legs. This is why you’ll see two — or sometimes three — numbers, listing the core’s thickness first (e.g., 3/2, or 4/3/2).

Temperature rating corresponds with thickness, for the most part, but varies some from company to company and material to material, but here’s a basic rule of thumb:

  • Mid 60s to low 70s: 2 mm
  • Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2 mm
  • Low 50s to low 60s: 4/3 mm, or 4/3/2 mm
  • Low to high 40s: 5/4 mm, or 5/4/3 mm
  • High 30s to low 40s: 6/5 mm or 6/5/4 mm
  • Upper 30s and below: While a good 6/5- or 6/5/4-millimeter suit can do you well in the upper 30s, it’s tough to stand it any colder. There are 7/6- and 7/6/5-millimeter wetsuits, but they become impedingly stiff at that point. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will take care of most of us through winter.

Not all sizing is consistent

Size charts vary from company to company, so make sure to have a look at the chart to be sure which one fits you best. Unless you get a custom suit, none are likely to fit you perfectly but you should be able to get close enough.

Stitching and seams

Not all wetsuits are created equal, and while most are made of neoprene — and come from the same factory in Taiwan, despite different brand names — it’s the stitching and seams that make all the difference.

  • Overlock stitching: This is the most basic stitching, and it will let water flow through your suit like Victoria Falls. Okay, not really, but I save these cheap suits for spring and summer, or when it’s not exactly board-short temperature, but a constant flush is actually refreshing.
  • Flat stitching: This is probably a little fancier than the stitching they taught you in Home Economics class. By no means is it watertight, but it lies flatter and holds up better than basic overlock stitching.
  • Blindstitching: Blindstitched suits have even narrower stitching than flat-stitched ones, and the seams are usually glued, which does a pretty good job of preventing water seepage.
  • Sealed, taped, glued: This is a definitive step up, and usually what you’ll find with blindstitched suits. Once you get into blindstitching, you start to notice that very little water seeps through your suit, and you stay relatively dry inside. The best of these suits are also sealed and taped both inside and out, but the full combination is where suits start to get above the $500 price tag, which isn’t crucial for most. Still, if you plan to be surfing in sub 55-degree Fahrenheit temps, we highly recommend forking over the extra dough.

How to take care of your wetsuit

All outdoors equipment requires a little love to survive its life expectancy and, hopefully, beyond. Protect your wetsuit and it protects you — at least from the cold.

Here’s what every first-time wetsuit owner should know: 

Wash your suit every time you use it, or at least as frequently as you can stand to. Wetsuits take on everything you put into them, from your sweat, sunscreen, seawater, and yes, urine. While it may not damage your suit, it will surely smell bad.

And even though Helen Hunt does it, it’s not exactly a good idea to pee in your wetsuit, for obvious reasons. Regardless of whether or not you decide to relieve yourself in your suit, get a wetsuit shampoo, and follow its instructions well. Do NOT use any old soap for this, or you’ll be sorry.

Store your wetsuit in a dry, shaded area with plenty of ventilation. We all know what happens to wet things in confined spaces, but hanging your wetsuit to dry in the sun is surely the quickest way to end its life.

Hang your wetsuit loosely on a thick-framed clothes hanger, a proper wetsuit hanger, or fold it loosely. If you hang a wetsuit on a sharp wire hanger, it will stretch out. If you fold it too tightly, it’ll crease. I roll mine up when I travel to avoid creasing.

How to choose a diving wetsuit

shutterstock_678622990

A simple, closed-cell suit like a surfing wetsuit works above the surface where you have heat from the sun and little pressure, but when you get below the surface, it can get stiff and cold. An open cell suit will keep you much warmer and more flexible, whether you’re freediving or using scuba tanks. 

I’ve never actually owned an open-cell diving suit — I use a surfing suit to dive, which I assure you is less than ideal — so I called on a lifeline: an old friend who spends his workdays and sometimes his nights underwater in the marrow-chilling depths of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. If anyone has earned the authority to deem a wetsuit good or bad, we figure it might be a commercial diver, after all.

A commercial diver’s input

The array of both open cell and closed cell diving suits in the locker where he works is almost exclusively with Beuchat and Cressi wetsuits, and while many of the members of the dive team do wear closed cell suits to work, they don’t last as long — maybe that’s intended. Open cell suits are snug, and almost suction-cup your skin, which is extremely efficient for keeping you warm, but makes them very difficult to get on and off.

When we would go spearfishing together — I in my 5/4-millimeter closed-cell surfing wetsuit, he in his 7-millimeter open-cell diving suit — I’d be in and out of my suit in half the time it took him to roll his on and off. But, by the same token, he could still feel his hands and feet after an hour of diving. Meanwhile, my lips would be turning blue.

Bottom line: If you’re going to be in even moderately cold water, save yourself the agony of freezing and put up with the nuisance of stretching into a skin-tight open cell suit.

How to shop for a dive suit

If you’ve never worn or owned a diving wetsuit before, you’ll probably want to go to the local dive shop and have the pros sort you out, or at the very least fit you.

When picking out a diving suit, color, or rather pattern, is a consideration that goes beyond aesthetics. If an experience with wildlife is what you’re after (even if you’re not in search of dinner), then a camouflage suit is probably a good idea, simply because you won’t startle as many creatures as quickly as you would with a black suit, or one of any color, really.

Also, note that camouflage is relative: If you’re going to be in open water, you’ll want a rhapsody in blue, and if you’re going to be in kelp, coral, or rocks, you probably want to look for a more greenish-brown pattern.

A few drawbacks

The main downfall of many closed-cell suits is that they are made of or coated with a softer, more delicate rubber-like neoprene skin which, while it keeps you warmer and leaves you agiler in the pressured depths, is highly prone to tearing.

Also, always make sure your wetsuit is wet when you’re pulling it on, and follow instructions for care and maintenance like these, from Aqua Lung. Never leave any wetsuit in the sun but especially not a suit with skin material, which will melt and stick to itself, a tragedy not covered by any warranty far as I’m aware.

Aqua LungBeuchat, Cressi, and Mares are companies that have all been around since recreational diving has, more or less, and they all have similarly long legacies and popular standing with commercial and recreational divers alike.

Pros: Tighter-fitting, more watertight, keeps you warmer, less constricting

Cons: Can be more expensive, much more delicate, difficult to don and doff 

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