I’ve written a lot about cold water swims here so far. Probably because it’s, you know, winter here and the water is kinda getting a touch chilly.

Every week at Saturday training, there is a mix of people who wear wetsuits and those who don’t. At the moment the former are winning, but like everything, there are pros and cons and reasons different people might make different choices.

Firstly, I should point out that lately the water temperature at Bondi has been around 18°C. It’s a bit chilly, but it’s definitely not putting anyone at risk of hypothermia swimming out there for an hour without a wetsuit. Since I’ve been swimming there the lowest it’s been has been down to 15°. This was before I had a wetsuit and whilst it was certainly not particularly pleasant, it was manageable.

So there are a few reasons people choose to swim with a wetsuit:

  1. Skinny people who don’t have much body fat feel the cold more. (I don’t think I qualify for this).
  2. Coaches who may not be swimming hard the whole session, but stopping to check technique or provide instruction, or swimming at a slower pace than they normally would.
  3. Wetsuits provide extra buoyancy and therefore an extra bit of reassurance for less-confident swimmers in rougher conditions
  4. The extra buoyancy also helps with getting on and staying on waves when body surfing, so it can add to the fun!
  5. Some people (and I place myself firmly in this category) just like to be warmer when they’re swimming, particularly in between sets if the wind is up and you’re standing on the beach shivering…..
  6. And if you have a wetsuit, it’s pretty tempting to just wear it if it’s chilly out. Nothing wrong with that, per se.

Conversely, there are reasons why people may swim without a wetsuit (otherwise known as swimming “newd”).

  1. Not everyone has a wetsuit. If you’re only new to the sport and not sure how much use you’re going to get out of it, it can be a big investment.
  2. Some people just don’t mind the cold as much. One of my coaches is a New Zealander, and she’s been swimming newd all winter.
  3. Sometimes it’s a matter of pride. One fellow swimmer made it through all last winter without suiting up once. Made a point of it. Mad? Stubborn? You decide….
  4. I have heard rumours of groups that have a no-wetsuit policy. Yikes! Not for me…..I like the option.
  5. Logistics. Those things are hard work to get on and off, and they’re heavy and bulky, particularly when they’re wet. If it’s not that cold and there’s a good reason (like when I had to get straight to the Megaswim afterwards on a motorcycle) it might not be worth the effort. Plus there’s always the chance someone may have ordered one that hasn’t arrived, that’s in for repairs….et cetera, et cetera
  6. The down side. The extra buoyancy has the advantages I discussed above, but it does have disadvantages as well. If the waves are big and there’s a lot of pull it can be hard to get as far under waves or for as long as you need. This can make it actually more difficult to get out the back and require extra energy for your swim.

So there are the points anyone needs to consider. Like everything, it is a personal choice and depends on the person, the conditions and the circumstances on any given day. Me? I’m hoping and praying my repairs are done in time for Saturday. 🙂

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