In this monthly Swimrun column, Chris Douglas and Chipper Nicodemus, a swimrun team out of Northern California and hosts of the Low Tide Boyz – A Swimrun Podcast, will be answering all of your Swimrun questions. This month, the Boyz expound upon what makes the most badass Swimrun kit available to date.
We’ve all been guilty of daydreaming about what it would be like to be kitted up with the best products in each of the swim-bike-run discipline. Swimrun is no different; there’s a serious arms race in the sport to innovate and push the limits to go faster and look cooler. Advances in swimrun gear range from pushing the regulatory limits of giant pull buoys and carbon fiber paddles to wetsuits that are designed to maximize both your performance and your sense of vanity.
In this column we are going to lay out what a “Full Spec” swimrun kit looks like. Don’t know what Full Spec means? Well, it’s a term that we’ve seen used in Formula 1 racing to identify the top of the line, no expense spared specifications for race weekend. We are co-opting this term to mean suiting up with the best swimrun gear available from head to toe. Going Full Spec is something that all athletes can relate to since we’ve all drooled over someone rocking the latest carbon fiber [insert random item here].
– Everything to Know Before Attempting a Swimrun
– The Greatest Thing About Swimrun (Spoiler: It’s the Partner Part)
– Never Get Out of the Boat: An Ötillö Catalina Race Report
– Hold My Bike: A Look at the Rapid Growth of Swimrun
– Swimrun: Your Ticket to a Faster Tri
In swimrun, the typical race kit includes goggles, wetsuit, pull buoy, swim paddles, and shoes. Like most sports there are a range of options in there to meet most budgets. (Check out our episode of Gear Talk where we discuss what a budget Swimrun kit under $350 looks like.) But right now, right here, we’re not talking about budget-friendly stuff. Without the constraints of your wallet, these are the best products in each category to give you a sense of the state of the sport at the pointy end of things.
Best Swimrun Kit: Googles
Roka R1 ($33)
Roka has created a great open water swim google that won’t destroy even the most modest of budgets. The goggles feature “Rapid Sight” technology, which not only sounds super cool but also provides an expanded field of view that definitely helps in open water. At $33, we would recommend picking up a few pairs of these if they work for the shape/size of your face.
Best Swimrun Kit: Wetsuit
Ark Sports Utö ($560)
The swimrun wetsuit is the most important part of the any kit, but especially for a Full Spec kit. You’re basically living in this thing for anywhere from one to ten hours. The ARK Sports Utö suit is a ridiculously awesome piece of tech. It’s one of the lightest suits on the market (485-ish grams) with premium everything, from the Yamamoto Limestone neoprene all the way to the zipper choice. It’s a seriously inspired suit that raises the bar on what’s possible. A bar, incidentally, that Ark Sports keeps setting and then raising again on themselves. (We interviewed a Co-Founder of Ark Sports, Christofer Sundberg, on Episode 7 of the show.) This suit sells for $560.
Best Swimrun Kit: Pull Buoy
Ark Sports Keel ($60)
While we admit that we have a slight obsession with pull buoys, we didn’t let that cloud our judgment. The swimrun-exclusive company, Ark Sports, is back on the list for developing an amazing piece of tech that is the envy of many a swimrunner. Basically, the bigger and more buoyant the pull buoy, the faster you are in open water—and we haven’t seen anything that matches the Keel. We did a full review of the Keel on our Gear Talk show. The Keel costs a cool $47 and its big brother, the Keel+, is $60.
Best Swimrun Kit: Swim Paddles
Frank Paddles, Blue Label, Large ($114)
Two words: CARBON FIBER!!! Frank Paddles are handmade in Sweden and are the lightest paddles for the size that you can get. As the sport has evolved, so has the tech for propulsion through the water, with the optimal setup being large swim paddles paired with a super buoyant pull buoy. Basically the larger the paddles the better, but they can destroy your shoulders if you’re not careful. Of course, Full Spec doesn’t come cheap. Frank Paddles will cost you $114—about the price of some entry level Swimrun wetsuits.
Best Swimrun Kit: Shoes
Vivobarefoot ESC Tempest ($220)
You may or may not be surprised to know that swimrun-specific shoes are a thing. What you definitely might not know is that the ESC Tempest was designed to handle virtually every condition that a swimrunner might face. From slick algae-covered rocks to technical trails in the mountains, and everything in between, the Tempest can handle it. These shoes are also designed so that swimming in them is almost a spiritual experience (in that they are so great in the water). You can learn more about the R&D process from Asher Clark, Co-Founder of Vivobarefoot on Episode 23 of the podcast and hear our full review of the Tempests on our Gear Talk show. These shoes will run you $220.
There you have it! Going Full Spec will cost you something just south of $1,000. Considering that some high-end triathlon wetsuits cost at least that much, it’s easy to rationalize going Swimrun Full Spec. (At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.) Now that you have the blueprint for the best swimrun kit available, all that’s left is to pony up the funds, suit up, and go out there looking like a badass. Note: your race performance may or may not improve. Only one way to find out.
That’s it for this month’s column. Reach out to us with your Swimrun questions and we’ll do our best to answer them for you. Until next time, go for a swim in your running shoes. It will change your life!