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Goggles aren’t just for keeping salty, cloudy or chlorinated water out of your eyes. Nowadays, there are several tint options—pick the right tint for the conditions, and your goggles can actually enhance your vision, improving contrast between the water, sky, landscape and buoys, and keeping glare out so you can sight perfectly. Goodbye zig-zaggy open-water swims and squinty morning workouts, hello happiness and efficiency. The trick is picking the perfect tint for whatever workout or race you’re doing. Here’s how.
If you only have two pairs of goggles…
Go for clear and mirrored. “If you have a clear pair, you can see buoys on an overcast day or an early morning swim,” says aquathlon world champ and pro triathlete, Sara McLarty. “If you have a mirrored pair, you can do swim practice in an outdoor pool when it’s sunny out.”
About those mirrored goggles…
Don’t take them for granted. The tech behind that glare-fighting coating has made huge advancements in the past few years. In well-made goggles, that layer is a real metal or an oxide of a metal that reflects most of the sunlight—and getting that layer to stick in a uniform fashion is a tough process to perfect, says Aqua Sphere’s Italy-based product manager, Michele Olmo. That’s why Aqua Sphere brought in the machines necessary to do it in house at their Italian manufacturing facility in order to keep a tight grasp on the quality—don’t expect that coating on a pair of Aqua Sphere’s Kaiman Exo, for example, to scratch or peel off.
What about the other tints?
Glad you asked. In the totem of tri gear, goggles are pretty cheap. “So if you want to be prepared for different situations,” McLarty says, better goggle up. What kinds of situations? At a recent race in Australia, race organizers put out pink buoys 90 percent covered in dark navy flags that blended in with the water. Clear goggles would’ve been ok, but wouldn’t have offered any advantage. An orange or amber tint, like the amber found on Aqua Sphere’s Kaiman, will help bring out the orange, red (and even pink!) buoys often found at races, especially against dark or foggy backgrounds. Sighting off of yellow and green buoys? Go for a blue tint. It’s like Spidey vision, but for triathletes.
So my goggle quiver should look like…
To recap: grab clear and mirrored to start. That’ll cover your light situation bases. For an extra orange and red buoy sighting advantage, look for orange (for lower-light conditions) or amber (for brighter conditions) tints. For yellow and green buoys, go blue. And if it’s really sunny, a few companies including Aqua Sphere now offer polarized lenses to nix the glare and increase contrast. Aqua Sphere’s polarized Kayenne is worth every penny at $50, because they make orange buoys pop and cut sun glare at an impressive level, on even the sunniest of days.