open water

An open water swim buoy (“tow float” outside the US) can be an island of tranquility in open water swimming conditions that are rough, cold, changing quickly, crowded, or suddenly too far from the finish. It’s an invitation to a different sort of tranquility at the finish: stretch out still, weightless, and silent, holding onto the buoy for a relaxing post swim celebration float. Clouds and airplanes glide past silently in the distance, heart rate gradually returns to baseline, time slows to a stop. It’s worth the potential hazard of falling asleep. Having it is Step 1 in how to open water swim.
An open water swim buoy / tow float is an inflatable, high visibility flotation device. Most models include a sealable, dry bag storage compartment. An inflatable bladder provides more than sufficient buoyancy for the buoy itself, a dry bag full of clothing, and swimmer. An adjustable waist strap and tether permit towing the float behind the swimmer, beyond kicking distance. Most such floats of all sizes pack down to very minimal size in your backpack or swim bag. Surprisingly, the effect of even a buoy / float full of gear is almost unnoticed in swim pace and stroke. You’ll notice it’s there only when you need it.
A relaxing float after finishing a swim, in reclined position, with the open water swim buoy tow float under the swimmer's knees.
Discovering this piece of equipment was a game changer for this swimmer, bringing to a complete end the recurring puzzle of where to stash dry land gear while in the water. I usually arrive to the water by bike, foot or public transit, only rarely by car, and for years was in the habit of only bringing things that I could bear to find had vanished. Though this happened only once in hundreds of swims over years, I entered the water mentally prepared to be able to return home with only what I took into the water.
That’s still the case. But with a tow float, I have a towel, lightweight backpack, enough dry clothes (including size 11US/45EU shoes) to run or bike home in summer or winter, warm up from cool open water swim temperatures, as well as make a call, pick up something at a market, or celebrate a memorable swim at a coffeeshop.
Size 45EU / 11US mens shoes, socks, t-shirt, hoodie, joggers, towel, waterproof phone case, and phone all fit in this open water swim buoy / tow float for open water swimming in cold water temperatures.
Storage of Dry Land Gear During the Swim still figures as the most practical gift the open water swim buoy gives in every swim in almost any season. But it fulfills many other needs:
Visibility to Other Swimmers and Watercraft
It’s also the ultimate piece of PPE (personal protective equipment). Even if you don’t need storage, this is highly recommended for any open water swim and can be had in an even more minimalist form of a small inflatable float without a dry bag compartment. Every commercial swim buoy / tow float on the market is fabricated in a high-visibility color┬áthat surely increases your chances of being noticed by watercraft that wander near the swim site.
A high visibility orange swim buoy tow float improves visibility to other swimmers and watercraft during an open water swim.
Rest and Relax
Swim hard, but rest completely when you rest. Effortless recovery, photo taking, and group strategizing, can be in the form of holding on, saddling up to sit a little higher in the water, or in full recline (the buoy/float positioned under your head in pillow position, under your feet, or in your arms) if you’re not rushing to exit colder open water swim temperatures or wave heights.
Taking a rest during a hard open water swim with an open water swim buoy / tow float.
Quick Access Storage
If you have a buoy/float equipped with an external storage pocket, get to needed items while in the water. Fetch a gel, goggles for changing light conditions, camera, or other small waterproof necessity, or stash the neoprene cap no longer needed after acclimatizing to the water.
An external storage mesh pocket allows quick retrieval of phone in waterproof phone case for swimming, camera, gel, or other waterproof necessities during an open water swim.
Platform for Taking Photos
Now that you’ve solved the open water swim photography riddle with the quick access storage, your photo-documentation needs (passing animal life, epic conditions, group shots) can be fulfilled in any moment. Sit high on the float in saddle position to get the best angle.
Sit high in the water during your open water swim by floating on the swim buoy / tow float in saddle position.
A tow float or swim buoy belongs in the must-have category of equipment for open water swimmers, together with goggles, wetsuit, and wedding ring protector.