Thanks to social media and word of mouth, wild swimming has moved away from being an alternative pastime and is now a movement with its own subculture, Instagram celebrities, and die-hard fans. It’s a relaxing time for those lucky enough to live in warmer climates, and those of us stuck in colder countries with tough winters can enjoy the health benefits that cold open water swimming can give us.
Like any hobby based in the great outdoors there is an element of risk, especially when enjoying a solo swim (which most people in the community do not recommend). Thankfully, there’s a new Irish company pushing out thoughtful products that could save the lives of wild swimmers braving the lakes, rivers, and coasts.
When taking to the water, the uninitiated and veterans alike will sometimes swim with no passive safety equipment whatsoever. You may be thinking that this is completely fine, and you could likely spend an entire lifetime swimming this way and never encounter any problems.
When swimming, the impact on the body is very low, and sustaining an injury is highly unlikely. But, you never know when the dice may roll, and you could experience your first seizure, stroke, serious cramp, or if swimming in colder waters; hypothermia.
TekraSport is a fledging company and new arrival in the ever-growing market of wild swimming products. They are currently offering three products that should give you all the protection you need in the water, bar a wetsuit (purists will debate whether you should ever wear one, though).
They say necessity is the mother of invention. An injury sustained in rugby forced Tekrasport’s founder John Hanley to find a new physical pursuit; he found himself falling in love with swimming in Ireland’s West Coast.
Strange Things In The Water
When open water swimming in the most popular lakes in the UK, you will often see swimmers who appear to be being chased by fluorescent aliens. These strange little devices are actually known as tow-floats or swim buoys. They are strapped around your waist and keep you safe by working in a permanently inflated state whilst being dragged behind you.
It’s a novel idea, and they definitely work, but there is an element of drag and occasional frustration and discomfort as they pull on your waist or bob about in places you don’t want them to do.
John noticed that these devices were hindering the performance of triathlon competitors.
“As a competitor, race organizer, and parent, I realized that swim safety devices were limiting people’s performance in the open water. I decided to use my engineering background to design a new type of device. One that would help first-timers overcome anxiety and push experienced swimmers to improve.”
And therein lies the USP of TekraSport’s hero product, the TekraPod. Instead of dragging a permanently inflated device along, which hinders the freedom of open water swimming, the device is strapped to your back, lying dormant until needed.
Like all TekraSport’s products, it has been designed and engineered by open water swimmers for open water swimmers. Some outdoor swimmers do it to connect to nature, and others enjoy the competitive edge of triathlons and other water-based events. The TekraPod has very minimal drag for shaving those seconds off.
The fact that the device lays on one’s back means that it is located over the center of gravity and will be in the place least likely to affect the swimmer’s body position. It also lies at the breakwater line, behind the swimmer’s head. This is where the effects of drag will have the lowest impact on a swimmer’s overall performance.
All this ingenuity should allow the user to enjoy the disconnection from the land and the sense of weightlessness that every swimmer enjoys.
The device is actuated by a sharp pull on a cord similar to those seen on in-flight safety cards in an emergency situation. This then detonates a CO2 cartridge which rapidly turns the device into a sausage-shaped inflatable. Its ultra-high visibility should alert others to your emergency, and failing that, there is a built-in whistle that acts as an additional attention grabber.
Many of these devices must be thrown away after actuation or sent back to the manufacturer to return to their original state. The TekraPod has the potential to be a device for life though, just replace the CO2 cartridge, and it’s ready for redeployment.
This is good for a swimmer’s peace of mind as the last thing people need to be thinking about is if they should activate a safety device when they have a minor problem for fear of not using it again.
For an added level of safety (especially for night swimmers), Tekrasport also offers the TekraLite. This can be attached to the TekraPod (that’s a lot of Tekras) to give a 210 lumens LED light, making you visible for up to 2km.
TekraSport has even had a stab at the swimming robe market. Usually, all you see at the lakeside are people wearing Dryrobes. The Irish innovators are currently only offering a selection in black (like all their products, it is customizable, though), so they may have to step their game up to compete in the after-swim fashion show.
The stand-out product really is the TekraPod though, it took John 13 prototypes to find the winning formula. Let’s hope that this small Irish company can become the leader in providing wild swimmers with an ergonomic and safe solution to braving the waters all year round. As John says, being safe should not feel like a burden.
“Simple, beautiful things are hard to make but, when it comes to safety, they can be lifesaving. When I discovered people, even kids, loved customized designs, I realized I could change people’s mindsets. Combine safety, style, and performance in one product, and now, putting on a safety device can become second nature.”