When preparing for an open water swim, the first rule of the field of play is to Expect the Unexpected.

There are so many dynamic variables inherent in the open water that swimmers have no control over. Conversely, there are things entirely within the swimmer’s realm of control. It is extremely important for the swimmer to have complete confidence and control over those things that may be in his power.

Goggles are one of those things that a swimmer has complete control over, and can have a huge impact on your open water experience.

There are a few important factors to consider when choosing the optimal pair of goggles for you. First of all, if there is a chance of it being sunny, you need to be sure to have a pair that will provide sufficient protection from the sun. Sighting can be next to impossible if you are looking into the sun without some type of dark, tinted or polarized goggles. However, there is one important caveat: if the water is extremely dark or murky, you may not want to go with your darkest pair of goggles. In this scenario, your best bet may be a a pair of smoke or polarized goggles when swimming in murky water combined with lots of sunshine and potential glare from the sun. Many swimmers find this type of eye protection better than the mirrored or metallic goggles.

If you have competed in an open water event before, you know that they can be extremely physical, even if it is not a competitive race. Particularly at the start, around the turn buoys or anytime there is a change of direction among a pack of swimmers, there is a good amount of physical contact among swimmers. It is the nature of the sport. At the start of races, when the entire field is first getting into the water, it is possible to be inadvertently or rudely kicked or hit in the face, or have your legs pulled back. If you get a foot or fist to the eye, and are wearing goggles (like the Swedish goggles) without padding, you are in for some serious discomfort and perhaps a small laceration. To eliminate this possibility, we encourage use of a pair of goggles that has some form of protective padding or cushioning if at all possible.

Prior to the swim, you need to ensure that your goggles are tied or fastened tight enough to ensure that they will not leak. The last thing you want to have to worry about during the race is stopping to fix your goggles. On the flip side, you also need to make sure your goggles are not too tight. Especially if the race is longer than an hour, you do not want your goggles so tight that they give you a headache or are placed so tightly on your head that you cannot squint in order to let a little bit of water get in to clear the fog. Goggles that are too tight can quickly become extremely painful.

With all of the jostling and physical contact that can occur in open water races, you need to be sure your goggles are going to stay on throughout the race. One way to ensure this is place the goggle straps between two caps. Put one cap on, then your goggles on, and then sandwich your goggle straps by placing a second cap on your head. However, some people may not be comfortable double-capping. One alternative option to double capping is to secure your goggle straps to your cap with duct tape. Some athletes at the elite level tend to use this method.

When all is said and done, when you are stretching, hydrating, greasing up and getting ready, one of the most important points to remember is to make sure your goggles are comfortable for YOU. Do not worry about what other people are wearing; everyone has difference preferences, facial structures and habits. Just be sure that what you have chosen works best for you. Try out different pairs of goggles in the months leading up to the race, exchange goggles with your friends during practice, and then choose the best option for you.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming