The Thick Skin Of Open Water Swimmers

The Thick Skin Of Open Water Swimmers

Extreme swimmers, ice swimmers, channel swimmers and marathon swimmers seem to have thick skin. While they explore the outer boundaries of what is physically possible, these aquatic adventurers apparently truly have thick skin.

Bryan Finlay of Solo Swims of Ontario recalls, “In my experience, there is a particular feature of some ultra-marathon swimmers that I have noticed over the years.

It came from my observations in the 1960s while conducting studies on the biomechanics of skin. On a number of these long-term cold-water-tolerant swimmers, it is difficult to create a Skin Fold to measure skin thickness; their subcutaneous fat and possibly other tissues seem to be more intimately attached to the dermis

[The swimmers] apparently have Thick Skin – which is great for maintaining the temperature gradient between their core and surrounding water.”

But it appears this physical characteristic is a gift, not a form of protection to develop. As Finlay explains, “This observation does not necessarily explain the short-term ability of some swimmers to swim at 0°C like Lewis Pugh. It also seems that this feature of the skin is not something that you can acquire.”

Photo above shows the men of the Patagonia Extreme Cold Water Challenge exiting from the cold ocean.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association