The other problem with wetsuits, as the inimitable Mr Ape has pointed out, is that a lot of them are, ahem, triathletes. Now, I mention this with some trepidation, since a lot of my friends are triathletes and I in no way wish to offend anyone. So we shall talk about a token triathlete called Not Anyone I Know, or NAIK. Let’s call him (because it usually is a him) Nik for short.
Nik is a triathlete. For Nik, swimming is triathlon swimming, hard, fast, competitive. Particularly at the start of races, it’s a jungle out there, every man for himself. At the start of triathlons people swim into each other, swim over each other, kick each other. It’s not unknown for people to pull competitors’ goggles off, either accidentally or on purpose. If someone has the temerity to draft you, that is, to swim in your slipstream so as to get an easier ride, it’s not unknown to kick them in the face. It’s dog eat neoprene suited dog out there.
Now, all winter, Nik will train for the swimming leg of his triathlons indoors or in a heated outdoor pool, ploughing diligently along. He may try to improve his stroke or he may just work harder in an effort to get faster, windmilling up and down. (I should add that I’m being a bit mean here. Some triathletes are excellent swimmers.) And then something happens. Spring arrives! Birdies bill and coo, flowers bud, trees burgeon, and, as the water in outdoor swimming venues warms up, they start to open their doors to the public.
And triathletes, driven by the same primaeval surges of rising sap that cause the billing, the cooing, the budding and the burgeoning, look at their calendar, calculate the number of weeks until their first event, and decide to get some outdoor training in. So they look around for the nearest venue and a surprising number of them light upon Our Own Dear Lido, the beauteous Tooting Bec, the largest unheated open-air pool in Europe and all year round home of the good people of the South London Swimming Club.
*No resemblance to any swimmers, living, dead, wetsuited or non-wetsuited, intended.