So…. Verrrry interesting, as Dr Freud perhaps wouldn’t have said. My comments in favour of wetsuits have garnered quite a lot of responses. Mulling them over, I’ve decided to write a little about some of them, but before I do, I should just say a couple of things. Firstly, I in no way wish to either dob anyone in or seem to be disagreeing with anyone. No names, no pack drill, as they say, and I certainly don’t want to point any fingers. And secondly, these thoughts are really more in the nature of exploring the subject, because it’s one that generates a number of views, some of them quite disparate, in the way that other topics don’t.
Sooo… Comments. One comment that has been quite widely made, not just on here but on the various swim forums whenever the Suits vs Skins debate kicks off is that wetsuits are expensive, and not everyone can afford them or wants to buy them. True, and I am entirely in favour of people not being forced to wear them, wherever and whenever they swim. Having said that, in either longer or more challenging swims or in “entry level” swims such as the Great Swim series where there are a large numbers of people swimming who are new to open water swimming, the alternative to swimmers not wearing wetsuits is for the organisers to have to provide much greater safety cover, which creates an issue both of cost and of the availability of kayakers and paddle-boarder who are properly trained.
There are some longer swims such as the Brownsea Island Challenge and the Seahorses swim where you can chose freely whether or not you wear a wetsuit, but these have high density safety cover which I’m guessing is provided mainly by volunteers. Both of these swims are organised voluntarily by local organisations (Royal Life Saving Society Poole Harbour in the case of Brownsea, the East Dorset Open Water Swimmers in the case of Seahorses), on a non-profit basis, and I’m guessing that it’s this which makes it possible to provide the level of safety cover without a rise in the entrance fee. Swims like Bridge to Bridge and the Great Swim series presumably have to pay their safety cover, and there is a different approach to wetsuits. In the case of the Great Swims series, the organisers just require everyone to use a wetsuit. In the case of Bridge to Bridge, each individual swimming skins has their own kayak support, but there are only a limited number of non-wetsuit places available.