News came to the marathon swimming world today about magic goggles that’ll take you to the next buoy in a perfectly straight line, no need to sight. Yeah, you read that right. And yes, these are the goggles I’ve been dreaming of for years, although my imaginings include a heads-up display arrow in the goggle always pointing to the next buoy. And of course I’m against them. But should I be?
Basically, what we got here is a pair of goggles that do actually point to the next buoy when you push a button on them. If I understand it correctly, you look to your next buoy, push a button, and then you’ll be guided to that location. If you get off course, it’ll warn you with a yellow or red light in the goggle cup on the side that you’re swimming to. So if you’re slicing, you can start swimming to the left to get back on course. Once you get to the buoy, look to your next buoy, point the button, swim. Look forward to a logjam at the buoys as all your buddies stop to tread water and click their goggle-mouse.
The immediate response by some in the community was WTF. As well it should be because all the advertising and response has been through the lens of a triathlete (see what I did there?). Most of the comments on the company’s FB page are from triathletes looking to spend as little time in the water as possible without actually putting effort in to getting better at open water swimming. But just because triathletes are for it doesn’t mean we should be against it.
Nevertheless…I’m against it. In races, definitely. How can directors ensure every swimmer has the same benefit? Should there now be four classes for each sex? Wetsuit with special goggles, wetsuit without, skins with or without?
But what about marathon swim races or solos? Ones in which you have a kayaker who is your eyes and does the navigation for you? How is that different? Some would say these goggles are pretty much the same thing.
Well, they’re not. For one, they violate the spirit of marathon swimming, which states:
Marathon swimmers embrace the challenge of crossing wild, open bodies of water with minimal assistance beyond their own physical strength and mental fortitude. There are ways to make the sport easier, but marathon swimmers consciously eschew them.
An oft-heard adjective among marathon swimmers is unassisted. This in no way means you cannot have pace swimmers, or a kayak or boat to navigate for you. But one category of equipment that is absolutely not allowed is “[w]earable electronic devices that transmit information to the swimmer beyond the time of day and elapsed time” if you are going to claim an unassisted marathon swim. That’s the rules. And these FrankenGoggles (h/t Loneswimmer) aren’t part of these rules we marathon swimmers hold dear.