Tag Archives: Speedo

Big bag o' paddles

Review: Swimming paddles (Yet another update)

My pool bag now includes the silly total of five four five six five different types of paddles!

(Update 2013: I added another paddle and removed one, so I’m refreshing this review).

(Update March 2014: Added another paddle, subsequently removed yet another paddle. See below for comparison of PT Paddle and Complete Fitness Coaching Palm Paddle)

Big bag o’ paddles – I really need to update this photo to the current lineup.

Warning: overdoing paddle work is a mistake easily made. I was already doing a lot of metres when I increased my paddle work, and I had shoulders able to take that increase, but overdoing paddle work, especially power paddles, can lead to real shoulder injury. Start very, very, very easy, with no more than 200 metres total, if you are not already using paddles.

Medium tech paddles

1. I started years ago with Speedo Tech Paddles, medium size. Tech or technique paddles are designed mainly for aiding water-feel. They are to aid catch, early vertical forearm (EVF), strength and pull. A bit of a Jack-of-all-trades. They are good as first paddles. Useful for getting adding extra metres pulling to build up shoulder strength. Instead of putting the whole hand in the straps, once you adapt to using them, just use the middle finger loop to detect imbalances in stroke and catch. The rubber straps didn’t last well didn’t last and had to be replaced by bits of rubber tubing. I never use these any more and they are long gone.

Amazon US linkAmazon UK link.

Power Paddle
Power Paddle

2. My next and main paddles for a few years were Speedo Power Paddles. In 2009, Eilís has us doing a lot of paddle work in Channel training. Early on I was still using the tech paddles and hating them and paddle work in general. After one session with Rob Bohane, where I was killed, I decided to change my approach. So every day for the next month, I used the Power Paddles for warm-up  After that I had no more problems. These are brutal on your shoulders if you are not used to them, injuries will result if you overdo them. You can also lose your feel for the water with these. Note: All the straps on this are only one piece of surgical tubing. When I use these I only use them with the middle finger loop. However I just left the rest of the tubing attached.

Amazon US linkAmazon UK link.

Speedo StrokeMakers are reported to be excellent and widely used by experienced swimmers in the US but aren’t available in Europe. SwimOutlet link.

Forearm paddle

3. Forearm Paddles. My forearm paddles were a cheap €1.50 generic version and consequently aren’t terribly comfortable but perfectly adequate. These ones on Amazon US are identical in shape and may be the only time in my life I’ve seen something more expensive in the US.  Finis forearm bolsters should be more comfortable, as are all some of their  non-electronic products. The purpose of these is to work EVF and maximise catch and forearm pull. I often do 400m with these, combined with 400m fist drill or anti-paddles, as part of my warm up.

Amazon US link for Finis Paddles. Amazon UK link.

Speedo Finger paddle

4. Speedo Finger Paddles. I got these on the recommendation of Channel swimmers and coaches Jen Schumacher and Nuala Muir-Cochrane. They allow you to focus on your catch and your pull and vertical forearm. I have also found they are good for lengthening your stroke and overall keeping good focus throughout most phases of the stroke. They are also great for backstroke catch and technique. Lower strap removed as these are purely for technique. These are still great paddles that I regularly use and remain my favourites.

Amazon US link. Amazon UK link.

Finis PT Cruisers

5. Finis PT paddles, PT stands for “perfect technique”. These are also known as Anti-Paddles. Unlike all previous paddles which in some way enhance the arm or hand, these remove the hand completely from your stroke. Therefore they operate the same as fist drill .  Your stroke becomes all about felling the water and Early Vertical Forearm, EVF, i.e. the pull from your forearms. They are also very effective in engaging your core and driving your balance. The first couple of lengths swimming with these is like swimming with a live weasel in each hand. I’ve seen a lighter hollow version somewhere, but these are heavy and solid, which is what drives you to  engage your core to counter-balance them. And unlike fist drill, there’s no cheating with these. Your first few lengths after using them will give you a great feeling of power throughout your catch and pull. After about a year of year the external plastic casing on one cracked but they don’t seem to have deteriorated any further for the past two years.

Amazon US link.

Wearing PT Paddle
Wearing PT Paddle seen from above. Almost matches my hand outline

Two years on and I’ve grown to really dislike the PT Paddle. The plastic case split more, and the internal foam structures absorbed far more water than I’d realised until I took them home for this update. Each PT paddle (with water) weighs about 350 grams, 3/4 of a pound.  maybe 25% of that weight is absorbed water. Unlike most other paddles, all three “loops” in the tubing are needed to go on thumb and fingers to hold the paddle on while swimming, partially because of the weight, partially because of the design.

The weight is increasingly uncomfortable due to water absorption and the durability is typical of so many Finis products, who seem incapable of grasping late-20th Century Qualify Manufacturing tools. I would love to know that their DPPMs (defect parts per million) are on their various products. I had a look on Finis’ website (just trying to find things on their utterly crap flash website can give you a headache), and can’t find the PT Paddle anymore. I suspect it’s another product that’s been removed due to, well, being so badly made.

Finis Agility Paddles - Note that my thumb is straight not bent
Finis Agility Paddles – Note that my thumb is straight not bent

6. Finis Agility paddles. After being introduced in 2102, I first got a chance to use these in early 2013 and immediately bought a pair and have been using them very regularly since. These are now my favourite paddle and I regularly use them in conjunction with the finger paddles. Finis Agility paddles have no strap and fit on each hand using a simple thumb hole. In order to keep them on your hands during the stroke you must keep a good catch and pull through on every stroke. (Since using these I have also reduced my use of power paddles). Everyone who has tried this has felt the immediate technique feedback. These may be the best paddles on the market. And if you want just one paddle, I’d recommend these. They can also be used for all strokes.

Amazon US linkAmazon UK link.

7. Complete Fitness Coaching Palm Paddle.

Palm Paddle.resized

Coach Martin Hill contacted me a few months ago to ask if I wanted to try out his new Palm Paddle, versus the PT Paddle.

I’ve had the PT Paddles for a couple of years and as I updated above, increasingly came to dislike them. All fist drill type products aren’t particularly fun to swim with, eliminating, as is their purpose, the propulsive effect of the hand to develop catch, EVF and forearm pull.

The Palm Paddle in the antithesis of the PT Paddle. A hollow single-part blown-plastic paddle, with a single tube loop for the centre finger. It weighs one-tenth of the PT paddle. It is also significantly narrower, only about two-thirds of the width.

I have small to medium-sized hands (no sniggering there) and the PT paddle completely fills the hand, whereas the Palm Paddle sits more in the centre with the hand protruding to either side, and the curve of the paddle is less than the PT. This means it doesn’t slip as easily, i.e. it does catch the water a little more than the PT.

Apart from the weight, I like that it only requires a single finger, as this is how most paddles are better used. Also the light weight provides stroke feedback that the PT paddle doesn’t, which is that it can slip sideways on your hand, particularly at the end of the pull (for me) if the pitch of the hand is wrong. That said, I found a slight uncomfortable tensing of my hand because of the width toward the end of a 400 metre drill because I was cupping my hand.

Palm Paddle vs PT Paddle.resized

I compared my normal stroke without paddles, to wearing Palm Paddles, to wearing PT Paddle in swim speed terms (while maintaining a moderate pace). Palm Paddles added about 10 seconds per 50m, whereas the PT added double that. Since fist drills are not about speed but about learning to maximise the catch, that means the PT paddle is more effective at eliminating any propulsion from the hand. However I also think it adds too much body rotation as because of the weight and they are not pleasant to wear and regularly slip.

While the PT paddles are better at eliminating the hand to focus on EVF, the fact the Palm Paddles are more comfortable to swim with, while still performing the same task, means you will use them more regularly than the PT Paddles. I’ve now removed the PT Paddles from my pool gear bag.

So on the face of it, having five four five six five pairs of paddles seems like overkill. But each performs a specific useful technique and training task.

Second (updated) goggle review

I’ve previously reviewed Aquasphere Kaiman and Kayennes for open water swimming and that I hadn’t previously been successful with using low profile goggs. I had settled into my Aquasphere use over years.

After I wrote that article Paul Ellercamp of oceanswims.com in Australia sent me a pair of his favourite goggles, low-profile competition/racing View Visio aka Fully Sicks. Paul said they lasted him very well (the biggest problem with the Aquaspheres was their shortened lifespan) and that they fit perfectly out of the box with no adjustment. And he was correct. Despite my oddly-shaped noggin and huge nose, they also fit me perfectly immediately. They had excellent visibility and unlike some mirrored goggles, weren’t too dark. I love these goggs. Damn you Paul Ellercamp, for getting me used to great goggles! :-)

Visio View Fully Sick mirrored goggs

I swam in them in pool and open water from November until last month when the heavy usage was starting to take its toll with the mirror finish wearing off. I went looking for a replacement pair but discovered that View only sell in the US or Australia and with rather expensive shipping costs, which would have made replacements almost the cost of the new Speedo Fastskin goggles, i.e. the most expensive goggles on the market, so I had to discard the idea.

The advantage was that I now had a good idea that competition goggles would fit me fine, and were in fact quite good for open water if you were comfortable with them, and that I knew which type to choose.

Thanks to two vouchers for writing an article for an online swim shop and a gift voucher, I selected a few pairs that seems closest.

All these goggles come with adjustable nose bridge pieces. Most were tested over the course of a few weeks, in both pool and sea.

Maru Pro mirrors

I started with a pair of Maru Pro competition googles. Maru are especially popular as suppliers of swimming equipment and basic goggles and caps to pools for kids in Ireland and the UK. They are obviously trying to break into a wider swimming market. They were also the cheapest of the lot.

Unfortunately while the fit was okay, they were far too dark. It was like swimming just before dark. The red plastic confused my peripheral vision, I couldn’t tell if some was passing me in the lane and even my arm was barely visible. The gold trim and straps may appeal to some kids people. I am not one of them.

After staring at all the range available in a Cork sports shop (which shall no longer named), most of which were useless, I picked up a pair of Finis Thunder goggles, black with smoke lenses (almost clear). I would have chosen a pair of Mirrored ones, but the only pair were accidentally on the shelf after being returned for a broke strap.

Finis Thunder, Black with Smoke lenses

I loved these. They were very similar to the Fully Sicks. But the end of the strap snapped  off the second day. That pair that were returned to the sport shop obviously weren’t an aberration.

But they were comfortable with fantastic visibility, so I got a pair of the mirrored Jade ones online using my voucher. It got odd. The mirrored pair of the same goggles just wouldn’t seal. I took them to the pool where they leaked immediately. I did get them to fit over a couple of days by changing the nose piece … twice. So on one pair I use a medium bridge, and on the other an Extra Large.  Though once I had them fitted, the visibility on the mirrored pair was fine, clear and not too dark. When I added a third pair, I needed another different size nose bridge, large. They look great but this is typical of my experience with Finis products. Their design is unparalleled, but they are regularly let down by reliability (SwiMP3 which died, PT paddles which split, & now odd goggles). In this case at least, spare straps aren’t a big deal.

Since the first Thunders had been so good, I ordered one pair of Finis Lightning googles, which were only available in blue when I was purchasing.

Finis Lightning Blue

I think the Lightnings are meant to be slightly above the Thunders (duh). These were fantastic. Similar to the Thunders, the translucent white silicon gasket of the seal was softer. These were super comfortable and perfectly fitting immediately, with the same great visibility of the Thunders.

I still had a pair to test. You’d probably never do this, buying a bunch of goggles at the same time to try them out, without having a gift voucher of some kind. I’ve certainly never done it before, but I found some great advantages from doing it. And it made me wonder, if then I was going through the fifteen or so goggles I tried in 12 months when I was starting, if everything I’d chosen had been just leisure swimming goggles. They’re all long gone so I don’t remember.

Speedo Vanquishers

The last pair was the famous Speedo Vanquishers. Renowned in competitive swimming, I bowed to finally try them (I kind of dislike Speedo’s synonymous-with-swimming branding, so had restricted myself to Speedo Endurance swim briefs, the best chlorine togs, bar none, that I’d tried).

They were worthy of the reputation. These were also great, comfortable, the blue frame and lens were a little dark for the pool but the fit of the nose bridge was better than any of the others, due to that slight concave shape on the bottom.

So out of all, only the Maru Pros failed. The rest were all good or great. I went through this so I could get at least two pairs tested for Manhattan, with which I would be most comfortable.

In the usual pre-swim panic, I’ll probably have brought most to New York. My first choice will be the Finis Lightnings if the day is brighter and possibly the Speedo Vanquishers as the probable choice for a duller day.

Update: I’ve been using each pair of Thunder and Lightning googles now for over a year in open water, the blue Lightning on dull days and the mirrored Thunders on sunny days, and both are excellent recommended with the Lightning placed ahead as the Thunder does occasional separate at the nose-bridge when putting them on (but never in the water).