The simple ideas are often the best ones.
I forgot to test swim it the weekend after I received it, so it had to wait until this past week to be taken for a swim. And no better weekend to test it. How did it perform?
Before I answer, I’ll explain further what it is, and why it’s necessary.
Technically, it’s a ring itself, as it goes around your finger. But it could also accurately be described as a ring-protector for sport, to wear over and protect a metal ring.
I used to wear a ring all the time, a thick silver band that I had custom-made many years ago. I learned early in open-water swimming to remove it (well most of the time I remembered), as shortly after immersion it would feel like it was going to slip off my finger and I would have to swim with my fingers tightly closed, something I don’t normally do. All my concentration would still be on whether the ring was still going to slip off, not a comfortable way to swim. The ring wasn’t oversized, so it wasn’t a case of being too loose. Metals, particularly precious metals, have very well-defined thermal properties, their expansion and contraction in heat and cold. We don’t think of organic materials as have expansion or contraction properties to anywhere near the same degree. We don’t for example think that our pants might fall down if the weather is colder!
So why does your well-fitted ring feel like it is going to fall off? (And in fact there are many cases of this actually happening to swimmers).
As we’ve often discussed about cold, cold immersion leads to various physiological responses, amongst which the most important is peripheral vaso-constriction, the reduction of blood-flow in the extremities. Another that goes along with this it he constriction of external blood vessels. This constriction causes other responses, (on which I’ve written a post that I still need to publish), but the relevant one here is the reduction in diameter of the fingers. And that contraction occurs in relatively warm water (for us Irish skin-swimmers) such as 12 to 14 degrees Celsius. In fact the diameter of the finger seems to contract more than any ring diameter will contract, so the ring becomes loose. Wedding bands, engagement rings and more have been lost this way.
Test conditions at the Guillamenes were pretty ideal for experimentation. The air temperature had been dropping for a few days. The water was a quite acceptable 8.6 degrees Celsius, warm for the time of year, slightly up from where it had been for the previous weeks. But the air temperature was 4° C, with a biting northerly wind whose wind chill contributed to making it feel sub-zero. I put the ring on before I arrived and spent a short while taking some photographs (nothing much useful) so my hands were cold before I swam, something I usually try to avoid. I’ve also lost some weight recently so the ring hadn’t to be forced on, though I’d given up wearing it about two years ago.
And the water was rough, despite the off-shore wind, there was about two metres of swell incoming, with plenty of surface chop on top of it.
I swam for about 30 minutes, and with the wind it felt the coldest swim of this winter thus far. With the Amphibia Sport Ring protector in place, my hands could take their normal shape with fingers slightly parted (the optimum spacing for fingers while swimming is about half a centimetre). If I thought about it, I could feel the silicon protector comfortably touching the adjacent fingers. I never once felt like I was going to lose my ring, and in fact, and this is the important part, I very quickly forgot about the ring.
I’d hazard that maybe Amphibia Sport didn’t get to test the product in what many people would consider to be such extreme conditions, but not abnormal for Irish open water winter swimmers!
That’s a lot of words to say that the Amphibia Sport Sports Ring (protector) performs extremely well for open water swimming, a simple idea very well executed. Highly recommended.