Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Big Swim - Hi-tech cossies ruling

The organisers of The Big Swim, Palm Beach to Whale Beach, this weekend have made this change to their rules ...

"Swimmers must wear only conventional swimming costumes made from lycra and/or nylon and/or polyester. Costumes must contain no neoprene or any other 'high-tech' material or substance or any material with any flotation support. Male swimmers must wear only briefs with no arms, legs or any part of the costume covering their body above the waist. Female swimmers must wear either one or two piece costumes with no arms or legs.

The objective of this rule is to provide a level playing field for swimmers, in which swimmers do not feel the need to use expensive 'high-tech' costumes in order to be competitive, and to confirm that wetsuits are not permitted in competition."

As more than 600 swimmers already have entered The Big Swim under the previous rules, the organisers urge all swimmers to observe this new ruling this weekend as a matter of fair play. It will become a regular condition of The Big Swim rules in subsequent seasons.

This rule is not intended to prevent swimmers wearing conventional rashies or stinger suits for protection from sun and/or stingers, provided those suits aren't made of the materials referred to above.

Since we publicised this ruling in our emailout to NSW ocean swimmers on Monday, January 19, The Byron Bay Swim Classic has made a similar ruling, adopting the same wording as The Big Swim.


  1. Are they mad?  First of all the Speedo and other brand suits are conventional, for goodness sake they are used in the Olympics and approved by FINA  !!

    And Secondly now they have banned arms and legs, it is guaranteed to be a Blue Bottle race like that disaster about 10 years ago.

    Will someone please tell these clubbies that the race is a community event not the world cup.
    And if someone wants to swim in a rashie they should be able to.

  2. As one who has and wears a waist down (but armless) lycra swimming costume in all competition, and I compete in a swimming competition at least every two weeks throughout the year in pool and ocean, I think 'oceanswims' may be heading in the wrong direction in banning them. You run the risk of another organisation springing up which will allow them and through compliance with FINA guidelines be seen as the more professional organisation, leaving 'oceanswims' to the non serious competitors.

    All other swimming bodies in Australia adopt what is allowed by FINA when determining what is allowable as far as costumes are concerned. As FINA is now looking at the issue, it would have been better to await their guidance in determining what is allowed in ocean swimming.

    The thin lycra costumes have no inbuilt buoyancy, their main benefit is that they streamline the body when in the water. They are a chalk and cheese compared with the Olympic style costumes seen at Beijing, but are worn by a majority of competitors at State and National Swimming Australia and Masters Swimming Australia meets. 
    FINA, Swimming Australia, and Masters Swimming Australia all permit these costumes in marathon swims.

    There are other benefits:

    They eliminate the need for hairy persons like myself shaving down for every meet. We are at a disadvantage compared with those that are by birth hairless on body and leg. Will handicap starts for the hairy swimmers be considered?

    They help those of us that have thick legs, who, as swimmers, are born with a disadvantage. 'Vagrancy legged' people have a distinct advantage. Will body shape determine ones handicap rather than age?

    They greatly reduce  the threat of bluebottle and 'purple people eater' stings for those of us who have over the years built up an allergic reaction to them. I am not in this category, however have two friends who are.

    I think you have opend up a can of worms in stepping outside the accepted regulatory regime for the sport of swimming. I believe it is a backward step, and the first one to be taken by the oceanswimming in what is a growing sport.

    It should also have been a condition of the entry for the 'Big Swim', not a post entry regulation.

    Will they be banned for the Cole Classic?

    I believe, one in all in, or you will risk splitting the sport between the serious swimmer and the fun swimmer.

    The swimming costume I swim in today is far different from the one I swam in in R&R competitions in the 1960s. Surf Life Saving allowed FINA to be the judge of what is allowed, I believe if oceanswimming wants to remain professional, it should do the same.

    I believe that in fact the use of the non buoyant lycra costumes levels the playing field for those of us born hairy and heavy legged. I do not want to have to return to my old body shaving routine every time I want to be competetive. For me wearing the legged cosi improves my time to the same extent as shaving, but no more. 

    An option to satisfy all could be to introduce an 'elite category'  (one open category only, open to all ages) to all swims. Let them use competition cossies if they wish, and make the 'elite swimmers' ineligible for age category prizes.

    There would then be two divisions - age categories where all swimmers have to wear budgy smugglers, and an elite category for those who prefer racing costumes.
    In this way both the serious swimmers and the novelty swimmers will be satisfied, and the bounty hunters can work out their own odds.
    The restrictions being proposed risk alienating some regular participants at the top end of the competetive ladder.

    Wilson Gamble

  3. I am unclear on how far this new rule goes. The rule states "..no arms, legs or any part of the costume covering the body above the waist." The wording of this would appear to indicate that rashies and stinger suits etc are banned. Seems a little extreme if thats the case, what does everyone else think?

  4. The ruling is not aimed at and does not affect rashies, stinger suits, used for protection from the sun, stingers, etc, unless they are made from the hi-tech material at the heart of this issue.

    See the full text on www.thebigswim.org.au/entry.html

  5. Mr Gamble are you saying its my body hair that slows me down not the size of my budgy.

    Mr August

  6. Perhaps better wording should have followed the NSW Swimming By Laws which come in effect for the State Age swimming Titles;

    The group also included representation from the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA) and the Australian Swimmers Association (ASA).

    The modification – effective from April 1 2009 is:

    Swimwear worn by competitors in Australian Age Group Events shall conform to the following design:
    - Men’s swimwear shall be limited to one swimsuit that covers, at most, the body surface from hips to knee. Swimwear must not extend above the waist or below the knees;

    - Women’s swimwear shall be limited to one swimsuit that is of “open back” and “open shoulder” designs that may extend down to the knee. Swimwear must not extend below the knees.

    - General: Swimwear must not have a zipper or any type of fastening system.
    All swimwear worn by competitors in Age Group Events (18 and under) conducted in Australia by SAL shall be commercially available products.

    In my opinion a sensible solution. Also very brave as NSW swimming is sponsored by Speedo.

  7. Didn't the Big Swim suddenly ban prizes for the overall winners last year? So why not ban swimwear!
    Petty minds petty focus.
    l agree with the above though.At least it's informed.

  8. I think the organisers of both swims have made the right decision. All sports try to ensure parity and these clubs have just done that in a way that is within their means. Pool swimming criteria doesn't cut it here. Both swims have up to 1500 swimmers. Who is going to check suits for FINA approval, zippers or commercial availability? Fine, if you only have 8 swimmers standing behind their starting blocks, but the start and finish of these swims is chaotic. It's just administratively too difficult for an event that relies on volunteers and there shouldn't be a need for them to do it.

    These suits aren't in the spirit of most ocean swim events. These swim have a primary purpose to raise funds for the surf club, by allowing weekend warriors a chance to swim in the deep ocean safely and race their mates. These events engage the community with the club and by keeping the event costs low and keeping the emphasis on fun, then more of the community will participate (which is partly why they became so popular in the first place).

    They aren't serious events and if you think they are an accurate measure of your swimming ability, then grab a handful of reality, do a 1500mtr time trial in the pool and compare your time with the best in your age group. But leave the pool criteria for the pool...and that goes for complaints about swimming traffic, troubles sighting buoys, blue bottles and sunburn. It's ocean swimming.

  9. Congratulations to the organisers of the Big Swim for taking a stand on this issue. Banning all forms of suits is the only way of ensuring a level playing field. Even if what is said about certain suits not being performance enhancing is true, how can swim organisers ever ensure compliance given the multitude of different suits on the market. Should someone stand on the start line and administer a test to all suit-wearing swimmers re their flotation properties?

  10. what a pity that it has come down to this re the swimming gear if its good enough for the olypmics why not for ocean swims !!! I will be not going to bryon or the big swim for that reason !!!

  11. Banning all those expensive wetsuits and swimsuits is absolutely the right decision. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming (and looking) as ridiculous as all those Victorians at Portsea and Lorne. As for the excuses of bluey's, hairy backs and thick legs.....good grief, I've never heard such rubbish. Let's just keep ocean swimming simple for the simple. Cheers.

  12. This new rule is ridiculous. As others have mentioned, these suit are accepted and promoted by Fina and Swimming Australia. For someone who competes regularly, it is odd that at one meet I can wear my legskins and at the next meet I can't. It's like having a golf meet and banning titanium clubs, or a tennis meet and banning carbon fibre rackets...?? These items aren't performance inhancing, they just allow the competitors to compete to their fullest.

    Anyway, that's what I think.

  13. Just grab a pair of speedo's and have a fun swim. That's what it is all about isn't it? I 100% support the decision to go back to basics and can't wait for the event.

    As for the comments re Portsea and Lorne. The water is damn cold. I have done pier to pubs both with and without a wettie. The opportunity to wear a wetsuit allows 1000's of people to share in the enjoyment of this great sport.

  14. Serious congratulations on your stand against wet suits. I trust this leads to a general ban in all Sydney swims. This is not Lorne and protection against cold water is not required in such a temperate climate.

    Well done!

    Les Apolony

  15. Is this the fair go, Aussie way?

    Discriminating against those who prefer their ocean delights in 'neck to knee' attire? This new ruling could be un-Australian, let alone un-Fina.
    What would our ocean bathers of the early 1900's have to say about mandatory bare thighs!
    Get a grip.
    Ocean swimming is much more than just winning. Please be inclusive.

  16. Last year at Byron Bay a girl swam past me going nearly twice as fast wearing a black suit. These suits are ridiculous.



  17. I am going the whole hog and you will see me "but naked". I hope this will make the point. As its not a pretty site. God help man kind. PLEASE NOTIFY GREEN PEACE.

  18. Yes but just goggles with prescription lenses.
    We at the experts office feel that those with fading eyesight should not feel the need to buy expensive prescription goggles just to be competitive.

    Michael C

  19. A joke of a ruling. I thought ocean swims were supposed to be fun? Why is it so serious all of a sudden!

  20. The Palm to Whale organisers have my support. There is a definite advantage in wearing a fast suit which goes against the level playing field ethos. This is not the Olympics, the vast majority of us are not elite athletes, and 4 minutes is all it takes to shave one's legs.

  21. To add further to the debate, this is straight off the big swim website today, bit of a contradiction there -

    The Palm Beach to Whale Beach swim is the longest on the Sydney calendar with an average completion time over the years not much under 60 minutes.

    The unseasonably cold ocean water this year raises concerns for all regarding hypothermia. Safety must come first, second and third. In response to this, the organisers give the following advice to all swimmers:

    1. If the water temperature on the day is less than 19 degrees Celsius, wetsuits or rash vests will be allowed. Swimmers who wear wetsuits will have their times recorded, but they will not be eligible for prizes in age groups or open categories.

    2. If you would expect to take more than 60 minutes or are prone to becoming cold, a rash vest or wetsuit is very strongly advised. If possible have a friend meet you on the beach with a dry towel; wrap up quickly

    So take your thermometer, once that 19% is reached put on that wetsuit!


  22. The previous comment takes information, as they say of the meeja, out of context. The quote above (http://www.thebigswim.org.au/about.html) relates to medical advice in the event of cold currents moving in to Sydney beaches. It was posted two seasons ago -- and remains relevant today -- as very, very cold currents suddenly moved in in January 2007 and, to a lesser extent, in 2008. But, sure, if cold currents come in again by Sunday, it is relevant again and remains The Big Swim's medical advice. Last time we swam, water temps around Sydney were well into the 20s.

    That said, there has been no change to The Big Swim's rule on wetties, or rashies or stinger suits. The only change is to the wearing of hi-tech swimsuits.

  23. The whole idea of oceanswimming is to be inclusive and to allow as many people as possible to have a good experience that they might not otherwise be able to. You are not Olympians and what makes you think Fina has anything to do with the Oceanswims? One of the main appeals is the relatively low entry cost to compete.
    This all changes when your mate, the one you like to have a friendly challenge with each Sunday, buys an expensive suit and consistently beats you. You also feel obliged to buy a suit...creating a snowball effect...soon everyone feels they should be wearing one. Entry level soon becomes much more expensive.
    Trying to beat others by having more expensive equipment is wankerdom! If you can't do it with out...you can't do it! If that's what you are into I suggest you switch to pool swimming or triathalon.
    Another thing...if you want to be taken seriously, sign your blogs. Don't you have the courage to stand up to your convictions? You know who you are and I have a fair idea too.

  24. What's goin on with all this psuedoscientific equine excretia about high tech body suits makin ya go faster in the water? As if!

    I can't wait till some hirsute Mark Spitz type of dude, with a shaggy mullet, an Austin Powers fur back, and a massive 1970's Aussie cricket legend of a catarpillar on his top lip, comes along n gives youz all a touchup. We might have to wait for Movember to come round again before we see that.

    It works for spiders in the swimmin pool; storin air in the hair. So why can't it work for us too.

    If the Cole goes the whole hog down the City2Surf path, then perhaps it won't be long before we see someone doin it it in a gorilla suit from the back o the pack. Put your order in with your local costume now coz I reckon this ideas got legs (so to speak) and they could be a bit hard to come by closer to race day.

    Remember you heard it from me first.


  25. After reading all the posts I'm still not sure if I can wear polyester swim shorts? The entry form says briefs. Do shorts make this grade or is it only 'speedo's' that are allowed?

  26. I wear speed suits in any race where the rules allow them. I do this because I race in FINA events where they are allowed, and are expected. Most people have not worn a speed suit, and would not know the first thing about them. They are not a magic device which will instantly take 10 seconds per 100m off your time. I know of people who have bought them, and have dived into their first race only to have the suit fill up with water because they have no idea how to wear/use the suit properly. They are not easy to use, and they do not replace simple fitness &/or skill.
    If a race organiser decides to ban suits in their race, then fair enough and good on them. Go race in your speedos and enjoy the swim. If you are fit and good enough, you will still finish ahead of the rest. If you rely on the suit to get you that extra advantage, then go do some more training so you can go fast in your speedos.

  27. After reading the comments in todays Herald some of you must have water-logged heads.
    Paul Ellercamp is not responsible for making any rule - the club holding any event is. It seems to me you love to blame him - do you need a hate object?
    Anyone who wants or needs to cover up for religious (your good friend, Jenny Hole), sun protection or colostomy bag holding reasons can wear the full rash vest type swimwear and the guy who wants to wear his polyester swim shorts can too. The items designed for Muslim surf lifesavers are made of lycra not high tech fabric. It seems to me this has been made clear.
    It also seems clear you are shooting the messenger. None of you have minded accessing the oceanswims website for free information over the last 10 years. If it wasn't for oceanswims there is no doubt oceanswimming wouldn't be where it is today. Some of you are a miserable lot.

  28. Do you all your old people realise how silly you all look in fastskins? You should act your age. Old people in budgies is pretty gross, but when you get into fastskins, it's just ridiculous. You haven't got the bodies for it. Men or women. You women should know better. Act your age, not your shoe size.

  29. Fascinating to read all this drama!
    But why not a 'fair go' to all?

    Let's have our ocean swims for allcomers, regardless of their chosen coverage and for whatever their personal/health reasons.
    Surely we can swim together for the sheer fun of it, even if in hi-tech gear, just not qualify for the prizes.Not all of us are 'in it to win it'.
    Please do not discriminate.
    Play, play up,and play the game.

  30. I know it may seem odd to young ones but
    I think that's just insenssitive Taylah.Some of us old ducks are just trying to cover up our veiny old legs a bit. I can'tesee any problem with neck to knees.

    Hilda (from Sydney Tatts)

  31. I saw the Cole web site and you can be disqualified at the event this year for losing your cap.
    Wasn't a cap suppose to be an advantage ? I'm confused. Why would this matter? My bathers are some what wide at the sides. They are new but I don't think they are special materials. There not licra but elastane.Would these be suitable this year still?


  32. After reading the divided opinions of many on the Blog re performance enhancing suits, I have this to say.

    Firstly I believe that the poll conducted by os.c, which was in favour of a ban on “hi-tech” swim suits, was flawed. Why, because it seems that readers confused wetsuits with “hi-tech” swimsuits. This is evident from responses from some readers who refer to wetsuits under this blog. If the poll is the basis for the Big Swim decision, then it is wrong. I offer some explanation.

    Wet-suits for swimming hail from triathlon, and are tight-fitting neoprene suits that trap air to make you extremely buoyant. So much so, that you float effortlessly. As a part-time triathlete, I can vouch for the advantages of the wet-suit. In triathlon, if you don’t have a wet-suit, then you are the (very) odd one out. There is no doubt to the advantages that wetsuits provide and I am sure that most, if not all readers would agree, that the wearing of wet-suits should be banned, (or not qualify for places) – except (in my opinion) they should be allowed where the water temps are very cold (say 15 degrees) and there is a risk of hypothermia.

    For those confused swimmers…the “hi-tech” swimsuits are those made of tight-fitting fabrics (lycra, spandex etc) that enclose the body or parts thereof in fabrics smoother than skin, compress parts of the body to present a more hydro-dynamic shape to the water (i.e. less drag), and some are hydro-phobic, i.e. they have water-repelling properties.

    As an ocean swimmer, I do not own a “hi-tech” swimsuit and have never swum in one. However, I am unsure about their buoyancy effects, but I understand that the advantages that they present are very different to the buoyancy advantage of a wet-suit and are not comparable. I think people also need to understand that the technology of the skin-suits was developed for pool-swimming, not salt-water.

    I like Shelley Clark’s level-headed response to an earlier blog on the subject, part of which read..

    … when it comes to competitive ocean or open water swims, the suits will make you feel great-but they won't win you races. The people who win ocean and open water races, at any age level, are the ones who have put in the hard yards in training, have good surf skills, make there move at the right time and who have that little bit of luck at the end.

    I think Shelley summed it up nicely.

    In my opinion, ban (disqualify) wet-suits; allow skins; they are very different bits of equipment.

    John Bamberry

  33. Please don't confuse the different issues here: the underlying issue with hi-tech cossies, fastskins, etc, is that, if they become de rigeur in ocean swim events, then that raises the entry cost to the sport by hundreds of dollars per person.

    As well, we think -- maybe it's old fashioned of us -- that events should be determined by how well you swim, not by how much you can afford to spend on cossies.

  34. Dear OS.C
    I always wear a pair of skin shorts.
    I was given a pair when I represented and I bought another pair for $35 on line.
    I had to go out this morning and buy a new pair of Traditional Budgy Smugglers or whatever..thanks $40 I didn't want to spend.
    Stop making out all skins are hundreds of dollars like LZR's.Most people are smart enough to know a skin wont make the critical difference in 99% of cases.

  35. Ban them. Boys look better in budgee smugglers

  36. Fellas, some of us are doing this for the first time (after some training...there will be no breaststroke, don't worry) and it is still cold out there. People should be able to swim in what they are comfortable in. This is the ocean, the few seconds gained in a high tech costume can surely be just as easily lost in any kind of conditions. Let's just swim and enjoy life in the "unregulated" ocean!

  37. I'm all for the ban if the girls have to wear two pieces like the one on the add on this page.
    Which age group is she in???

  38. what a lot of crap...I thought it was a fun day a community swim...Who decide for me when I am getting cold,the organizer, or when the water is 18, 17 degree or when I decide to be comfortable. All those rule might apply to 5% of top swimmers...even so you could no ask Lance Armstrong to ride a bike from Kmart.
    See you there.

  39. The new swimwear rules are absolute overkill. NSW Ocean Swimmers have long accepted that wet suits are an unfair advantage. The status quo was ideal.

    NSW ocean swimming has a good community spirit with a casual and challenging atmosphere. We don’t need to go down the path of different costume standards for different races. Who needs to worry about the type of costume required for today?

    Turn up, wear a costume that makes you feel most comfortable and enjoy the swim. We’re the last group of hopefuls that need to challenge FINA standards. Who wants to be standing at the start line and have an official remove you from the line?

    In an ocean swim environment, the revolutionary costumes make very little difference.

    Please knock this on the head right now Mr Oceanswims, so that we don’t have to read the fine print of our online entries. If we don’t knock it on the head now, our beaches will end up like golf clubs, short socks at this club, long socks at another. Budgies at Palm to Whale? Full legs at Bondi to Bronte. Absolutely ridiculous!

    Scott Miers

  40. I'm happy with long socks and budgies next year.Perhaps Paul should wear shorts so his GPS doesn't fall out next year.

    Michelle Heeks

  41. For those of you worried that you are losing to those wearing hi-tech suits, you do know that the same guy who flogs you all season wearing his fastskin is still going to flog you wearing budgies.

    He/she is uuummmm......how do you say it.........better!!

  42. "For those of you worried that you are losing to those wearing hi-tech suits, you do know that the same guy who flogs you all season wearing his fastskin is still going to flog you wearing budgies"

    ...........and I did.

  43. Will they allow me to wear a borat man-kini?


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