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Basic Survival Swim or Fashion Show?

On the first morning we were asked to show up in the pool hall for survival training, dressed in basic swimwear only, meaning T-shirt and shorts, not the lycra suits.

We should also bring a wide variety of our own clothes for later use. It took me a while to decide what to take. In the end I headed to the pool with a big bag of extra kit. I felt like going to a fashion show, and that's how this whole session felt.


Alex, the lifeguard, explained that this session was all about how to survive in the water, no matter what clothes we wear.

We were meant to get used to swimming in clothes. We should try on a lot of different kit, some of our own, some from the drying room. This sounded like a lot of fun, and it sure was. It looked more like a wet fashion show than swim training.

Basic Swimwear

First we swam a several warm-up lengths just in T-shirts and shorts. That was easy and good fun. The pool looked very colourful, with swimmers pacing up and down in their different shirts.

Swimming in Jeans

Next we were told to put on jeans or similar trousers. I fetched my tight jeans and put them on over my thin wet nylon shorts. Looked a bit weird when the shorts soaked the jeans a bit.

Swimming in jeans and T-shirt was also quite easy and felt great. Since this training, this is one of my favourite swimming outfits. Many said that jeans were somewhat harder to swim in. Yes, that is where the training benefit comes in.

Survival Swimming
Survival Swimming

Swimming Fully Clothed

Now was the time to swim fully clothed in jeans, a long sleeve top, plus socks and canvas shoes. Most of us wore a sports jersey for this part. I put on a sweat shirt to complete my outfit.

Swimming fully clothed requires a fair amount of effort, but it feels just amazing. Now I understand why my brother Felix is so keen on it.

This part of the training involved some lap swimming, then some endurance swimming skills. We also practiced lifesaving releases, like how to escape when when someone grabs you. It's a fun contact sport, especially when fully clothed in the pool.

Survival Swimming
Survival Swimming

Poncho Bundle

Our next task was to roll our remaining dry clothes into a poncho bundle, tie it down with ropes and tow it for two laps in the pool.

Easy, I thought and packed my bundle, hopped in and towed it across the pool and back. As I got out I realised that the bundle had gotten heavier. When I opened the bundle, all the clothes inside were rather wet. My sportswear, hoodie and jogging pants were dripping. Hmm, may be I did something wrong.

Alex came by and told me that it works better to tie up the hood tighly and position it so that it is above water. For that we would not unbutton the poncho, but keep it folded once, like for wearing it in the rain. Then we would just pack a smaller, tighter bundle.

I took off my jeans and sweatshirt. Then I put on the dripping sportswear with the poncho on top. Bathing in a poncho was a new and pleasant experience for me. The loose fitting poncho over sportswear felt very comfortable as I went back into the pool to relax with the others. Ahh, bliss.

Adventure Swimming

"Now we come to the interesting bit," Alex told us, "where you will swim in the robust waterproof clothes we wear during any adventure sports."

We went to the drying room where Alex handed out cagoules of different lengths, and one-piece overalls. These we had to wear on top of the clothes we alread had on.

Most adventure clothes came in two parts, bib-type pants with shoulder straps and a cagoule on top. The advantage of that design is that the pants have no waist band which could trap air when you go or fall into the water.

When I hopped into the water wearing only the bib trousers, the air flushed up and I was free to move, no awkward air pockets.

I climbed out again and put on a long cagoule that reached below my knees. Alex said that it would catch a lot of air if I jumped into the water. Instead I should put up the hood and dive in. That was amazing.

The air just flushed out and the cagoule tightly hugged me, felt really cosy. After jumping in a few more times I swam around to get a feel of this long cagoule. Due to its length it wasn't so easy to swim in as it covered my knees, slowing my breaststroke. Finally I joined the rest of the team for messing about with boats.

One Piece Suit

After a while I swapped all my wet clothes for a dry one-piece overall suit made of thin fabric like used for shirts, some kind of quick drying polycotton. This suit was a bit loose around the waist but felt soft and cosy.

I went under the shower first to see how it felt, first getting the legs wet, then the sleeves, then the rest. Awesome. I loved the way the water ran down and into the suit,

When I went into the pool slowly, it was an amazing feeling how the water slowly crept into the suit. This is a ticklish sensation, but very relaxing, like a massage. The wet fabric stuck to my skin as I climbed out.

When I jumped into the pool, the air blew out quickly, unless the neck opening was closed too tight. I kept climbing out and jumping back into the water for quite a while to fully explore this.

This overall was way too much exciting fun to just swim in. It was so comfy when I floated in the pool after each jump. Then I practised swimming underwater in this baggy suit, like I've seen in an older James Bond film. Always wanted to do that.

After this session Caspian and I bought a few of these suits in the swimshop by the pool hall. We wore them most of the time, during dry time and for swimming. It also was a good base layer when we had to wear more clothing layers in the water.