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Friday, 21 February 2014



For me as both an out door and pool swimmer, it is vital that goggles can be used for both purposes. And so the new Aqua Sphere EXO-core have been tested in both to see if they can suit the cross over as needed by many swimmers. The EXO-core are the next step up from the Kaimen's which are already a swimmers favourite for comfort and fit so it will be interesting to see how Aqua Sphere have managed to progress their product.

At first glance the goggle are stylish in appearance and do feel nice to the touch. As a passionate swimmer, i know what I look for in a goggle, baring in mind that I wear them for at least an hour a day..its the goggle marks, will I be left looking 'water wounded' as I call it. Aqua Sphere have introduced a new bi-material frame technology designed to be comfortable as well as maintaining the streamlined fit and appearance that we all require.

In the pool after adjusting them, which was easy to do using the new buckle system, I set off. For an hour's solid training in the pool, not once did I have to adjust them, nor did they leak - result. Vision wise the lack of misting, and lack of water ingress were a massive bonus, it meant and uninterrupted swim set. Running through the full range of strokes in an attempt to get them to budge seemed impossible, as the new streamline fit makes the water flow past as opposed to hitting the goggles. Stopping at the end of the hour I was amazing at how light they still felt on my face, the swim has been as if I was not wearing goggles such is the weight of them on the face. Now the 'wound' test, taking the goggles off, the Advance Fit Technology promised a gentle suction to the face, and i had been careful how I had put them on, would I be walking around with the mark of the swimmer on my face all day. Alighting the pool and heading for a mirror, I was delighted to see nothing there, the softness of the new material had moulded itself to my face and held on enough to do the job in hand without letting the rest of the world know that I had been swimming! My second trip to the pool even earned the goggles a compliment on their look.

A few days later, it was time to put them to the test in the open water, not the best of days for a swim, windy and a tad chilly. But wetsuit and hat on I headed to the lake. Again the goggles were worn, slightly adjusted this time to account for the choppiness of the water. Heading out into the deep, I only had to adjust the goggles one and that was my own fault, spotting a fish I managed to almost dislocate my neck and budged the goggles a few millimetres by trying to watch the fish whilst carrying on swimming at the same pace, none the less they resealed themselves easily and I carried on swimming. Again it is the seal and the feel of the goggles that I am impressed with, they literally do not feel like you are wearing any, the vision afforded in the open water is as good if not better than the Kaimens. And again the wound test yielded a zero score.

Over all I am seriously impressed with the Exo-core's, several other swimmers were able to try them on in both the pool and open water and the response was an instant 'wow, i have to get a pair', for social swimming, a quick dip and definately for racing in they are the perfect goggle, the goggles are available from this month and would recommend them! Contact your local Aqua Sphere retailer for details of where to purchase on 01254 291717, ( , and of course don't forget to follow them on Facebook at AquashpereUK and also Twitter,  @aquasphereuk. If you want to try before you buy give me a shout, come for a swim and see for yourself, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

AQUA SPHERE GUEST BLOG - Fiona Walker of Aqua Sphere UK

Open Water Swimming

According to,  ‘swimming in open water has a long and colourful history dating back as far as 36BC, when the Japanese organised the first open water races. The Romans held high-profile races in the Tiber, when thousands would crowd along the banks to watch and cheer. The Knights in the middle ages reputedly had to swim in full armour as one of their seven required agilities.’

In 1986, FINA officially added open water swimming to the international competition calendar and in 2008 the International Olympic Committee listed the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swimming race as one of the events for Beijing.   Team GB clinched three medals in this event – half the medals on offer – and since that moment the UK has really seen an upsurge in outdoor swimming.    Echoing the bold waterbabies of Russia, China and Scandinavia, more U.K citizens  are becoming converts of cold winter swimming, arguing that it boosts the immune system, improves circulation and provides an addictive adrenalin rush which cannot be found amongst the cosy lanes of your local pool.  

Pauline Squire, Wild About Swimming owner, confirms this. “The natural endorphins high from swimming outside in fresh air can last for days.  It’s been proven to be a mentally and physically beneficial activity.  Open water swimming can also take you to some of the most stunning locations, where your mind can rest while your body is embraced by the waters.  In my opinion it’s the most inclusive sport/hobby you can have, and open to any age or ability.”

Europe’s biggest open water swim series, Great Swim, is attracting more first time entries each year.    Aqua Sphere is the official swim kit partner to the series and the brand’s Marketing Manager, Fiona Walker, completed her first Great Swim last year.   She says “This was a huge personal challenge.  Up till then I was a confident swimmer, but I wasn’t a particularly good swimmer. But I love being outdoors and there’s something very instinctive about taking to the open water and engaging with the elements. No chlorine, no lanes, no hair tumbleweed populated with plasters and scabs! There are very few things that compare to the exhilaration of an open water swim! My favourite memory was a training swim where the water was chilly but fresh and clear and I was surrounded by swallows dipping around me as I swam.  The sun glinting off the water and the rush of the birds around me as I became part of their environment was just wonderful. ”

Fiona trained systematically in her local pool and, as it became warmer, took her training outdoors.   Conversely we all saw Davina McCall’s shocking collapse after swimming across Windermere as part of a Sport Relief fundraising challenge this chilly February.  Simon Griffiths of H2Open magazine believes “the fact that she struggled to breathe or to lift her arms out of the water are fairly normal responses for an inexperienced swimmer plunged into cold water and almost certainly could have been avoided with more training and preparation.” 

Fortunately Davina recovered quickly but the experience was a timely reminder of the risks in open water swimming, especially in extremely cold conditions. Simon advises “making your first open water swimming experience a winter one is a little foolish. Swimming in Windermere should be a wonderful and life-affirming experience. For most people it is. We wonder if Davina had any opportunity to savour the majestic surroundings and the beautiful, clear water. Did she, at any point in that swim, experience, notice and enjoy the electric tingle of fresh, cool water against her skin? Did she delight in the weightless calm that only swimming can give you?. If you haven't yet tried open water swimming, please prepare properly and consider when and where you first do it. Make sure it's a positive experience that brings you back for more.” Pauline adds  “There appears to be wide condemnation for Davina's lack of preparation for her swim. The normal open water swimmer trains and prepares well in anticipation of the enjoyment and competition of an event. Sadly, that Davina didn't, has potentially brought the sport into disrepute and does leave the rest of us defending our right to enjoy the water.”

Davina -  we do admire your gumption - but please revisit Windermere with us this summer for a swim you'll remember for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

Aqua Sphere is the official wet suit and goggle brand to Great Swim.   For information about entering and training for a Great Swim visit

By Fiona Walker - Aqua Sphere UK

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

First disabled swimmer completes Ice Mile swim

Simon Griffiths | H2Open Editor | Monday 27 January 2014
On 19 January this year, Jonty Warnekan of Harrogate joined the elite group who have completed a one mile swim in water of less than five degrees Celsius – an Ice Mile. 

Warnekan, 41, decided late in 2013 that he wanted to keep swimming outside through the winter with a view to taking part in the Big Chill Swim, Windermere, in February. He became a regular at Ellerton Lake, steadily increasing his swim distance and time in the water under the watchful eye of Pauline Squire of Wild about Swimming.
As a result of injuries from a car accident, Warnekan had the lower portion of his left leg removed. He has pins in the other ankle and a metal plate in his head. None of this stopped him completing 10km swims in the summer and it wouldn’t stop him doing the Ice Mile.
The swim, supported by a team of 14, took 58 minutes to complete, with Jonty maintaining a steady pace throughout except for the final stretch where he started to slow.

The International Ice Swimming Association confirmed the swim on 23 Jan.

First northern Hemisphere Ice Milers for winter 2013/14

Pleased our lads are in the H2O Magazine!!! Thanks Simon Griffiths :)

First northern hemisphere Ice Milers for winter 2013/14
Simon Griffiths | H2Open Editor | Wednesday 11 December 2013 International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) has ratified four more Ice Milers: three in the UK and one in the US.
Starting on 19 November, James Brown completed an Ice Mile at Ellerton Lake in Yorkshire.  Eleven days later Brown was back in the water at Treeton Dyke, along with Alistair Beattie and Leon Fryer. The official temperature for Brown’s first attempt was 3.9 degrees Celsius. For the second it was 4.18 degrees. According the IISA rules the temperature must be measured by three different devices.
The three were coached by Pauline Squire, who says: “The first lap appeared to be done with ease, but then came the turning point where the cheers of the supporters appeared to go unheard as each swimmer headed towards the start line and turned, the distance ahead of them unfathomable as with cold leaden arms they started out again.”
On the second lap the swimmers' breathing became laboured and their stroke rates slowed.
“Now was the dangerous part of the swim: the body tiring, the brain barely registering the route required, the mouth so frozen that words could not be formulated,” says Squire. “Their limbs now felt like dead weights. It was a painful process to cover the last 500 metres. All three stopped several times.”
The three swimmers made it to the end and managed to exit the water unaided. Their supporters then bundled them quickly into warm clothes and blankets and plied them with hot drinks.
A week later, on 7 December, Gordon Gridley completed an Ice Mile in tough conditions in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. The water temperature was a mere 1.19 degrees while the air dropped to minus 6.1 degrees. Despite this, Gridley blasted through his swim in 26 minutes, which looks like a top ten time, and only a couple of minutes behind the fastest ever.
Editor's note: An Ice Mile is a serious and potentially dangerous swimming challenge that should only be undertaken by experienced swimmers in controlled and supervised situations.

- See more at:

Friday, 17 January 2014

Clear vision - goggle review by SALLY BIRD

To be swimming in the sea is wonderful but to be able to see into the distance is even better, not a gift but something to be bought in Asda’s!  

£18 Prescription Goggles
Black with UV protected grey polycarbonate anti-fog lenses
One week to be made
Lens from +1.0 upwards
Includes protective carrying case


                     Perfect for outdoor swimming too, as they are tinted.
                     The surrounding seal seems to be extremely good
                     Early days but no misting or leaking
                     Very easy to adjust
                     No red marks left around the eyes
                     Do not have to have the strap too tight to avoid leaking


                     On collection, ensure the goggles fit, no problem if they don’t as there are different sized interchangeable nose bridges, however, they are not the easiest things to change over, let Asda’s do this
                     No choice of colour
                     No choice of whether I wanted tint or not, that was all they had but perhaps that was the store I was in

If you have any doubts if they will be any use and do not have time to go into Asda, go into any shop or supermarket that sell cheap glasses, they are always marked up +1.0, +2.0 etc.  Then try them on, find a pair where the distance is good, job done!  You now have size lens you require.

Originally when I was buying new glasses, had no idea about prescription goggles and for £18 thought I would chance it, so pleased that I did.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013



Well the colder months are upon us and the water temperatures are falling, most triathletes have returned to the pool to start winter training, bears are hibernating the leaves are off of the trees and the frost keeps paying us a visit, some places in the UK have even seen snow.

For us all year round open water swimmers, new adventures open up to us during the winter months. Most of the other lake users have long since packed up and returned to the depths of warmth that they are accustomed to in the pool. For those of us that are left we have watch the heat dissipate, the weeds return to the bottom and the waters become clearer. Cold water swimming is not for everyone but it is increasing in popularity with many trying to stay in the open water for as long as their bodies can tolerate the sting of the cold on the skin.

For some its an exhilarating experience, the first time in, the water feels at best like you have rolled in stinging nettles, the breathing sharpens and becomes rapid, but once you get used to this and learn to deal with it, the experience is addictive. There is a growing awareness of how much the human body can tolerate and there are some that want to experience this thrill.

Three intrepid swimmers have been training for an ICE MILE, yes you read that right, an ice mile. Following the rules as laid out by the International Ice Swimming Association ( they have been permitted to wear one pair of brief shorts, one set of goggles and one swim cap...for many the mere thought of swimming without neoprene sends them shivering for more layers but for these swimmers its part of the challenge. As the temperatures have dropped the amount of noise made when entering the water has risen, its not for the faint hearted. But they have risen to the challenge, slowing immersing themselves, getting their breathing under control and then swimming, increasing the distance and the time spent in the water each time.

Until one cold but sunny mid morning on the 30th November 2013, the three gathered by the side of Treeton Dyke, having set out the equipment as needed, and with a team ready to witness and to support them, they took the first tentative steps towards the water. The ice mile attempt was due to start. The water temperature had been measured using 4 different devises, the coldest temperature read 3.8, it was enough to make you shiver just looking at it. But the atmosphere despite the seriousness of the attempt was jovial, the two kayaker's Jessica Zeun and Joe Davis, were in the water ready and waiting and on the swimmers signal the attempt would start. Now as much as you would think that having three swimmers in the water the logical thing to do would be to try to race each other and so in turn you would keep yourself warm, in fact this tends to sap your energy leaving you nothing in reserve for when you need it in the swim. However, there can be comfort knowing that you are not alone in the water, that there are others that know how you are feeling and what you are going through.

The swimmers knew the route, the kayaker's were ready to support, witnesses and first aiders were dotted along the shore ready to view and help if necessary. Cameras were ready to record the attempt and binoculars were in use by those at the start/ finish line. A deep breath by Alistair Beattie and he was in and off, James Brown and Leon Fryer soon following suit, even from the shore line the water did not look warm, but for those of us used to cold water swimming it did look inviting.  The urge to get in and have a dip was immense but we were there to observe and record and once the swimmers exited the waters ensure their safe warming.

The swimmers being guided by the kayakers weaved their way across the dyke, their skin which once appeared as everyone else's, was now taking on a rather pink glow, the stroke after stroke they took heading towards the other side, Alison Darley the second official observer waiting to witness, observe and report via the walkie talkie to Pauline Squire, Coach, Lead Observer and Safety officer, so should any swimmer get into difficulty then the swim would be halted and all swimmers removed from the water. Conditions were good and what little warmth the sun afforded was welcomed.

However the swimmers in the water had no time to enjoy the rays, the continued envelopment in the cold water was sapping them fast of their body heat, there was little time for pausing to look around and enjoy the setting or the many wildfowl on the lake who appeared rather bemused the sudden additions to their aquatic setting. The distance had previously been gps'ed and one of the swimmers had a Garmin 910tx on to record the distance (and his swim), a mile ....its not that far is it....well in these temperature one mile can seem like a thousand.

Having coached the swimmers knew their form and we were now counting the stoke rate over a measured time to see for slowing down, there was little or no current to interfere with their swim, but the biting icy wind was no fun for spectator or swimmer

The first lap appeared to be done with ease, but then the turning point, the cheers of the supporter and witnesses appeared to go unheard as each swimmer headed towards the start line and turned, the distance ahead of them unfathomable as with cold leaden arms they started out again. For any of you who have completed laps in a race you will know how much mental strength is required to start the second lap, to not drop your stroke rate, to resist the urge to get out, for these 3 swimmers the urge must have be almost overwhelming. Their skin was now screaming as the blood required to protect their core was being pulled from all areas, lines where veins should have been visual now appeared white as if drained by the lake.

The breathing now laboured as they headed again towards the furthest point of their journey, it was time to ensure the camp was ready for their exit. The fire pit lit, and the warm it offered much welcome. Flasks of warm drinks placed by each swimmers chair with spares ready just in case, hot water bottles, heat pads were in their boxes ready for use and clothing laid out in order it would be put on. Blankets, towels, sleeping bags and foil wraps ready to be used, all we needed now were our swimmers.

The walkie talkie flared into life to let us know that Alistair had made his final turn and was heading back, his pace now slowing. James and Leon hot (or not so hot as the temperature told us) on his heels. Goggles fogging, but hands which now felt too thick and spongy to adjust them, legs that burned but were useless and thus just dangles and created drag. All the swimmers were tiring, it was painful to see, they were on the homeward straight but still had yet to make land.

With all three heading to the finish us observers and witnesses stood waiting, now was the dangerous part of the swim, the body tiring, the brain barely registering the route required, the mouth so frozen that words could not be formulated. Limbs now feeling like dead weights, it was a painful process to cover the last 500 meters. All three stopping several times, Alistair stated afterwards that he became so cold that he failed to turn to inhale and only became aware of it when he tried to do so under the water, the shock of which spurred him to the finish. Arms moving slower and ever slower, but glowing the most violent red colour, they made their way to the finish.

Alistair approaching first, again oblivious to our shouts and encouragement, he made his way to shallower waters, the first attempt to stand revealed legs that refused to obey, staggering to land, the rules had to be followed, he had to exit the water unaided. Yes he's done it, although I fear he did not hear our cheers, quickly he was grabbed and wrapped in towels and a Dryrobe and virtually dragged to the allotted chair. The crew set about warming him up, drying, rubbing, removing wet shorts, wrapping and bounding him in as many layers as possible, while he complied with our ministrations virtually mute through the effects of the cold.

No time to waste the other two were heading in, Leon first then slightly behind him James. Leon standing and laughing, seemingly unaware that he needed to get out of the water, again this he managed on his own only to be grabbed once upright, wrapped and bustled towards sleeping bags and warmth.
James, next, standing then wrapped and pushed towards the awaiting crew.
Once all three where seated it was clear that other than the occasional groan their silence spoke of the condition they were in, never has a team worked so cohesively to ensure the safety of their swimmers, to protect their core and start the slow process of warming them up. A minimum of 3 people with each swimmer at any time, whilst one was drying another was dressing, and the third giving much needed warm did however take almost a whole flask for Alistair to come round enough to query what was being fed to him, a quick sniff of the flasks contents revealed it to be Bovril....a rather confused looking Alistair then declared 'but I don't like Bovril', later he explained to his head he thought he had been drinking hot chocolate and that there must have been too much in the mixture. It goes to show how the cold can affect all the senses, with each swimmer obeying commands to ' lift a leg, give me a foot, for drying; put your arm in here as we manhandled clothing on them in what can only be described as, not the gentlest of ways. However our need to get them dry and warm far out weighed the need to treat them with kid gloves. Aaron acting as runner, refilling supplies and bringing food.

Dressed and shivering badly the swimmers gradually became aware of their surroundings, it was time to feed them and get them moving around, the chatter that they had been unaware of before they started joining in, the banter between the swimmers continued just as it had been before they entered the water. The skin returning slowly to its regular colour, heart beats stabilising to a nice calm thump. The smiles, which a short while before had been unobtainable such were depth of cold in the lips, were now starting to form, and wow did they stretch...did we do it they asked....YES, YES, YES. Hand shakes and congratulations all round as each swimmer acknowledged the feat they had just performed.

Later that evening the data was collated. And within 48 hours it was on its way to Ram Barkai to moderate. Now the anxious wait, would the swim be accepted by the association. With another 48 hours it was confirmed, these three swimmers were now on the ice mile wall of fame, numbers 63 (James), 64 (Leon) and 65 (Alistair).  There have been more successful attempts at Everest than have managed the ice mile swim. The full record of their achievement can be seen at  To witness it was incredible, history in the making, to have taken part was a feat in human endurance and immense mental strength. Would they do it again....well there is a whisper they may!!!! So if you see three swimmers turning up to a lake near you wearing red jacket, yes its them...they earned them and will wear them with pride, UK ICE MILE SWIMMERS were created that day!!!

Who was there, well we can't leave them out without them it would not have been the same so here is the list, in no particular order:

Arron Fryer, Gemma Sherman, Jessica Zaun, Ian Pinchbeck, Pauline Squire, Alison Darley, David Brown, Jane Crosby, Becky Crosby, Shelby Donoghue, Sarah Gatland, Joe Davis, Jay Stocks, Jonny Ingall. Thank you to you all, without you it would not have been possible

Monday, 4 November 2013



How do you say thank you to so many  people for all their support and kind words, individually it would take me forever and so i turn to my blog to tell you all how much i appreciate it.

Unexpected events on the 31st Ocober 2013 have temporarily put this fish out of the water (its definitely not through choice!).  A car accident totalled my car and injured myself and my passenger Larissa. It was not how we saw our day panning out, one minute driving along quite happily then next surrounded by the emergency services and in dire need of their help.

Cut out of the car (it doesn't look good as a soft top!) and air lifted to James Cooke hospital, and the super fast treatment and subsequent after-care mean that i and Larissa are here to tell the tale (not that we plan to tell any tales) but also to say thank you to you all for the amazing messages on Facebook, text and inbox and email that have been sent.

At times they were coming in faster than i could read them (the drugs did not help the eyesight either). The humour made me giggle and really lifted my spirits and helped me retain my humour and for that i am eternally grateful. The kindness of the words are truly felt and show just how completely amazing my family, friends and the world of swimming (be it in a pool, lake, river or ocean) are. You are all amazing people and i can not express fully or in its entirety how much your support and messages have meant to me.

Apparently part of my recovery is swimming....even the doctors are fab on that point, so expect to see me back in the water as soon as i can get to it. The fish will wet her gills as soon as she can xx