Neoprene and open water.
A commonly raised question.
At ACNEG we consider two types of crossing: WITH neoprene and WITHOUT neoprene. This is so because, as you will see, swimming with a wetsuit is not the same as swimming without a wetsuit and it must be separated by categories.
When deciding to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, many swimmers have doubts about how best to do it.
It’s a very personal question. It not only depends on the physical conditions of the environment, but also on the swimmer himself/herself (experience, physical constitution such as weight, height, complexion,…) and the purpose of the swim.
The temperature of the water inside the pools is usually around 26-31 degrees. The temperature of the water in the sea is sometimes much lower than the water in the pool.
Influence of water temperature:
- It is decisive when it comes to being able to stay longer or shorter in it.
- Influences performance.
- Muscles can be affected in cold water (seize and paralyze)
- In addition, the risk of hypothermia must be taken into account.
All of these issues concern many swimmers. For this reason, we want to talk to you in this post about the pros and cons of swimming with a wetsuit.
Water temperature in the Strait of Gibraltar.
If you are one of those interested in swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar, you should know that it is the place where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. This causes it to be a marine environment with a lot of movement and complex currents.
The variability of its currents means that in winter the water temperature is below 15ºC. During these months, there are no swimming crossings.
At the beginning of the crossing season, starting in April, the sea temperature begins to rise until it reaches its highest peak in August, to stabilize in September and begin to drop at the end of October-November.
Therefore, there is variability in the temperature of the sea water depending on the month of the year in which you swim across the Strait of Gibraltar.
If you want to know the temperature and weather in the Strait of Gibraltar month by month, visit our post.
A factor that can be anticipated and improved with training.
There is no ideal water temperature. It depends on each swimmer. From his experience swimming in open water and his tolerance for cold water.
Swimming at low temperatures is also trained.
If you want to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar, it is important that you train outside.
In this way, you will be able to know how your body reacts to low temperatures in the water, and increase your resistance to cooler waters (adaptation). And consequently, decide in which modality you want to make your swim.
The neoprene in swimming.
In swimming, the wetsuits used have particular characteristics that make it different from other types of wetsuits used in other types of water sports.
It must have the best possible fit, great shoulder flexibility, be made of a slippery material,…
Normally, these wetsuits have different thicknesses depending on the area of the body they cover.
In the case of open water it is difficult to recommend any type of wetsuit, since it depends on what the Swimmer wants to achieve with its use.
Some swimmers prefer to achieve greater buoyancy (in this case a thicker neoprene would be indicated), and others prefer lightness and glide.
In short, it is up to the swimmer himself to choose the type of wetsuit that best suits his individual needs. It is a job that has to be done at home, since it requires special preparation.
The Strait of Gibraltar in two modalities.
In the Strait of Gibraltar there are two types of swimming.
On our website you can check the list of swimmers in both categories:
There is something important that you have to know when deciding whether or not to use neoprene in any swim crossing: If you decide to swim in a wetsuit, it will not be recognized in some international organizations (For example, the challenge of the “Oceans Sevens”). As long as the water temperature allows it, swimming without a wetsuit is an added value on any open water swim.
Even so, although the use of neoprene is optional, and the use or not of this resource depends on the swimmer himself, it depends on whether the objective is to complete a challenge and requires international recognition, or if it is a swimming crossing that is carried out for a personal challenge.
In general terms…
ADVANTAGES OF SWIMMING WITH A NEOPRENE
- Helps maintain correct body positioning in the water. The resistance in the water will be diminished. This entails less physical effort and less fatigue.
- The neoprene helps us to increase our speed (greater sliding). In groups, this feature helps to compensate speeds between swimmers traversing in a group (when there is not much speed difference).
- Helps maintain body temperature and delay the risk of hypothermia or muscle paralysis (It does not completely prevent it in very cold waters).
DISADVANTAGES OF SWIMMING WITH A NEOPRENE.
Swimming in a wetsuit also has its drawbacks, which should be taken into account before making a choice:
- Increased risk of chafing. Especially in areas where there is more friction with certain parts of the neoprene (such as the neck). We can reduce the risk by applying petroleum jelly or lanolin to these areas.
- Discomfort caused by incorrect use of neoprene (sizing or incorrect placement).
- Lack of free movement, especially in shoulders and arms.
- Above certain temperatures, neoprene can cause a feeling of suffocation.
Therefore, it is a very personal decision, which requires experimentation and your own criteria. On the other hand, it depends on the objective of carrying out your swimming crossing.
Important: advice and habituation.
If you are new to the use of neoprene, we recommend that you inform yourself about its use and the different brands and models with professionals who can advise you on it. In addition, before swimming with a wetsuit it is important to do a preliminary adaptation work