Bering Strait Swim

Bering Strait Swim

The Swim Buddy is an open water swim buoy, a safety aid included in swimming accessories for open water swimmers. It serves several important functions, such as:

  • It makes you visible to boaters, jet skis, kiteboarders, paddlers, surfers or even landing float planes while you are swimming, lessening your chance of being accidentally run over.
  • A swimmers’ progress can be more easily monitored by others, either on the water during an event by lifeguards, or just from shore by those monitoring your safety.  It is a lot easier to see a bright orange buoy than a mostly submerged swimmer in a black wetsuit;
  • It can be used as a floatation device when you need it in the case of cramps, dizziness, injury, fatigue or anxiety; and it can also be used to rescue others who are in any kind of distress, without risking being pulled under by a desperate swimmer (They can be easily and quickly unbuckled to share for this purpose);
  • A swimmer can be more easily found and rescued in a race if still attached to a personal swim buoy.
  • Some models can be used as a storage device that you can take along with you, which especially useful in a point to point swim.  You can also keep your “stuff” safe while you’re swimming if you don’t want to leave your valuables on the beach or in your car– No more need to worry about where to put your keys!

History of the Personal Swim Buoy

The Swim Buddy is the first open water swim buoy marketed in Canada, although it has been developed and used worldwide over many years, especially in Asia, and is now used as required swimming accessories in many swim events. It has been promoted as the Safer Swimmer by the American Swimming Hall of Fame to support open water swims over the last decade. It has been used in the UK for several years as well, marketed there as a “Tow Float”.  It is now being required in several events worldwide, such as the Lake Coniston Swim, the Sun Moon Swim (the world’s largest swim event), and even in some training programs, such as the Total Immersion US Virgin Island Open Water Swim Clinic.

Open Water Swim Clinic

Open Water Swim Clinic


For race directors, their use in a triathlon or an open water swim event should be seriously considered to keep athletes safe, especially for most of the reasons above.  Enhanced recovery of a potentially drowning participant is more likely since the swimmer cannot sink out of sight.

Deaths in the swim portion of triathlon have remained common in the last decade.  Recent news articles where exhaustion probably played a big part, herehere, and here.  Yet swim deaths have occurred in USAT events in each of the last several years, and many of these have occurred shortly after the race began.  Here is a recent death in the swim part of a triathlon in the UK, and another similar story in a Pennsylvania triathlon. The topic of triathlon swim deaths in USA have been reviewed extensively, by Dr. Larry Cresswell, Scientific American,BloombergUSA TodayHow Stuff Works, and others.

The Rattlesnake Island Swim in Peachland, BC will become one of the first swims to mandate their use for both the 3.1 and the 7 km swims in 2014.

Check out these videos to get an idea of how to use them: