Swim Fins

So far I’ve only written about footwear worn on land, but footwear can be worn in water too. Specifically, I’m thinking of swim fins, also called fins or flippers. Wearing fins make you look like you have big, long froggy legs, but fins will help you move faster in water. Fins are worn in water sports like swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving.

Big feet are an advantage in swimming as they help to propel you faster through water. Some great swimmers have big feet. For instance, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe’s shoe size is 17, while Michael Phelps’ shoe size is 14. For once in my life, having big feet is an advantage. Wearing swim fins further increase your feet size and help you move faster in water with less effort.

Swim fins are made of rubber and plastic, and can come as full-foot fins or open-heel fins. Full-foot fins fit like a slip-on shoe and are not adjustable in size. Open-heel fins have a strap at the heel and can be adjustable to fit.

Shih Yen wears swim fins on the beach, taking a break from snorkelling in Fiji.

Shih Yen wears swim fins on the beach, taking a break from snorkelling on Beachcomber Island, Fiji.

I have only ever worn full-foot fins. My first pair of swim fins as a young teenager was a sky blue pair made in Italy by Cressi-Sub. Now known simply as Cressi, this company was founded in Genoa, Italy in 1946. Cressi is one of the world’s largest manufacturer of products for water sports.

Words can’t describe how amazing snorkelling is. There is something magical about seeing fish in their natural environment. I still remember the awe and amazement I felt the first time I snorkelled at the age of 13 in Sabah, East Malaysia. I highly recommend snorkelling. Put on a pair of goggles, slip on some swim fins and give it a try. Even if you’re not a good swimmer, you can still put on a life jacket and go snorkelling. It really is worth it.

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Olympics swimming and flag socks – patriotic or insulting?

I am suffering from some serious lack of sleep at the moment as I follow the London Olympic Games. Working? Eating? Sleeping? All have to fit around my TV watching at present.

I have watched all the Olympic swim events so far, even watching the heats and semi-finals. I think the latest swimsuits look boring. Watch any final of the swimming events and it looks like everyone is wearing the same uniform, even though they are all representing different countries. Ninety percent of the swimmers wear all-black racing suits. Come on! Has Speedo gone colour blind? Speedo’s rival Arena can make bright coloured racing suits. Surely Speedo can manufacture racing suits in a colour other than black, or add some kind of design rather than just plain black. These racing suits are so plain and boring compared to the swim suits and trunks that the divers compete in and compared to the swimsuits of many years ago.

Of course these new boring black swimsuits came about after the full body suit, seen at the Beijing Olympics, were banned because swimmers wearing them were too fast! Forget about performance enhancing drugs, these were performance enhancing swimsuits. The Speedo LZR racer suit was launched in February 2008 and marketed as ‘the world’s fastest swimsuit’. Many races were won and records broken by swimmers wearing these suits. Swimmers who wore the Speedo LZR suit could lower their times by an average of 2 percent. The suit also increased bouyancy and the effect compounded, so wearing 2 suits made the swimmer even faster. This prompted FINA to ban full body-length swimsuits in 2009. In 2009, Therese Alshammar, veteran swimmer from Sweden, was disqualified in Australia after breaking her own world record in the 50m butterfly, for wearing 2 swimsuits. I wonder which official had the job of checking swimsuits! Now only swimsuits that reach to the knee are allowed.

So, in amidst a sea of boring black knee-length swimsuits, it was good to see some colour and patriotism from the US women’s swimmers. On day 4 and 5 of the Olympics competition, Cammile Adams and Kathleen Hersey, both US swimmers in the 200m butterfly event were seen walking to the starting blocks wearing knee-high socks with the design of the stars and stripes of the USA flag. Interestingly, Kathleen Hersey’s nickname is Legs, because she has long legs.

Knee-length socks in stars and stripes, similar to those worn by a few US swimmers

Knee-length socks in stars and stripes, similar to those worn by a few US swimmers. Photo from http://www.polyvore.com/american_flag_knee_high_socks/thing?id=26170388

I think the design of these socks is different and meant to be fun – show your patriotism on your feet. But this only works in cultures that don’t think of the feet as low, dirty or unclean. In other cultures, like in Thailand or in many Arab countries, wearing socks with a design of the nation’s flag on it would be highly insulting and a great disrespect to the flag.