Karen Parnell is a British Triathlon Federation Level 3 coach & tutor and a Swim England open water swimming coach. She lives in Southern Spain where she runs open water swimming camps, taking visitors to hidden open water swimming gems.
On our swimming camps we always ask our swimmers to use a tow float when swimming in open water for their safety, but I am constantly amazed by how many different ways they are used. From now on, I’m going to pack one in my hand luggage whenever I travel as they pack up small and have so many uses!
Obviously, their prime use is safety and visibility in the water to warn boats, anglers, jet bikes, paddle boarders, kayaks, swimmers and other water users where you are. A secondary use, at least for tow floats with this feature, is as a dry bag while swimming, which means you can take your kit with you and not have to worry about it being stolen. In addition, it makes it easier to start swimming in one place and finish in another if you can take your kit with you.
But here are some less obvious uses:
- Dry bag while hiking – why not also use your dry bag while out in the mountains or doing some other activity where you want to keep some clothes dry? It will still work as a dry bag when deflated.
- Travel pillow – When we drove to a lake early in the morning our sleepy swimmers used their tow floats as a handy car pillow, so they arrived at the lake fully refreshed. The next time I flew I stole the idea and took mine on the plane in my hand luggage and used it as a pillow against the seat in front.
- Beach seat – On the sea swim day some of our swimmers used their tow floats as seats on the sand when we had our picnic after a long swim.
- Flotation device – during the coached swimming session our swimmers used them to rest on so they could hear the coaches’ feedback while taking a breather in the water.
- Bottle holder – Some models of swimming tow floats have a built-in compartment for a bottle so swimmers can stay hydrated during the swim. We generally can’t feel ourselves sweating in the water, so this is a great idea to keep on top of your hydration.
- Nutrition holder – Using your dry-sack part of your tow float for an energy bar or dried fruit is a great idea. Even if you have a tow float with no pockets, it’s easy to tape on a gel or banana.
- Mobile phone or GPS holder – One tow float model has a transparent waterproof compartment where you can put your GPS unit or phone so you can read the screen without taking it out of your dry sack area. Great for tracking how far you’ve swum or snapping a selfie in the water.
- Marker buoys for coaching – I sometimes use tow floats as markers for open water swimming drills, sighting skills practice and to mark out swim areas for coaching.
- Number belt – One of our triathletes forgot his number belt so on race day detached the belt part of his tow float and with the help of two safety pin made a number belt!
If you’ve got a novel use for a tow float, post a picture on Instagram and tag @outdoorswimmer @Karenparnell01
Find out more about Chili Tri training camps: www.chilitri.com