It took a bit of time to figure out how to use the new Arena “Swim Keel”. It looks like a flattened, misshapen pull-buoy, but there’s more to it than first meets the eye. It’s asymmetric and the smaller end is weighted, and that is what makes it interesting. Used one way up, the Swim Keel feels much like a regular pull-buoy. However, being less buoyant it keeps you in a more natural body position, which is good if you have lower back issues but won’t give you the speed boost that some swimmers get from a regular pull-buoy. It’s also a little narrower between the legs so you have to work harder to hold it in place.
Turn it the other way up, however, and things get more fun as now it becomes unstable. This immediately forces you to engage your core to control body rotation and you can feel the muscles working after just a few lengths. Just be careful which way you point the pointy bit to ensure it doesn’t collide with tender parts of your anatomy while tumble turning.
The Swim Keel can also be used very effectively for kicking drills. While kicking with a regular flat kickboard is popular in many masters training sets, by forcing you to keep your hands at the surface it puts pressure on your shoulders and back. Meanwhile, the weighted part of the Swim Keel sits about 25cm below the water surface, which is a much more comfortable and natural position for your arms.
Overall, it’s a useful substitute for both a regular pull-buoy and a kickboard with certain advantages over both but it does take time to get used to