Why Use A Tow-Float in Open Water?

You’ve seen the water dotted with them, but why should open water swimmers use a tow-float? First of all, let’s explain what they are.

A tow-float is a small, brightly-coloured inflatable that you attach to your body via a waist band and leash. It floats along behind you as you swim, making you more visible to other water users, particularly boats and jetskis.

You can also use a tow-float to rest on while you’re waiting for your friends to catch up, or even as a pillow to lay back and enjoy the sunshine!

There are a few different types of tow-floats, ranging from the standard inflatable, to a tow-float that is also a drybag that you can store valuables or even clothes in.

Drybag tow-floats come in a range of sizes from just big enough for a phone and keys – which is the most popular and useful for every day swims – to big enough for all your clothes, a towel and a few snacks – you can use these for point-to-point swims.

These days, with so many people using the water, we recommend all swimmers always wear a tow-float during every open water swim for the following reasons:

  1. They make you very visible to other water users, particularly boats and jetskis.
  2. They offer something to rest on, should you need it.
  3. They give you a way to store valuables, hydration, medicine and a phone to contact the shore in emergencies

We hear some people say they don’t want to wear one because they think tow-floats slow you down or get in the way. If you haven’t yet tried swimming one, find a small one, like Swim Secure’s classic tow-float or New Wave’s 15l Swim Buoy bag, and give it a go.

A good quality tow-float will cause unnoticeable drag and won’t hinder your stroke. Generally, you forget your tow-float is even there.

If you are having trouble with your tow-float, these tips might help:

  1. In windy conditions, try swimming into the wind, so the wind blows the tow-float away from you.
  2. If the tow-float is affecting your stroke in calm conditions, try altering the length of the leash. The tow-float should float behind you above your knees.
  3. Be careful not to over-fill tow-floats with drybags. These have maximum load weights, under which the buoyancy of the float counteracts the weight of the bag contents. If you put more than that maximum weight in the bag, you will cause the float to sink and create drag.

The main thing to note is that, from experience, we know that small tow-floats really do not slow you down or get in the way – they float along behind you minding their own business and keeping you safe while you swim.

If you have any questions about tow-floats, pop them in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Why Use A Tow-Float in Open Water?

  • Enda O'Driscoll

    Could you recommend a tow float, for an occasional sea swimmer?

    Thanks a lot

    • Jessica Lamb

      Hi Enda, if you want to take valuables like keys and a phone with you, the 15l New Wave Swim Buoy is ideal. If you don’t want to carry anything with you, the smallest tow-floats are the New Wave Swim Bubble and the standard Swim Secure Tow-Float.

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