With the open water swimming lakes open or opening, many of our readers will be digging out the neoprene and heading outside. There’s been an increasing focus on swim safety in recent years, and the prevalence of tow floats and related tech has significantly increased, with some lakes even making them a mandatory requirement.
The TekraPod from Tekra Sport (www.tekrasport.com) is a new product on the market, which is taking a slightly different approach, with a race-legal safety device “that won’t hold you back.”
What is it, how does it work and what benefits might it offer? With the open water conditions of late April far too cold to appeal to this Editor (!), when offered the chance to trial one, I very happily delegated that task to Karen Parnell, Coach at ChiliTri (www.chilitri.com) in Spain, where the water was far more inviting.
Having recently written about open water swimming tips for us, and a s a triathlon coach (with an interest in gadgets and technology), Karen was also perfectly placed to put the TekraPod through its paces.
The product is currently priced at £115, and available HERE.
TekraPod – Swim Safety for Training and Racing
As a triathlon and open water swimming coach, I’m extremely keen on making training sessions safe as well as effective and fun. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to try a product that not only offers safety during training and recreational swimming, but also during racing.
This week I’m trying out the TekraPod Open Water Swim Safety Device. It arrived in two packages, one containing the lightweight backpack and the other contained two small CO2 cannisters and two little plastic grommets. This piqued my interest and I had to go and swim and try it. The packaging doubles as a mesh carry bag which is handy as I could put the spare CO2 cannisters in it neatly without losing anything.
I had to “arm” the device before swimming which sounds quite technical but really it came down to screwing in the CO2 cannister tightly.
Now the provincial borders are open in Spain we decided to head off to a lake in Granada to test it. This also meant I could test it without a wetsuit as I could not find any photos of anyone using it with just a swimsuit on.
I read the instructions and put the TekraPod on. A few adjustments and it was comfortably positioned on my back. I was a little worried how comfortable it would be with just a swimsuit, but it was extremely well fitting and very lightweight.
I got straight in the water and within a few minutes I forgot it was there. No chaffing or slipping. After a few hundred metres of front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke to check if it hampered them (it didn’t at all), I decided to inflate the device. I primed my cameraman on the shore, reached around and pulled the red cord handle. Almost immediately it inflated into a long float on the end of a cord, so it was still attached to my backpack. I later found out that it inflated so quickly my “cameraman” missed the action, so I don’t have a video to post!
I then proceeded to swim with it as a conventional tow float and it performed very well like this. The sausage shape means you can drape your arms over it if you are in trouble, and it has a buddy ring if you need to share it or even detach it to give it to someone else if needed. There is also a whistle if you need to attract attention. If in the event that the CO2 cannister does not work, you can inflate the bladder with a 2-3 breaths using the red valve tube.
In “tow float” mode I found the shape and size of the inflated bladder and the comfortable straps better than any tow float I have used before. So maybe another product they could consider with just the comfy strap and sausage float?
Re-use and Recycling
The good news is that the TekraPod can be re-used and re-armed. It uses the same 16g CO2 bottles you may use for inflating your bike tyres. These cannisters can be re-cycled in the normal way as other metal products at your local re-cycling centre. You can buy them from TekraPod but it may be easier and cheaper to get them from your local bike shop.
To re-arm your TekraPod is simple and detailed in this video.
To re-pack your TekraPod you can follow these instructions:
You will need a little green grommet to do this which does tend to fly off into the sea or lake when inflated. If you would like to stop the ocean receiving more plastic rubbish, then with a little bit of dental floss you can re-use the grommet. TekraPod have also put together a video on how to do this here.
Being able to drape your arms over the inflated bladder made me think about scenarios for coaching. When open water coaching, I am usually in a kayak or on a SUP board and we swim and gather regularly so I can get feedback and then coach the next part of the session. It would be an ideal product for swimmers to rest on whilst listening to the next coached section. In this scenario then just the strap and sausage float would be excellent.
Another great use case as a coach is when I’m coaching ultra-swimmers. We often go out for long training sessions (10km+) where the TekraPod would be excellent. Again, I’m usually in a kayak beside the swimmer. The athlete would benefit from a no drag safety system during the training swim for extra confidence and also be safe on event or race day. TekraPod is triathlon race legal as it does not give the athlete an advantage because it does not offer any additional buoyancy being made of neoprene.
I would personally wear a brightly coloured hat as well so you can be seen in the water, plus if you want even more visibility the guys at Tekrasport offer an ultra-bright light that clips on the TektraPod which is called a TekraLight.
You may notice a symbol on the Tekrapod which is ancient Irish writing or Ogham for Tekra, as in TekraSport. The little symbol on the clasp is the same Ogham writing but the letters TS again as in TekraSport.
Karen Parnell is British Triathlon Federation (BTF) Level 3 High Performing Coach and Tutor, Nivel 3 Técnicos Federados FATRI España and an ASA Open Water Swimming Coach. She is also a qualified NASM Personal Trainer and IRONMAN® Certified Coach as well as being a Stryd running with power coach.
Karen is based near Malaga in Southern Spain where she runs ChiliTri coaching and camps.