Event organiser Breca require solo entrants to use a tow float or Restube for additional safety: which should you choose?
In the original Ötillö, competitors race in teams of two. This format has been widely adopted by other event organisers as swimrun has grown. One of the reasons for racing as a team is safety. Swimrun events often take place over remote and rugged terrain and involve challenging open water swim sections. It’s part of the appeal but it does increase the risk. Should you stumble on a run, or get into difficulties while swimming, your race partner is there to help you out or call for assistance.
The downside of a team event is that you have to find a race partner. And this doesn’t appeal to everyone. As interest in swimrun has grown, so has demand to participate as an individual. Organisers have responded by adding solo options, usually for shorter events where safety is more manageable. Nevertheless, the original safety concerns remain, especially on the swim sections.
Breca Swimrun has responded to this by introducing an additional kit requirement for solo participants. If you race alone, you must use either a tow float or a Restube. A pull buoy, while allowed, is not considered sufficient.
A tow float, sometimes known as a safety buoy, is exactly what the name suggests: a float you tow while swimming. You secure a tow float with a strap around your waist. This connects to the float through a short leash. There numerous variations on the theme starting from a simple, small ellipsoid-shaped float to large waterproof bags you can carry a change of clothes in.
Restube, a brand originally created for kite-surfers, works differently. With a Restube, you carry the float deflated and folded into a pouch that sits on a belt around your waist. Should you need a float in an emergency situation (e.g. you get cramp and you need something to rest on), pull the emergency toggle which immediately inflates the float from a CO2 cartridge. You can also use the now-inflated float to wave and signal for assistance.
From a swimrun perspective, both have pros and cons. The big advantage with the tow float is that it is already inflated and therefore visible while you are swimming. This makes it much easier for the safety team to see where you are in the water. It’s also there if you need a non-emergency breather. However, while a tow float causes minimal interference with your swimming in most conditions, it can be a nuisance in strong winds or big waves. You then have to figure out how to carry the tow float while running. While most have a grab handle and are lightweight, it is an extra thing to carry, and in swumrun you sometimes need your hands for scrambling up steep paths. One option would be to loop the waist belt through the carrying handle and clip the tow float behind your back while running.
Restube is slightly heavier than a tow float due to the CO2 canister and the pouch. On the other hand, you can fix it unobtrusively to your back and pretty much forget it’s there, for both swimming and running. It’s certainly less hassle but you don’t get the visibility benefit of the tow float.
From a pure swimrun racing perspective, I’d choose Restube over the tow float. However, if I already had a tow float and not a Restube, I’d use the tow float rather than spend the additional money. If I had neither, I would probably buy a tow float first because, as I’m primarily a swimmer, I’d find more uses for it after the event. A basic tow float rather than a floating dry bag would be my preferred option.
Find out more:
For tow floats see:
https://swimsecure.co.uk/discount/WEB10 (using this link will give you an exclusive 10% discount for Outdoor Swimmer / Swimrunner readers on all Swim Secure products)
For Restube see: