On Swim Caps and Swim Hats and Swimming in Adverse Conditions

I don’t get along well with swim caps. I wear one to keep the hair out of my face. But lately I’ve found that in the course of a long unbroken swim (4000-5000 yards, for example) my nice silicone swim cap slowly inches its way off my head like a person backing away from a growling dog. And then it hangs there held on by my goggle strap, while my hair floats in my face anyway.

The last time this happened, I didn’t want to take a break to deal with it; the point, after all, was to swim for a long distance without stopping. So I ripped the cap off my head, stuffed it down the front of my swimsuit, and kept going. I figure that swimming 1000+ yards with a cap shoved into my suit is another way of practicing Swimming in Adverse Conditions. Seriously, many races require you to wear an official race cap–sometimes with a timing chip on it–and if it fell off your head, you would need to keep a hold of it. So swimming with a cap down your suit could be considered sensible, even pragmatic, and not the act of a crazy person.

I started to write this post complaining about swim caps a week or so ago, but then I ran into iSwimmer’s post on the importance of wearing a swim cap, and I was hit with two simultaneous but conflicting emotions. First, I felt guilt, because here I was writing a post that might discourage people from wearing swim caps (and, as she notes, we all should). But, second, I felt glee, because she reminded me of a wonderful thing I had forgotten: the item that in the US is called a swim cap, in the UK and Ireland (and maybe other places too) is called a swim hat!

This is what an American might envision when she hears the term “swim hat.” The Brighton Swimming Club. Image from Smithsonian magazine tumblr

One of the many joys of swimming two-and-a-half weeks in the Markievicz Leisure Centre in Dublin in 2008 was seeing the sign near the entrance to the pool: “Hats must be worn in pool.” I smiled every day I walked past that sign. It makes me happy to think about the swim hat.

So, I decided to stop being grouchy about my swim cap falling off and get one of my old ones, a cheap latex cap I got at Swim the Loop last October, to see if it would stick better. I wore it Saturday and Monday, and, although those swims did not include a long straight stretch of swimming, that old latex cap did not move an inch the whole time.

I was like Homer with a plunger on his head, but in a good way.

It may be that the nice silicone cap is just too nice for the likes of me, and I need a sticky one. I am hopeful that the latex cap will stay on my head and out of my suit.

6 thoughts on “On Swim Caps and Swim Hats and Swimming in Adverse Conditions

  1. Thanks for linking to my post! And I love the picture of the Brighton swimming club. I might try rocking up to an event with one of those beauties on, just for the fun of it 🙂
    Btw, I have no joy with silicone hats either and only use latex ones. Cheap n cheerful.

  2. I have only tried swimming without one when bald. It is very chilly. I hope that the official one for the swim this summer is latex! !

    1. I’m 99% sure it will be. I’ve never had a silicone race cap. Too pricey.

      Your poor cold head! How is a swim cap on a bald head? Uncomfortable?

      1. (in case you are still following things….) The cap on the bald head feels really odd. I wasn’t swimming mega distances so I don’t know if it would start to chafe. The good news, I suppose, is that when you lost your hair you lose ALL your hair so the rest of me does look as if I’m on the swim team ready for the big meet.

      2. You have the look of shaving down without shaving down. You have found the advantage to losing all your hair. That is a positive attitude!

        I’m trying to find a copy of David McGlynn’s essay, “Skin” for you online and failing . . .

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