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Product Reviews

Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves and the Will to Swim, by Alexandra Heminsley

Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves and the Will to Swim, by Alexandra Heminsley

Review by Anita Campbell

I somehow knew I would like Alexandra Heminsley’s new autobiographical work about wild swimming, ‘Leap In’.  The extent of this feeling grew over the three sittings it took to read it, with repetitions in my head of ‘I know what you mean, ’ ‘I know what you mean’, which may have eventually got on her nerves had she actually been with me. However, as I am also an open water swimmer who feels fear when my face goes under into the deep unknown, her process of unfolding and examining that fear was a joy to behold.  A cliché I know but I felt like I was there every step of the way. 

I knew about the importance of breath work and trusting the water from my friends and swimming teachers Ian and Cheryl Cross (Swimming Without Stress).  This book reinforced the life affirming importance of breath! Alexandra exposes her anguish and the growing realisation that she can overcome her fear and details the minutiae of practical concerns along the way, the comical wetsuit scene to name but one.  Highlighted too is the fact that life doesn’t just stop because one is working on one’s fears and she writes with poignancy about going through IVF (failing to stop myself saying I know what she means again!’).

Alexandra describes learning a new skill as an adult as like noticing and opening a door to find an extra room that you never knew you had. All I can say is that after reading ‘Leap In’  I was engaged in an enjoyable internet trail searching for wild swimming courses, Lake District swimming and new goggles!  Even if opening the door to open water swimming is not your thing, this journey inspires us to face the fears that stop us doing what we know we would love.  It just kick started me into what I already knew, life is short, get out there girl! 

Anita Campbell
Amateur runner and swimmer and constant journeyer to face my fears.

Member of the Almost Book Group which now has at least one other member keen to start wild swimming,  after reading Leap In. 


27-Feb-2017 /  written by Anita
Swimming With Swans

Swimming With Swans

Ian's Enjoying The Japanese Swans Open Water 7

Swans UK asked us to try the latest edition to their range, the Open Water Seven and we received it just in time for our holiday to Rhodes.

I find it a very well designed and manufactured, comfortable goggle, easy to adjust and non-leaking. I've been using the mirrored lens, perfect for bright Greek sunlight. I'm looking forward to trying the polarised lens version for dull British skies.

I've always been a fan of Japanese goggles. They look and feel great. But this is the first kind I've used which offer peripheral vision.

The difference between the OW7 and other goggles with peripheral vision is that, instead of curved lenses, it has 7 faces or sides. For some people, curved lenses can distort vision, especially when turning to breathe, though I'm not familiar with this problem myself. Anyway, vision was great in bright sunlight and I loved wearing the OW7 on holiday.

I showed it to Rita from London during a lesson and she said, 'Wow, disco goggles.'  Our 19 year old son took them straight out of the box when they arrived, said, “These are so cool!' and proceeded immediately to make a Vine video of himself wearing them, turning his head slowly. He'll definitely be borrowing them next time he goes for a swim.

Cheryl says the fit feels quite small and racy. She likes larger frames which sit above her eyebrows. She's a loyal Aqua Sphere fan and it's difficult to persuade her to try different brands. But I'm really enjoying the OW7 this summer.

Swans say:

The Open Water Seven lenses have seven faces so you get excellent peripheral vision without the distortion often experienced with curved lenses.

Available with polarised or mirrored lens.

Super soft nose bridge and 3D gaskets provide a comfortable fit making it ideal for longer swims

The thick, split silicone strap will help to ensure your goggles stay firmly in position. The clamp on the side of the goggle allows the strap to be adjusted easily and quickly, and it's unique design means it locks into place one the goggles are on your head.

- Anti fog coating
- UV protection
- FINA Approved
- Soft Silicone
- Extra strong lens
- Free mesh drawstring pouch.


11-Aug-2015 /  written by Ian Cross
View Review

View Review

Ian Rates Japanese Goggles

We've introduced to our range of goggles two great models from View, made in Japan. One of them is available with an extensive choice of prescription lenses.

When we lived in Tokyo In 1991 we loved swimming at the Sendagaya Olympic stadium.  On our wedding day, we swam, stretched and rested in the hot bath there. With a spring in our step, we went for a walk in the park and then to our favourite restaurant for chicken katsu.

I had a pair of goggles then just like the ones I received this week, the View 500 Platina. Soft, hypoallergenic silicone, quality lenses and a great fit. For me they work straight out of the box. There's a just-right gentle suction, without needing to tighten the strap too much. They have a choice of 3, easily interchangeable, nose bridges. This aims to offer a universal fit. These goggles look great, with understated quality.

James from Bracknell was at Croft Farm for a residential learn to swim course last week. Finding a pair of goggles that are hassle free for someone who's never worn them before can be a challenge. But it's an important part of learning to swim without stress. These worked for him immediately, minimal adjustment needed, and throughout the week, I didn't see him stop to defog or readjust them once.

They don't have peripheral vision like Aqua Sphere goggles but, for me, in a pool that's not a problem. The main thing I'm looking for is a good leak-free fit, quality lenses and a quiet but smart design. The View Platina provides all of these. 

Also in the new range is a lady specific View Selene Soft Touch (the Platina is unisex), especially designed not to leave marks. We gave a pair to Gill, who's disappointed that Zoggs have discontinued the Ultima Air which she liked. Here's her review:

"I was asked by Ian and Cheryl to try out a pair of Selene Soft Touch goggles as my favourite goggles were now only available with mirrored lenses (as an over 50’s improver swimmer I felt that mirrored lenses were not quite the right image!) 

My Selene Goggles are a lovely lavender colour. I used them while on holiday in Gran Canaria (March 2015) in the sea and in an outdoor fresh water pool. Since being home I have been using them in an indoor pool. The vision is excellent and the lenses have stayed clear and have not fogged up once. They are easy to adjust, although I did have to put an extra hole in as they were slightly too big without a swimming cap on. The main feature for me is that they are very comfortable around the eyes and do not leave marks!"

And a new choice for people who need prescription lens goggles, View provide a full range of diopters for the Platina, to correct both long and short sight (range from +6 to -10).


16-Mar-2015 /  written by Ian Cross
Life Changing Stuff

Life Changing Stuff

TLC For Your Sole And Spirit
My friend Richard at Swim with Ease suggested after reading my last blog piece, 'Feet Notes', which was all about the front crawl kick, that I could write a less technical and more 'feely' piece about the feet..... 

Being in the water for several hours a day can wreak havoc on your feet. After a pool session, the skin of my soles and between my toes is wrinkly, white and baggy. 

Soon after I started teaching swimming in 1996 I met a podiatrist who informed me about special footsprays like Courtin Teatree Footspray which rehydrate the feet. Knowing about these products was vital to my career progression. Without healthy feet, I might have had to go back to my job as a careers adviser. So for years, I was very happy to spend about a fiver every few months on a nice product like the Courtin one, which until recently we sold on our online shop.

But a couple of years ago I met another podiatrist while on a First Aid course with the excellent Alex Brazkiewicz of Holos Healthcare and Training. Cheryl and I go to see Alex as part of a small group of healthcare workers every few years. He somehow manages to make basically the same information seem fresh, inspiring, even exciting.  Over coffee I was telling this podiatrist how grateful I was to the first guy for informing me about the indispensable footspray. 'Or good old Surgical Spirit does the same job,' he said. And I haven't looked back. 

About 500 ml from Boots costs about £3 and lasts for ages! I decant 50 ml a time into a little Echinacea bottle which takes up no space in my swimming bag and lasts about 6 months. Echinacea by the way is another important substance in my life. I hardly ever suffer with colds because, when I feel one coming on, I take 15 drops in a glass of water before bed and wake up feeling fine. It's magic.


27-Nov-2014 /  written by Ian Cross
Test Of Three Best Selling Goggles

Test Of Three Best Selling Goggles

Aqua Sphere Seal 2.0 Mask, Kaiman Exo and Barracuda Ultimate

This is a personal review of three of our best-selling clear lens goggles, each one taken from its own style category. How do we feel they compare with each other in identical conditions, straight out of the box? We swam for 30 mins in the local leisure centre, at lunchtime, plenty of daylight, no artificial light. 

We took the new Aqua Sphere Seal 2.0 mask (a big mask), a Barracuda Ultimate (a small, conventionally styled goggle), an Aqua Sphere Kaiman Exo (Aqua Sphere's latest curved lens design) and a Kaiman Exo Ladies.

Aqua Sphere Seal 2.0 Swimming Mask £18.99

Ian started with this and swam 400 metres front crawl and 100 metres breaststroke. It's extremely effective for vision. You can see almost the whole pool and the clarity of the lens is excellent. It fits my medium sized, squashy- nosed face well. I got a good seal quickly, without needing to over-tighten the straps. It feels softer and lighter than the original Seal mask.

But I knew I had it on. There were a couple of times when I had the slightest drop rolling around in the lens (I think). It could have been rolling off the goggle and along my face underneath the skirt. I suspect that because of the size of the mask, I may have knocked it a couple of times during my crawl swimming and dislodged the seal. As soon as I switched strokes, I realised that for me, it's a great goggle for breaststroke but a bit cumbersome for front crawl. Leisurely breaststroke did feel great with the mask on.

If you want to play in the water - gliding, doing Alexander Technique work, teaching, observing others, swimming with fish on holiday - it could be the one for you. If you swim primarily breaststroke, or on your back, it should be considered. Personally, I wouldn't want it as my main front crawl google.

Ian's verdict:

Very well made, great lenses, super vision, a bit big and cumbersome. You know you're wearing it. I would take one on holiday.


Seal 2.0 - Great vision - no side distortion and clear skirt under eye so you can also see under the body. Comfortable and didn't leak.

Barracuda Ultimate £18.99

It's a consistent Swimming Without Stress best seller. We get lots of fans making repeat orders. It doesn't seem as well made as Aqua Sphere goggles. It doesn't have curved lenses. It's latex free but it's made in China (Aqua Sphere goggles are made in Italy). So why do people like it so much?

When I swapped the Seal 2.0 for the Ultimate, I was immediately aware of two experience changes. The first concerned vision. The Ultimate was at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Seal 2.0 with its panoramic vision, making me focus on the black line at the bottom of the pool as I swam front crawl. Also, while they didn't fog up, the lenses didn't seem crystal clear like the Seal lenses. My second experience was of lightness. The Barracuda Ultimate felt lovely and light on my face, especially after the Seal 2.0. I guess this goggle bridges a gap between a racy, competitive swimming goggle and a recreational/ fitness goggle.

It's small and neat. And the other thing of course is its ability not to leak for most people. Barracuda say it fits 90 per cent of human faces. It is very good for this. As soon as it went on, I knew it wasn't going to let any water in. The strap is easy to adjust. Unlike the Aqua Sphere system, it's not designed to be adjusted in situ. But once you've got the fit right, that should be it and it only takes seconds.

Ian's verdict:

Light, neat, leakproof, faff-free. Not so good for vision. I feel it won't last me as long as Aqua Sphere goggles. I probably wouldn't choose it because I want to see well. I can see why people like it for lane swimming but I wouldn't wear one in open water.


I thought the Ultimate was a nice fit but it leaked on my first length so I had to tighten the straps a little. Vision wasn't as good as larger ones - sides (flat lens) and under eye (solid colour frame/skirt). As I got into my swim I forgot all about the Ultimate (a good sign). It left some marks around my eyes.

Aqua Sphere Kaiman Exo £20.49

After the other two, this one felt just right, for front crawl, breaststroke and backstroke. For me (Ian), it's got everything. When you love a goggle, it's hard not to be evangelical about it - you have to remember it's horses for courses. But it really works for me. It feels light enough, perhaps not as light as the Ultimate. The vision is panoramic, not as good as the Seal. It's not as small as the Ultimate if you want small and neat. But it's not cumbersome either.

It feels like part of me as soon as I put it on. It doesn't leak at all and I can see what I need to see. It's easy to adjust. The frame is firm but with enough give for a good seal. My swimming feels better with it on! The original Kaiman is a lovely goggle but I've always found it liable to leak - perhaps it's a bit wide for my face. But the Exo is my favourite goggle. And to be honest, for our test, I took three new pairs of goggles from stock but didn't bother cracking the new Exo open. I used my current pair that's been kicking around all over the place all summer. And it still came out on top.

Ian's verdict:

A winner. My favourite goggle. Well made, versatile, good looking, comfortable, good vision, leakproof for me.


The Exo Ladies felt too small for my face. I could feel the side seal right on the corner of my eyes. There was no distortion but a solid colour seal under the eye meant vision was restricted there. Watertight. Left marks, mainly on the sides of my nose.

If you need any advice,  just give us a call or drop us an email.


05-Oct-2014 /  written by Ian Cross
A Wetsuit Alternative

A Wetsuit Alternative

Gul Evotherm Clothing
It's not very often I get excited by new products these days. I still like Aqua Sphere's Kaiman goggle 13 years after it first came out. The only earplugs I use are the Zoggs Aqua Plugz, silicone and shaped like the ear, similar to the Ear-ex ones I discovered in 1993. And I'm very thankful for the innovation of Jammers (men's knee length trunks). I do cringe when I see old photos of myself in trunks the shape of women's knickers! But we do still sell them.

If I used a wetsuit, it would be Aqua Sphere's Aqua Skin because it's well made, good value and not so thick you can't move. The trouble is, neoprene irritates my skin and I'd prefer to suffer a dose of hypothermia than a sleepless night scratching the bits my rash vest hasn't protected. But I do like to swim outdoors in west Wales, pootling around in the water like a Victorian poet, drinking in the surroundings, putting a few strokes together and playing with my dog. On holiday abroad, I enjoy swimming with the fish but don't want a burnt back, and outdoor pools can be cold if unheated. So I need a wetsuit alternative.

Luckily, I've found something which meets my needs perfectly: the Gul Evotherm range, with 'core insulation technology' – oh yeah!....

Gul say: 'Lightweight, hollow fibre, stretch fabric which provides optimum warmth through thermal insulation.... Fabric is 8 oz, four way stretch, thermal fabric with fine brushed wicking inner surface.'

I say: Cosy, fleecy lining which doesn't irritate the skin. Tight fitting but easy to get into, and off. Takes the edge off when it's cold but doesn't restrict your movement like wetsuits. Great for teachers who want to keep warm when working in cold water (though it isn't specially treated to be chlorine resistant). Makes me feel like the man from Milk Tray.

I used an Evotherm short sleeved top in UK and abroad in the summer and thought it was great. But on a recent trip to the Swimming Without Stress stockroom I discovered a long sleeved top, even better, and Cheryl has just given me, as a 22nd wedding anniversary present I think, some Evotherm Longjohns, which I'm over the moon with. So I've got the full Gul Evotherm set and I'm off to Lanzarote at the end of November where I'll be doing a bit of teaching and lots of swimming. I'm so excited, I might go to bed in my Evotherm kit the night before I go, and wear it on the plane!


09-Nov-2013 /  written by Ian Cross