In the slowly growing world of open water swimming safety devices the SwimmerBuddy definitely stands out as the largest entry I know of. It’s basically a boogie board that’s been modified to be towed by a swimmer. It has a giant fin on the bottom, a pool noodle arch on top, and cargo netting on the deck. It’s rather similar to my Frankenfish that I built earlier this year but much larger and a little more refined.
I had one sent to me a few months back and have taken it to the beach a handful of times to test. I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand it’s great for visibility and it is capable of transporting feeds and gear while you swim, it also makes a rather good camera platform for my GoPro. On the other hand I don’t like how much tugging I feel while swimming with it while lightly loaded, I don’t think it could handle overly rough water well, it’s large and awkwardly shaped making it difficult to transport, and honestly it’s pretty dorky.
When the SwimmerBuddy shows up it’s partially assembled. Completing the assembly is easy, you just need a screwdriver to tighten down the fin to the board. The pool noodle arch can just be pulled off or pushed on whenever you need it, super easy.
For me this is a device I would probably use in the lake where there’s no surf and I’m mainly concerned about not getting hit by a boat. This would probably be my first choice for a longer unsupported swim where I need to cart my own feeds.
- Big! Easy to see at a great distance
- Tracks straight
- Can float a large man
- Makes for a great camera holder when used with my GoPro in a wrist mount
- Big! Pain in the ass to fit in my truck and carry around due to the big fin
- Tugs when loaded with gear (not bad when empty)
- Not good for rough water/high wind
- Hard to get in with bigger surf – despite being boogie board based you wouldn’t want to duck dive with all that stuff stuck to it
Since I’ve built a similar device, I have a few opinions on how the design could be modified to work a little better and be easier to deal with. For starters I think the giant fin on the bottom may be overkill. I think you could get the same effect with 2 smaller fins set to the sides of the board like I did with my Frankenfish. This continues to keep it tracking straight and difficult to flip over, but it also makes it easier to transport by cutting down the size of the device by quite a bit. My other recommendation would be to look at a different tether. Since it’s a solid string you get some herky-jerky tugging while you’re swimming. Ideally you want a tether with some flex to it, I used a bungee rope sort of deal with Frankenfish which helped cut a lot of that down.
The Swimmer Buddy is available from swimmerbuddy.com and starts at about $139.95
For another perspective check out the write up from my friend Gords in Utah. He swims with his quite a bit and seems to be a pretty big fan.
*Fully bloggerly disclosure: The SwimmerBuddy I tested was sent to me as a free demo