Thoughts on High-Tech Navigation Goggles

A couple nights ago I saw the Kickstarter launch of a new pair of navigation-assisting goggles.  The OnCourse Goggles use a simple, non-GPS, method for keeping swimmers going in the right direction.  Seeing this new product got me thinking about navigation-assisting goggles.  Some of my thoughts are summarized below.  Keep in mind that I am looking at this from the perspective of a marathon and pool swimmer, and not as a triathlete.

Is This Cheating?

There has been some opposition form marathon swimmers about the IOLITE and other navigation-assisting goggles.  Obviously, these types of goggles are against marathon swimming rules, which typically limit you to a pair of (regular) goggles, a cap, and a suit (non-buoyant and not heat-retaining).  We would definitely put them in the "assisted" category of our three local open water races.  But I don't think you'll see any of these companies suggesting you swim across the English Channel with them.  The fact is they are designed for, and marketed to, triathletes and not marathon swimmers.  Both the IOLITE and OnCourse goggles are USAT approved.  So the question of whether it is cheating or not depends on what kind of swimming you are doing.


Both the IOLITE and the OnCourse goggles are pretty expensive ($199 for the IOLITE and a suggested retail price of $199 for the OnCourse goggles).  That's a lot of money to sink into a pair of goggles.  Granted, the IOLITE also includes GPS for tracking your swims, but most triathletes I see already wear a GPS watch.

I think you are much better off spending your money on a good coach who can teach you how to correct and balance your stroke and help you with open water skills like sighting.  That is an investment that will last much longer than a pair of goggles, and will also help you to get faster by getting to the root of the problem and not just putting a bandaid on it.


This is one thing that I kept thinking about.  I'm afraid that some of the people who buy these type of goggles will become dependent on them and use them as a crutch and not learn to adapt to changing conditions.  What would happen if you are in the middle of a swim and the goggles malfunction or the battery dies?  If you haven't learned to sight and swim straight, what are you going to do?  I could see this causing some swimmers to panic.

This is another reason why I think you are much better off spending your money on a good coach and putting in the effort to learn to swim straight and sight.  Doing so will allow you to adapt to changing conditions and be more confident in the water.


I actually think the technology is pretty cool and it's awesome to see some innovation in the swimming world.  But is it really needed?  I assume these companies have done their research and they see a market for them with triathletes.  As I mentioned several times above, I think you are much better off getting to the root of the problem of why you aren't swimming straight and working on correcting the problems with a coach.  There are a lot of good coaches around, many of them can be found on the Utah Masters website.

These are just my thoughts.  What do you think about these types of goggles?


IronMike said...

Cheating? Yes. Even in triathlon, despite what USAT says. And it is already crowded at the buoys. Can you imagine what'll happen when a crap-ton of guys stop at the buoy to aim their goggles at the next one? Why do I care? Because many triathletes swim the distance I like to race in (5K).

Cost and technology: Good golly that's a lot of money for a google that you're not even sure will fit your face/eye sockets. Not to mention the tendency of many of these swimming technologies being poorly built. I can't tell you how many Finis products I've been through or had to re-buy.

Josh said...

Yeah, I didn't even get into the design aspect. I see a lot of problems with the On course being built into the goggles (as opposed to the IOLITE that can be attached to any goggles). I can't imagine spending that much money on goggles that I don't know will fit. And then what happens when they get old and start wearing out? You have to spend another $199?

I have only had problems with the FINIS Hydrotracker. Everything else I have of theirs (tempo trainer pro, zoomers, and snorkel) is great.

I'm afraid some people who may be newer to swimming and triathlon don't know any better and will spend big bucks on these goggles instead of fixing the core problems. I can see how it might be tempting because it offers a quick fix instead of putting in the time and effort to correct their stroke and learn open water skills.