Safety Swim Buoy v Tekrapod, Which is Best?

So to kick off my blogging career, I’m firstly going to deal with the ‘nub’ issue, why should I use a Tekrapod when I can buy a cheaper plastic swim buoy that appears to do the same job? Well simply, they are two completely different devices, Tekrapod is an active safety device that can do everything a tow float can do and then a whole pile more!

To be absolutely clear, while we advocate the use of a Tekrapod, we really want you to be safe no matter what. So please whatever you decide, always use a personal swim safety buoy of some sort, swim in a group and always tell someone where you are going, for how long and never ever swim where there are fast moving water vehicles.

So what are the safety aspects?

Living on the West Coast of Ireland on the “Wild Atlantic Way” gives you a unique insight into water safety. Seeing how changeable the Atlantic can become in such a short time period, gives you a certain perspective and respect for the sea. How storms can brew quickly, light can drop and how quickly waves can pick up all in a matter of minutes. I grew up around water and drownings were almost a fact of everyday life, so as a family we were always taught to respect the sea, rivers and lakes.

The proliferation of open water swimming has been massive here in Ireland in recent years, we have seen it grow 10 fold in as many years. It’s a difficult sport to get facts and figures on but you only need to attend the local swimming beaches to see how popular it has become. Triathlon, surf lifesaving, surfing and more recently stand up paddle boarding are becoming massively popular too. 

The same could be said for cycling in terms of growth in popularity, however road safety is far more advanced than water safety, especially in comparison to swimmers and amateur or recreational water users. For example; in Ireland in 2018, 9 cyclists were killed on our roads, in comparison to 68 accidental drownings. In the EU in 2016 there were 2,015 cyclists killed in comparison to 5,537 accidental drownings. Yet our TV’s are full of road safety announcements and adverts relating to cyclists, advising you to wear helmets, lights and reflective clothing. Yet, until recently there have been very few announcements regarding water safety but we need more awareness. Irish Water Safety have started safety campaigns but with the 7 fold increased risk, we need more.I can’t comment on the rest of Europe or the US, but I’m sure its similar.

In any of the Triathlon or cycling clubs that I have been involved with over the years, it is completely unacceptable (and has been for many years) to turn up at a cycling event without a helmet, more recently the move has been to wear bright reflective clothing and lights front and back, even in broad daylight. But this hasn’t been the case with open water swimming, It’s still acceptable for people to swim alone, in dark wetsuits without any form of personal safety device. It’s dangerous and foolish and the culture needs to change.

So what is the big issue when it comes to water safety? Well, here at Tekrapod we think it’s mainly down to custom and practice, people are reluctant to use a device that will interfear with their swimming experience, but also an element of ‘bravado’. This is particularly true of skins swimmers who seem to be the least likely to wear a safety device of some sort, yet are the most vulnerable. I have no hard evidence of this, just my personal observation.

Quite simply, if you swim in skins, whether you are in a group of swimmers or not, if you get in trouble and you are 400m from shore, there is very little people can do for you unless they are very experienced (most likely lifeguards) and trained to deal with someone in a panic stricken drowning frenzy. 

We need to remember why we love Open Water Swimming so much, that real exhilaration, that Vitamin Sea. So mindful, so free, you and an immense body of water. How can we have both freedom and safety? How can we mimic training conditions on race day?

We believe Tekrapod can help in many ways for both Skins and  Wetsuit swimmers:

Tekrapod is designed to be seamless, after you put it on and adjust it correctly, you’ll simply forget you’re wearing it. This makes it more likely that swimmers will want to use it time and time again. No one wants to be constantly reminded that they are towing an open water  safety device behind them, it detracts from the whole sense of freedom you get from open water swimming.

Tekrapod remains deflated until you need it. This has two advantages. If you have ever watched or marshalled a race from a kayak where lots of swimmers are allowed to use tow buoys, it’s almost impossible to tell who’s in trouble or who’s just taking a rest, it’s just a sea filled with swim caps and even more tow buoys, it’s very confusing. Equally if you are swimming with your friends and you all have a traditional triathlon swim safety device, how do you know who’s in difficulty or who’s just taking a break? With a Tekrapod there is no doubt about the status of your buddy, if they have activated their Tekrapod there’s a reason and as a swim buddy you need to find out! Tow buoys can’t do this, they are always inflated and give no real indication as to the users real status.

Tekrapods are long, elongated bladders some times referred to as a rest tube which are 72cm long or 3ft and are made from a very bright reflective material. When you wave your Tekrapod, you can elevate your effective height in the water from 15cm (6”) to well over a meter depending on the length of your arms, on lookers or your swim buddies will be able to see you above swells, waves and chop. Again, something a tow buoy or traditional flotation device can’t do.

Tekrapod’s bladder is designed so that you can detach it from your back pack and safely hand it to another swimmer who is in difficulty. Again, this is really important if you are going to assist another swimmer who is in a panic. You can keep your distance and still help another swimmer without endangering your own life, simply extend the bladder out toward the other swimmer allowing them to grasp the buddy loop and then release the bladder from your Tekrapod using the detachable clip. This allows you to keep your distance, it calms the swimmer down and allows you time think and to get help.

Use your Tekrapod in its’ most intuitive and intended manner, simply rest on it until the issue passes, until you catch your breath or someone comes to your assistance.

What about presence in the water? A lot of people ask, why is the back pack not brightly coloured like my Zone 3 swim safety buoy? If you ever find yourself in a scenario where there are other fast moving boats, jet skis or wind surfers in the area of water you intend to swim in, my advice is; don’t go there! no safety device is going to stop a boat strike and serious injury. However, if you do find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with fast moving water vehicles, then simply activate your Tekrapod and tow it behind you as you would an open water safety swim buoy. The Tekrapod’s bladder is much brighter and longer than most tow floats, so is far more visible. In addition, if a fast moving boat or jet ski is approaching, simply activate your Tekrapod and wave your bladder in their direction until you get their attention, leaving them in no doubt as to your presence. Tekrapod is an “Active safety Device” once activated it sends clear signals to onlookers or other water users. Tow floats are always activated and often look like mooring buoys, there are not as distinctive as the elongated bladder in a Tekrapod.

In addition we have developed the first fully water proof strobe light that is rechargeable. It’s 130 lumen, (which is pretty bright) so in dull conditions or when the light is fading, your strobe light (unlike a tow buoy that relies on reflected light) becomes more and more effective. In darkness it can be seen for miles, this is particularly helpful if your a surfer washed up on rocks, dark wet suit, dark rocks makes it difficult for rescuers to find you. This is something that will help you swim secure in the knowledge you are being seen in difficult conditions.

Finally, in most swim races and Triathlons, safety swim buoys are not allowed. If like so many people you have spent the summer training with the comfort of an open water safety float, what do you do on race day, when anxiety is heightened and you now have to swim in a pack with maybe 2,500 swimmers? In this instance the only device to use is a Tekrapod, because it remains deflated until you need it and is neutrally buoyant, this makes it a race legal device. But please check with your race director regarding its use, as the rules vary greatly from race to race, country to

In summary, a plastic safety swim buoy is a bit like a butter knife, its great at buttering bread, but if you have to do anything else, well…it’s a bit limited!! On the other hand a Tekrapod is like a Swiss Army knife, it will do everything a butter knife will do and then a whole pile more. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive but if you find yourself in a survival situation, which one would you choose?

Swim Safe!

Tekrapod is a company specializing in Open Water Swimming Safety devices, also known as Tow Floats or Swim Safety Buoys. We produce regular articles on the appropriate use of Open Water Safety Devices, children’s water safety and sports connected to open water swimming, such as Triathlons, Stand Up Paddle boarding and Surf Life Saving.


John Hanley is the founder and Managing Director of Tekrapod. You can connect with John through the website www.tekrapod.com or e-mail info@tekrapod.com.





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Size guide

size height cm height ft/inch
S 135-164 4′ 5″- 5′ 3″
M 155-181 5′ – 5′ 9″
L 172-191 5′ 6″ – 6′ 3″
XL 183-203 6′ – 6′ 6″

Size guide

Place the tape tight up under your arms to take the fullest measurement of your chest. Remember: TekraPod has adjustable straps to help you get the perfect fit.