Every once in a while, something comes along that changes everything. The four-minute mile. The moon landing. The reverse-view goggle? Backstroke has been marginalised in long-distance swimming due to the impossibility of sighting – but that could all be about to change. Two new products are coming on to the market – but are they any good?
We review the ALPKIT x OSS Recto Verso and a prototype of the Back Scope.
Invented by a professional backstroker, Barry Bebner, these goggles are designed to make long distance open water backstroke a reality. “In a pool you look at flags or the ceiling for guidance, to keep you straight, but in the open air clouds move, and trees do not grow in lines,” says Barry. “Back stroke is a great exercise to reverse the effects of time spent on the computer. Unlike most of our daily activities – and even other swimming strokes – backstroke helps open up chest muscles, but not being able to sight has stopped it being use for open water.
Barry’s ‘eureka’ moment came while supporting a friend who was completing a swim across the English Channel in 2005. “My friend was swimming freestyle, but obviously as a backstroker I was thinking about the logistics of doing that,” he explains. “Then later that year Tina Neill completed the first crossing using only backstroke and I thought ‘what a shame she couldn’t see the Cap Gris-Nez coming into view’.”
Fourteen years of research and development later, Barry’s solution is finally in production, in collaboration with ALPKIT and the OSS. The Recto Verso – back to front in French to reference his eureka moment – has a mirror in the lens that shows you where you are going. On your front, you can see straight out from underneath the mirror and the world is viewed the right way up, but on your back looking up, you can see what is behind you.
TESTER COMMENT: “Backstroke is my favourite stroke but I was mostly restricted to using it in the pool,” says OSS Executive Assistant Erin Jeffery. “These are surprisingly effective – not just at showing me where I was going, but also giving me more of my surroundings than just the sky above. With the right training, I could potentially defend my Red Bull Neptune Steps title next year doing backstroke.”
“These were surprisingly effective – not just at showing me where I was going, but also giving me more of my surroundings than just the sky above”
“The BackScope grips perfectly to my chest, and allows me the freedom to backstroke and take in my surroundings. Its subtle low profile means my swimming speed and style is totally unaffected. There’s no looking back now!”
Ross Edgley has been seeking his next adventure since he walked back onto Margate beach and became the first person to swim around the entire coast of Great Britain. Now, he may have found it.
“As everyone knows, one of the hardest parts of my legendary swim around Great Britain was sea salt literally eating away at my tongue,” says the adventurer, sport scientist and OSS Ambassador. “That was the one thing the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle just could not prepare me for. With reverse-view goggles, swimmers can keep their face out of the water during long-distance swims and keep their tongue intact. I could even eat bananas while swimming if I do one-arm backstroke – mind-blowing!”
Swimmers can keep their face out of the water during long-distance swims and keep their tongue intact. I could even eat bananas while swimming if I do one-arm backstroke – mind-blowing! Ross Edgley