“When my husband was young and on a swim team, they didn’t have goggles,” recalled Regina Paradowski of Paradowski’s Swim & Sports in Kearny Mesa (858-569-6946; paradowskisswim.com). “They used to put milk in their eyes to stop the red-eye.”
I hadn’t heard about the milk before, but the red-eye, I knew about. After a day in a friend’s pool, my kids arrived home red-rimmed and bloodshot, and I could almost feel the ache in their tired eyes. I remembered it well — the sting that came after a summer’s day at the YMCA pool when I was growing up. I zipped to Wal-Mart and came back with Dolfino goggles for each. But on our next pool visit, I couldn’t help noticing the kids ditching their protective eyewear after only a few minutes. “They leak!” I tightened them. “That hurts!”
“When people come in,” says Paradowski, “we look at their faces and make suggestions. Sometimes, we’ll suggest five or six different styles that might work. Some Asian people that come in have hardly any nose bridge. We have goggles that accommodate them [SEAL, $19.99–$29.99]. Kids come in with tiny faces, their eyes very close together. We have goggles for them, too [Swimple, $9.99]. And people with wide faces will need a goggle with a wide bridge.”
For my kids, Paradowski suggested “Hydrospecs by Speedo [$13.99–$15.99]; that’s one of our best sellers, and it comes in an adult size, a junior size, and a youth size — each one progressively smaller. They have silicone eyepieces instead of foam; I think that’s better because the foam can carry bacteria. And they come with a split strap — that means that in back, the strap splits in two. A single strap will tend to slip up or down on the head. But with two, one goes up high and the other goes in the middle. It holds it on better. They really are the best for kids doing everyday swimming, and they come in either clear, tint, or mirror-finish.”
Mirror finish? “If you’re on your back doing the backstroke, you want something that will reflect the sun.”
Of course, not everyone does the backstroke. “Choosing a goggle depends on the type of swimming you’re doing. AquaSphere makes goggles and masks for use at the beach — the SEAL [$29.99], the SEAL XP [$23.99], and the Kaiman goggle [$17.99]. They’re really easy to adjust; you push the lever up and slide the strap, then push the lever down. The SEAL mask gives you 180-degree panoramic vision; people buy that when they’re going to the Cove and they want to be able to see all the fish. You wouldn’t really need that in a pool. The SEAL XP is a cross between a mask and a goggle, and the Kaiman is a regular goggle. They’re available in adult and children’s sizes.”
Racers want a more low-profile goggle, something that fits into the eye socket. “We have what is called the Socket Rocket by TYR [$6.99–$14.99]. It’s like a Swedish goggle, but it has a bead of silicone around the lens to make it more comfortable. We also sell the Speedo Speed Socket [$23.99–$28.99]. Women racers seem to like the Vanquisher by Speedo [$13.99–$16.95]. That’s a competitive, low-profile goggle with an adjustable bridge. It seems to fit people’s faces really well.” (Incidentally, I asked a friend of mine — a woman who works as a lifeguard — about her preferences, and she said that many of her fellow lifeguards loved the Vanquisher.)
I’m pretty much blind without my glasses, and I wondered about prescription goggles. “An actual pair of prescription goggles could cost up to $300,” said Paradowski. “But we have a nice alternative for basic swimming — for people who don’t wear contacts and need to be able to see the pace clock during swim-team practice. They’re optical goggles; they start at -2.0 magnification and increase by increments of .5 all the way up to 10. We can get a different strength for each eye — say, 3.5 for one and 5.5 for the other — and we can usually get pretty close to a prescription. And we have optical goggles for children and juniors; even the Vanquisher comes in an optical form. They run from $17.99 to $29.99.”
The lifespan of a pair of goggles depends, of course, on use. “Aqua Sphere and Hydrospecs last a long time, but how long depends on how often you use them. You should rinse them in cold, clear water when you’re done with each use. And while all of our goggles say they’re scratch-resistant, they will get scratched if they’re in your backpack with your shoes and other stuff — especially the ones with a mirror finish. Some goggles come with containers, and we do sell containers separately [$7.99–$9.99]. Also, most goggles come with an anti-fogging application, but it doesn’t last the whole life of the goggle. Every manufacturer sells anti-fog drops or sprays [$2.99–$5]. You just add a drop to each eyepiece and wipe with a cloth.”
Other places for goggles around town:
Sport Chalet, UTC, 858-453-5656. Hydrospecs, $14.99 (junior) — $16.99 (adult). SEAL, $29.99; SEAL XP, $19.99; Kaiman, $16.99.
Sports Authority, Kearny Mesa, 858-292-0800. Hydrospecs, $14.99 (adult size only).
Big Five, Sports Arena, 619-298-3350. Hydrospecs, $14.99 (adult and junior). SEAL XP, $24.99; SEAL Jr., $19.99.