Why are swimming tow floats orange?

And the sleeves and legs of Swim Research wetsuits too?

Designed for open water swimming, tow floats allow you to be easily spotted by other water-users. They are a key piece of kit for any distance sea swimmer, and have been specifically designed to keep the wearer safe, visible and buoyant, if needed. Whilst it may seem obvious why orange is the chosen colour for tow floats, there is more to the design process than is first apparent. In this blog we’ve delved beneath the surface to explain why our tow floats, and wetsuits cuffs, are the shade of orange that they are.


International Orange and Visibility

International Orange is a specific colour that is used in the aerospace, engineering industries. The intention of the colour is to set objects apart from their surroundings. This shade of orange is also used for ocean-related equipment such as lifeboats, life rings, lifejackets and tow floats. Orange sits directly opposite blue on the colour wheel, therefore making it the most contrasting, and allowing it to be easily visible against the blue sea and sky.

International Orange shows up well against grey and dull backgrounds too, making it the perfect colour for traffic cones, warning signals and anything needing to be noticed or located. It’s the colour of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and American astronauts’ space suits!

We also use this shade of orange for the panels on the cuffs of our Swim Research wetsuits. This allows the back of the suit to be seen against the sea, as your arms and legs are constantly raised and moving whilst you’re swimming. It can be difficult to see swimmers in the ocean, especially if there’s chop, waves or grey conditions. Therefore, our suits coupled with a tow float and an orange swim cap make you pop against the scenery.


Why are our wetsuits black, not orange?

Removing the fact that you might not feel confident to be seen swimming in a bright orange wetsuits, there is a more scientific reason our suits are black.

First and foremost, a wetsuit’s primary job is to keep you warm. This second skin protects you from the elements, makes you more buoyant and allows for optimum movement. Black neoprene not only absorbs heat from the suns rays, keeping you warmer naturally, but provides the best UV protection. Whilst raw neoprene is originally white, this would promote glare and reflection, and cause sunburn. We dye our neoprene with Eco Carbon Black, which comes from waste tyres.

Orange panels and cuffs are added to the ankles and wrists, positioned on the back of the suit, for maximum visibility by other water-users such as boats and kite surfers, and, in case of emergency, the RNLI and coastguard for rescue purposes.

We would highly recommend these two bits of essential kit for visibility purposes, plus keeping you warm and buoyant. They may one day save your life! For more information on any Swim Research products take a look around our website, or get in touch via the contact form.