Ocean Swimming Gear


You’ll want, at a bare minimum, a swimsuit. For women, this could be a one-piece or a tri suit. For men, you can choose from speedos, jammers, fullsuits, etc.

Basically, you want coverage and mobility. You want something that allows full shoulder articulation along with ease of leg movement.

Swim Cap (more for safety than hair management)

You can choose between latex (thinner) and silicone (thicker). A bright color will serve you well so you can be seen by your fellow swimmers, surfers, lifeguards, and boaters.

For cold-water conditions, you can wear a neoprene cap. If you plan on swimming in any water with waves over 2-4 feet, you’ll prefer a neoprene cap with a velcro chinstrap. The waves can easily doff your neoprene cap if it isn’t secured with a chinstrap.


In overcast weather, clear goggles are fine; for sunnier days, you’ll want a darker, smoky, or mirrored lens.

If you don’t have 20/20 vision, but know your prescription, you can choose an optical goggle. Swim Outlet carries Sporti, TYR, and Speedo models. Sporti is the least expensive option, starting around $7. TYR and Speedo models cost around $25-$40.

If your eyes each have different strength diopters, you can buy 2 pairs and mix and match the lenses.

The Sporti models are what I wear and I am happy with them.

Wetsuit (optional)

If you feel the need for a wetsuit, you’ll want to buy a swimming, triathlon, or open water wetsuit. Most wetsuits available at local retailers are designed for surfing and not for swimming. Primarily, surf wetsuits don’t have quite the shoulder mobility that swim wetsuits have. Secondly, they have different thickness in different panels. When you swim, you are immersed in the water and the extra insulation and buoyancy that swim- specific wetsuits provide can help a lot, especially in your earlier stages of ocean swimming.

Extremity Coverings

This includes gloves and booties. Again, like surfing, the swim gloves are slightly different than surf gloves. But, if you already have surf gloves, you should be fine.

Booties are a different story. Surf booties are designed to keep your foot in dorsiflexion. For swimming, you want to keep your feet mostly in plantar flexion. So, definitely opt for swim booties over surf booties. Otherwise, you’ll suffer from too much drag. A drag, yes, but not a dealbreaker.

Swim Buoy

These are remarkable inventions. Initially, they were intended to float behind you as you swim in order to make you more visible to boaters and lifeguards. Since their inception, they’ve evolved and some even have dry pouches within them so you can store your phone, keys, food, and water in there.

While they all provide a modicum of flotation, it wouldn’t be enough to be thought of as a life preserver. Nonetheless, they can offer you a little buoyancy while you tread water.

In most situations, swim buoys would be great to use in ocean swimming. However, when the waves are 3+ (about 1/2 the time in Huntington Beach), you will have to be careful. The point of connection could easily break, rendering your swim buoy useless and, most likely, beyond repair.

You could try a workaround, such as using a SUP extendable leash to secure it. That way, you can swim through larger waves and the leash would extent to limit the direct force on the point of connection with the buoy. Still, though, there’s a chance it could break apart at the point of connection in rough surf.

Final Notes

Most of these items are optional. I know a younger swimmer who swims using only a mens jammer, no goggles, no cap, no wetsuit. But, the additional accouterments not only make you more comfortable in the water, they can make you safer.

Good luck and enjoy your swims!