I am often asked the question “Just how many swimsuits do you actually have?!?”
The answer is, um, well, a lot. And it’s not just suits.
There are at least 25 current suits in rotation, and then there are the bikinis, or my “recreation suits”, another 25 or so.
Then there’s caps. A zillion? Two zillion?
Goggles? 4 billion.
And water shirts/rash guards? Not quite as many. Probably 6 or 7.
But really, it’s all about the suits.
I decided to see if my suits could stretch to the moon and back, and while there are 25 current suits, it wasn’t quite enough for that distance. Instead, it was 14+ yards of lycra/polyester goodness, most with a history that means I can’t ever throw them away.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see what’s here, shall we?
I go through stages with my suits. While I gravitate strongly to basic black, sometimes, I like them LOUD. And I have quite a few from the Dolphin Uglies collections.
But while these are cool, they aren’t keepers. When they wear out, I get rid of them. And I’m okay with that.
It’s only the special ones that join the archive. The gifts. The ones that helped me along for meaningful swims.
For example, this one – a Mother’s Day gift a few years ago.
Yup. Superwoman. Or Wonder Woman? Or some kind of bad ass aquatic superhero?
Whatever it is, this suit has provided many hours of swimming enjoyment.
It’s done the Mashpee Superswim.
And gone 13+ miles down the Connecticut River, from Sunderland, Massachusetts to Northampton. It’s logged a zillion yards in the pool. (A zillion. That is a true fact.)
The butt is saggy, it has dirt stains from all of the open water, and it really can’t be worn anymore. But in the archive it stays.
There’s this one, which I bought because I was so excited that it had flags of many nations and included South Korea, the country of my son’s birth.
My suit, when it came? No South Korean flag. Anywhere. Not on the belly. Not on the butt. Not on the chest.
Oh well. There are plenty more suits to choose from.
Maybe this one.
Arena is perhaps my favorite suit brand and I was so sad when they left the American market for several years. Thankfully, I had this classy number, purchased in South Korea, a suit that started my Arena love affair.
A bit of back story might be necessary. It was 2009. We were visiting South Korea and I was swimming every chance to could get in the incredible hotel we were staying in while in Seoul. (At the Grand Hyatt Seoul, there is a freaking fantastic outdoor pool.)
When we ventured even farther South, to Jeju Island, I swam at the Shilla Jeju, a pool that was, ahem, a trifle hot–okay, suffocatingly steamy–but still worth swimming in. And in a gorgeous location. And with an audience every time since, um, when you are a white American tourist at a hotel that caters almost exclusively to Korean families, people are curious about you. Watchfully curious.
One day, we went to the beach, swam, and went for a big walk. And here’s the thing–when you tie your suit to the outside of your backpack so it will dry, make sure you’ve done it securely because, um, it might fall off and then you will retrace your steps, for a few miles, and not find it anyway, and so, you will visit the hotel “Gift” shop.
There, the woman working the shop will be perplexed at the kind of suit you are looking for. She, in Korean, and you, who do not speak Korea, will do a kind of sign language dance as you try to explain that no, you are not looking for one of the “stylish” suits she is offering but instead, you are seeking one for actual swimming. And she will go to the closet and pull out an old basket of suits, allowing you to paw through them as you seek a suit that might fit your tush and chest and you search and search for an extra large because clearly that is what you need. (And let’s not even talk about that time you saw some cute shoes and the largest size they carried was a 7 1/2!)
Then, you find one suit in your size. An Arena, black, with a few stripes of pink and green, and more interesting, modesty cups.
Yes, you’ve found a suit. With fake boobs. Beige fake boob cups that are perfectly round and make you look like you’ve had an instant boob job.
And it’s perfect. And it means you can swim for the rest of your time in South Korea. You cut the boob cups out, you wear that suit every day in that suffocating pool, and you love it.
And you will never get rid of it.
The Arena obsession was born.
My Arena suits travel well and with me on every trip. They’ve gone to Japan, Europe, Costa Rica….and they did lap after lap after lap in the THREE incredible pools of the Nam Hai in Hoi An, Vietnam.
And the chilly, magnificent pool of Pilgrimage Village in Hue.
But this isn’t about fancy hotel pools. It’s about my suits. And there are more.
There’s this one, from my triathlon days as a member of Team Envision, a women’s triathlon team.
There’s this one, another gift from my husband.
I will have this forever because I only allow myself to wear it AFTER Thanksgiving and definitely NOT after Christmas. It’s important to be seasonally appropriate!
There’s this one, because I’m still darn proud of becoming a lifeguard as a grown adult.
It had always been a dream of mine, something I thought “other people” did because I was past that age.
But then, I did it too. And I reminded myself that it’s never too late. (And it’s not too late for your swim goals either. Hint Hint.)
There’s this suit, which is so seriously 70s ugly, I love it. And because it’s polyester, it’s going to last FOREVER.
And there’s this one, which represents my beloved Master’s swim team, UMAMA.
This suit has done some serious racing, and its time might be done, but it’s staying.
There’s more Arena goodness, used for the Lake George 10k a few years ago.
But it was basic black for my Lake Zurich swim last summer.
And the same suit for the Mashpee Super Swim, because I’d never want to overshadow one of my amazing swimmers.
Finally, a suit, or two, that will NEVER leave the archive is one I cherish for some many reasons.
It’s the suit I wore to represent Team USA at the World Aquathlon Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland way back in 2007.
As someone who NEVER thought I would be an athlete, this suit reminds me that yes, I am, and I got there through hard work, a lot of fun, and that I am incredibly fortunate to have found this kind of joy in my life. No matter what happens to the archive, this suit is sticking around!
My new personal favorite is one I am saving for my birthday next week. I think you’ll understand why.
To that ends, I promise you that I am fully and truly committed to having fun with it and growing my suit memory archive accordingly.
(Have any favorite suits of your own? Send some photos, along with your story, and I will happily feature them here.)