A fun story about the birth of a costume
This is a story about the new Must Have costume in the open water swimming world…
What started off as a bit of a joke about 16 months ago has now turned into a fully fledged Costume contagion. So what is it all about and how did it come about and where are we going in the future?
I have always said that Open water swimming is not about the swims, it is not about the hours of training and time spent in the cold water under grey drizzly skies although it is a very refreshing feeling to be swimming in the rain. What makes this world is the people that you meet and most importantly, the JOURNEY. It has taken the pod of hippos to some amazing places and met some astounding people and dabbled both in and out of the water.
The Zimhippo story began about 9 years ago with a truly insane idea to swim across the English Channel to France. It is well documented on my blogs and my website but last year, the Pod acquired two new converts and this story is more about the birth of a legendary costume.
It all started about 16 months ago when I had signed on for a 42 mile swim across the Salt River canyon in Arizona. Commonly known as the SCAR swim: Where each letter is the First letter of one of the lakes that you have to swim along
S = Saguaro lake. 9.5 miles
C = Canyon lake 9 miles
A = Apache lake 17 miles
R – Roosevelt lake 6 Miles
Not for the faint of heart, and every swimmer needs their own support kayaker. Now all that was required to do was to convince somebody that sitting in a kayak for up to 10 hours a day was a fun thing to do. Audra, my partner, was my first suspect. My expectation was that it would be a resounding NO! It was at first but was definitely not RESOUNDING. A bit more arm twisting and she was agreeing to kayak 42 miles having only been in a kayak once in her life. She crumbled like a pack of cards. And once on-board, she threw herself into learning how to kayak with the same tenacity as a Bull terrier with a bone. I would not even be coerced into throwing myself out of a perfectly good kayak into 8 degree water in the name of education.
Soon we realized that we needed a mascot and Harry arrived and has been on many of his own adventures along the way. If only the blighter could talk!!!
Now in my training for SCAR, I was once at a training session where I was meant to bring some drag pants (basically a pair of shorts to add resistance in the water) I did not have any so was issued with a pair that the coach provided. Later, whilst looking on the web I came across a post about crocheted clothes and they were bright, gaudy and utterly abominable. However, jokingly I thought; Now those would make awesome drag pants. At this point a bout of sheer stupidity overcame me and I nonchalantly posted to Audra (now nicknamed the Slimhippo) “If my support crew was worth anything, they would make me a pair of these!!!”
Some time passed, training carried on and I completely forgot about that moment of madness. So the day before we were about to head to Arizona, we went off to a pub with some friends. It was their birthday so there was nothing odd about the Slimhippo having a nondescript bag clutched under her arm. It must have been a birthday present for the person we were meeting.
Well whilst sitting having a few drinks, Audra grabbed the bag, dug in it and produced a small present and then produced the most gaudy hideous crochet shorts I have ever seen for me. I just burst out laughing in the pub. Now everyone was staring at me holding up these shorts and laughing . There was only one option. Try them on in the pub in front of all the diners. Much hysterics ensued whilst I squeezed my derrière into these pants – over my jeans.
Now, The slimhippo had indeed got them commissioned on the strict instruction to make them so THEY DO NOT FIT ME. She didn’t bank on the fact that I would lose about a stone (14 pounds) in weight when she got them commissioned with a friend of hers. So now, I had a pair of Drag shorts.
Next stop, America, 40 swimmers and 40 kayakers all meeting to do SCAR and at the pre-race party, I appeared Proudly wearing these new drag shorts. No one really knew each other so the looks I got were pretty comical
A Legend had been born. Even today, everyone knows the Zimhippo, they may not have a clue who I am but the Zimhippo and his pod wrote themselves into various blogs and videos across the internet. They were a fixture at the start of every race at SCAR and also proved well for a cushion for the hours that the slimhippo would be sitting in a kayak. VERY effective as a pair of Drag shorts but they do however take an era to dry once wet. Even my tumbledryer tries to spit them out.
The next major showing was in a local 10 km swim in the UK and again, Many kind words. This swim was however very different. I was racing a whole lot of Neoprene swimmers so I was very easy to spot in the crowd of people waiting to start.
They made a showing in Italy and various showings at the local lakes to much praise, albeit accompanied by some very weird looks.
They had become my signature shorts, the only thing missing was I could not ACTUALLY Race in them as they were more effective as Drag/Drown shorts than racing.
ANTI DRAG PANTS ARE BORN
The next development came whilst talking to a fellow SCAR swimmer who had met me with my hideous pants. Tiffany also mentioned that she was going back to SCAR this year, and mentioned that they would miss me and my shorts but IF I got them made into a costume, she would proudly wear them at SCAR. I started doing some research and was let down pretty badly by a local company so was unable to get them to her for SCAR but, soon I had corresponded with an American company. I sent them a photo of the now Famous Drag shorts and asked if they could produce a design.
The results were good so we entered into a LONG email conversations regarding design, types, fabrics, sizes. Mostly due to me not really knowing what I wanted. And also the query, “Was I certain that I was ordering the right size as the sizes that I had requested were HUGE.” Slightly ironic as this was an American company that I was dealing with. Finally we came to a decision on the design and the quantity and quality and It was not long before the first costumes started arriving via the circuitous route of Philadelphia. Fortuitously, they arrived just before my first medium swim of the year: The Jubilee 10KM River swim. I had a friend of mine who had also wanted one so there were two of us in the race. My wave started after hers but as we were approaching the starting area, the second wave was jumping in and I heard the comment, ‘ Someone down there has NO costume on’. They did – it was my new Design.
As is my MO, I arrive at every swim wearing the original Crochet pants, and there are always weird looks and many people asking, where can I get a pair of those. This time it was the same as always but – I then took off the originals to unveil the NEW IMPROVED ANTIDRAG version – something I really had no idea a how popular they would prove to be. By the end of the race, comments were flying thick and fast – and interest spiraled from there.
The shorts’ most recent outing was to the Champion of Champions down in Dover. As was the norm, I arrived in my Originals and again, their infamy was surprising. Many people have asked where they can get a pair but there IS only and always will be ONLY one pair of the originals.
However, when I took them off to reveal the New AntiDrag version, they were met with equal enthusiasm. Interestingly in the few outings that these new shorts have made, comments like “are they wearing a costume?!” have been uttered. Subsequently they have now been named the invisible costume as, from a distance, it honestly looks like the person wearing them is swimming in their birthday suit. Made you look!
SPOT THE COSTUMES?
Both photos taken in the Jubilee River
So where is this all going?
A good question but to be honest, I really do not know at this moment. I have enough interest to place a fairly large order. Nemes Nutters who have the most Channel swimmers, Multiple channel swimmers and World Record holders in their club. Their coach Giovanna Richards of Bluemanta Swimming has approached me and asked me to Get them designed in their own colours so there may soon be a 2nd colour scheme to choose from. I have even been approached by a pretty phenomenal group of ladies taking on 7 of the worlds biggest swims and have been asked to sponsor them with my costumes. One of the sport’s high-profile swimmers is also on the waiting list as are various swimmers from Sweden, America The Uk, Australia, South Africa This has all come as a bit of a surprise for something which simply started out as a joke. I need to take a bit of time to think what I am going to do with it.
As I said earlier. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY