How it all started
After an injury forced my retirement from rugby, I needed a new activity to keep fit. I live on the West coast of Ireland beside some of Europe’s most unspoilt beaches, so the sea was a real draw. Open water swimming and triathlons had become very popular so I eventually plucked up the courage to do a triathlon.
I developed a real passion for the sport eventually competing in Ironman events. I helped set up two local triathlon clubs and organised several local triathlons and open water swimming events. My wife and three daughters all became avid outdoor swimmers and triathletes. It now forms an integral part of our lives.
The need for a new type of water safety device
My perspective as a participant, organiser and parent, who was heavily involved in open water swimming led me to consider the safety aspects of the sport. Like many first time triathletes, I found my first open water swim very disconcerting, feeling anxious with so many other swimmers around me. Several club members then started using tow buoys, but I regularly heard competitive swimmers complaining about their limitations. Having an engineering background, I set about thinking how to overcome these limitations in an open water swimming safety device that wouldn’t interfere with a swimmer’s performance. After 13 prototypes, honing specific aspects on each attempt, the Tekrapod was finally born.
Over the course of 18 months, I developed 13 prototypes, setting the bar higher and higher with each iteration. I wanted a device that was not only suitable for wetsuit swimmers, but also for the most vulnerable non-wet suit simmers. I wanted a buoyancy device that was race legal, didn’t interfere with your swim stroke, that wouldn’t chafe on long swims (even without a wetsuit) and was there when you need it, instantly letting others know that you need assistance. I wanted a device that let you swim uninterrupted, so that you could find your rhythm without being constantly reminded you are towing a buoyancy device.
While testing the early prototypes, I quickly recognised the problem of getting my children and some adults to wear any safety device and wondered if making the Tekrapod “cool” through customised designs would encourage people to use them? It worked, local children loved the idea of having their own unique designs or club logo’s. This made them enthusiastic about wearing their Tekrapod’s and gave me peace of mind that my children would have something that kept them safe, while training for surf lifesaving or general open water swimming.
I have now added a powerful, rechargeable, 100% waterproof light to the package. So in addition to the brightly coloured bladder (when activated), the light can be used when conditions become dull or for swimming at night.
What’s in a name
You may be wondering where the name came from? Well, I was reading a book by Neil Shubin called “Your Inner Fish” which tells the story of his discovery of “Tiktaalik” one of the very first transitional creatures who first ventured onto land, also known as Tetrapods. Well I simply changed the “t” to a “k” and came up with “Tekrapod”.
Now that I have the “invention bug” I am constantly working on new designs, better materials and I don’t intend to stop at safety devices, I have a whole host of other ideas bursting to get out of my head. I can’t wait, I should have done this a long time ago!
Ultimately I hope we will view safety devices like the Tekrapod, as essential to swimming as cycle helmets have become to cyclists. It will be unthinkable to enter the water without one and frowned upon by clubs and organisers. It will just take some time to change mindsets, but I believe Tekrapod can help to do that!