Product Review: Huub Big Buoy

Posted on November 29, 2015. Filed under: product review, Ranty McRantface, swimming, triathlon |

I have never done a product review before. I probably won’t do one again. Personally I don’t find them that interesting. But sometimes needs must.

As seems to be de rigeur when writing a product a review I shall make full disclosure. I received no payment for this blog and got no free shit either. As will be abundantly clear in the reading.

It’s also worth disclosing I have become increasing bemused and dismayed by the commercialisation of triathlon. I have no objection to people making money out of a growth sport but the spawning of Any Old Shit has been quite incredible. People buy Any Old Shit they neither need nor will benefit from in the hope of a fabled marginal gain. Tri magazines loaded with product advertorials have simply become Any Old Shit Mongers. And every product is supported by the most vapid pseudo-science (that which we called marketing guff in the old days) “proving” why their particular brand of Any Old Shit is the New Big Shit.

So, with that baseline you can conclude that I am a fair-minded, independent reviewer. Or not. That’s your choice.

Anyway. If you have never come across a pull buoy before then allow me to be the first to enlighten you.

A pull buoy is a swim training aid that you place between your thighs to either isolate your arms to build upper body strength or to support your legs. The first pull buoys that I used in the late 70s were two white foam cylinders held together with string. By the 80s they had developed into solid figure of 8 constructions. They really are that simple. And I was as surprised as anybody that they had been “scienced”.

Here is a confession. I was weak. Normally Any Old Shit doesn’t get under my skin. I am immune to the bizarre cults of Garmin and Huub and Compressport and Jack Oatbar. But it did during the summer. With practically no swimming in my shoulders I was facing a 5k open water swim. I had no time to build the diesel engine. I was built like a diesel engine. But I could build some shoulder strength with big paddles and a pull buoy.

So I bought a Huub Big Buoy. Because science.

“You can now alter between drag loads by utilising Hydrodynamic shaping and you can choose buoyancy focus between the legs with two differing size end curves”, they say.

They go on, “For larger swimmers and leg sinkers, traditional pull buoys just don’t cut it and offer little assistance in improving body alignment”.

Boom. THAT’S ME! At a little (ahem) over 15 stone, just under 6 foot and with legs that are filled with concrete and lead this was designed JUST FOR ME. I needed a big boy Big Buoy and all the body alignment and stuff. So I spent £19.99 on it for me own customised, uber-scienced piece of triathlon magic.

And then I didn’t use it.

That is until Project Swim A Very Long Way Repeatedly got underway. Training has been going well, times are dropping like a stone and it became time to do some strength work so I cracked out the Huub Big Buoy.

There are two things you notice when you open the Huub Big Buoy.

The first is the total eclipse of every available light source. This thing is huge. It didn’t even fit in my swim bag like my old trusty speedo pull buoy did. I guess that it only fits in the Huub Triathlon Dry Bag which is scientifically engineered with black hole technology to create a tardis effect (that bit maybe made up. Or not)


The second thing is that it is emblazoned with “A MASSIVE 34 NEWTONS OF FLOTATION”. Now I don’t know about you but that means nothing to me. It could have said A MASSIVE 3 NEWTONS and I would have thought it was massive. OR A MASSIVE 34 MARSHMALLOWS OF FLOTATION and I would have been equally impressed. Or not. With hindsight I got marketeered. Marketing dressed as science. Marketoscience.

Anyway, to the pool with it.

I have been a swimmer in various guises since I was 7. I am now 44. I have swum at districts, nationals, a couple of Ironman, Escaped from Alcatraz and across the Firth of Forth. So I have a pretty good idea how to swim and how to use most training aids.

After a warm up I started a buoy and paddle set. From the off I was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt like a scorpion with my toes and legs curling over my back to touch my head.  And I felt really unbalanced – every roll of my hips felt like I was going to tip over. 1000m later I concluded that I must be using it wrong.

I consulted the web. I wasn’t.

Next session the positional discomfort was still there. I felt awkward in the water. I never feel awkward in the water. Positional hydrodynamic oscillation the marketoscientists would probably call it. By the end of the second session my lower back was aching. Two days later I still felt it.

Third session was the same. But after the third session my back was so tender that it affected the way I walked for a couple of days.

That was it. I’m out, as Duncan Bannatyne would say if this piece of Any Old Shit had been flogged to him. A mere 3000m had a negative physical impact and messed with my feel for the water.  Not a remotely happy Big Buoy owner. Not a happy big boy.

I have bloody heavy legs. If I swim with a band I move through the water like a dredger. I can only assume 34 mega-marshmallows of floating newtons, or whatever, is required for much “larger swimmers and leg sinkers” than me. Like people who have actual, real iron for legs.

Now I have never been tempted to buy a Huub wetsuit despite The Science and the noisy celebrity endorsements. Indeed, the day that I contemplate buying a £550 wetsuit is the day that I am actually mental enough to swim open water in skin. But, herein lies an important point.

Huub say in their Big Buoy marketing “For athletes training for wetsuit swims the HUUB Big Buoy is the perfect training partner and allows swimmers to simulates the leg lift offered by HUUB wetsuits”. I take this just to be marketing guff; there is not a chance in hell that all these pros (who will have a damned sight lighter legs than me) are wearing these suits if that is how they make you feel in the water.

As an entry level drug to the methamphetamine of the Huub cult the Big Buoy is ineffective. If I was crazy enough to be tempted to buy a £550 wetsuit that bit of marketoscientific copy would put me off completely. Sometimes all publicity isn’t good publicity. Sometimes halo effects are not positive halos. Weird.

Let me sum it up:

Pros – if you take it on a cruise liner and that cruise liner sinks all of the crew and passengers could safely live on the Big Buoy until rescued

Cons – it wrecked my back due to it’s over enthusiastic Newtons (my fault obvs for not having heavy enough legs); it disrupted my swim technique.

So, here I find myself sitting on the fence about the Huub Big Buoy. KIDDING.  It’s shite. Would I recommend it? Nah, the hardwood floor in the above picture would be a better swim aid.

Seriously, as a swimmer, I can’t think of anything worse to stick between your legs in an effort to get stronger. Product fail.




If you are still looking for something to spank your Christmas money on I did write The Three Best Investments I Have Ever Made in Triathlon last Christmas.


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