Don’t be a drag!

Emma Knudson, Staff writer

If you’ve ever watched a swim meet, you may have noticed that the competitors make every effort to be as smooth and streamlined in the water as possible, including swim caps, specialized swimsuits (or for men, speedos—one of the only sports in which the men’s uniform is more scant than the women’s?), and perhaps most curiously, shaved bodies.

In case you didn’t already know, a lack of body hair reduces drag when swimming, according to certain studies and passionate participants of pre-meet rituals.

How much does shaving physiologically work? Are times improved by seconds, milliseconds, or is the racer’s mind more at ease knowing there’s one less potential obstacle to battle on race day?

According to David Flores, a junior and a member of the Linfield swim team, shaving does make a huge impact in more ways than one.

“It’s such a big difference! You feel less drag and faster in the water. It feels so weird when you jump in the water for first time because you feel so smooth. I think it helps with my times because I feel smoother in the water and less resistance!”

But shaving before a meet isn’t a regular routine for Flores, or for many other swimmers, according to him. “I only shave and most of the guys team only shave for big meets like conference…. Shaving is very common in the swim world, almost everyone at conference is shaved.”

Flores’ teammate, senior David Brody, also saves shaving for the big day.

“When you finally get to shave you feel super fast in the pool. You feel super smooth and just feel better in the water.”

Training through that extra drag is almost like running with ankle weights, or exercising with that mask that simulates being at elevation. When you take of the mask, the ankle weights, or finally shave, what once felt difficult feels almost too easy. Thus leading to better performances and faster times, which is crucial come Conference Championships for the swimmers.

“It’s kind of weird but we shave together in groups in the hotel showers usually. The showers get kind of gross but we mostly play loud music and just shave.

Some teams even shave their head!” Flores said. “Shaving parties” aren’t uncommon in the swimming world. Why not celebrate an act signifying one’s physical readiness to compete at a higher level? And what better way to get those pre-race jitters out than to handle a razor (for the first time, if you’re a male)?

Flores admits it’s not always easy, and that accidentally cutting oneself is commonplace, especially for the men. And Brody admits that others think it’s “weird to shave your legs for swimming, but basically everybody in swimming does it.”

The benefits far outweigh the risks, making those nicks around the ankles worth it when the racing is done.

It’s not just the reduced drag that helps the swimmer perform better. According to a study conducted by Indiana University, shaved skin is significantly more sensitive than unshaved skin, improving efficiency and motor control in the water. This explains why swimmers, like Flores and Brody, claim they feel better in the water post-shave. With numerous benefits, it’s no wonder why shaving is preached about in the swimming world.