Inventing the Riptide

How Our Tether Revolutionized Swim Training

Tethered swimming has been used by competitive swimmers and coaches for many decades. The first was just a rope or strap tied to the swimmer’s waist or ankle. This resulted in a very jerky motion as the swimmer pulled against the rigid line. So some creative person chain-linked several bicycle inner tubes with the swimmer hitched to one end and the other looped around something on the pool wall or deck. This worked fairly well at least, it removed the jerking by providing some elasticity. Later surgical rubber replaced the inner tube. The present-day tethers remain a variation of this idea although much prettier.


In-place swimming is a sound idea, but there has been a need for improvement in available equipment.

Swimmers and coaches have demonstrated their desire for resistance swim equipment by their continued use of such products in light of all the shortcomings in performance. The high-end products that have you swim against current provide an exceptional capability, but even those devices offer little strength training. (As a wise man once told me “You will use more upper body strength swimming downstream than upstream.”) Dry land products build strength but only approximate the complex stroke movements and are not very portable.

In approaching the design problem, I established certain criteria and felt if these could be satisfied, the device would be welcomed by the swimming community.

I believed the tether should:

  • Be comfortable
  • Allow proper or natural body position in all four competitive swim strokes
  • Not interfere with any part of the body while swimming
  • Be portable

The “one size fits all” tethers now on the market are not comfortable because friction and pressure points restrict body movement. Custom fit creates a manufacturing and inventory issue but nearly all high-functioning athletic equipment requires custom fitting.

It is the nature of any tether to pull you further underwater the harder you swim against it. Others have tried spring poles and elevated attachments, etc. to offset this. The simple solution is a line float on the “out” end of the tether. This keeps the line tension at the surface of the water, thereby creating neutral vertical forces allowing the swimmer to maintain his natural body position.

It was mandatory to find a way to attach the tether to the swimmer that totally eliminated interference between the line and the swimmer. It seemed obvious that the soles of the feet were the only part of the body that would allow attachment without interfering with any of the four competitive swim strokes.

In considering portability, machine-like concepts that are typically heavy, large, or complex were eliminated. I looked to readily available materials that could be arranged or modified in a way to satisfy the design requirements.

Riptide is a 3/8” diameter, 8-foot long, marine-grade stretch cord with a line float fixed at one end and stainless steel carabiners on both ends. Rugged water shoes, sized to fit, with 2 feet of 400-pound test monofilament line attached to the sole of each shoe by way of brass grommets for reinforcement. The monofilament line from the shoe clip into the float end carabiner.

So there you have it. Sweet and simple! Riptide is a stationary swim tether that is comfortable, allows for proper body position, has no line interference, and is portable. In use, it will accommodate your stroke technique while providing varied resistive forces to increase endurance and build upper and lower body strength.