Innovation & Swimming – Stay On Course

The title of this article could not have been any more apt. I am a big fan of any innovation that makes swimming safe and fun, and also ignites interest to learn and enjoy swimming. In one of my previous articles, I described my experience with open water swimming and the challenge I faced in trying to stay on course (the lane markers at the bottom are no more!). Of course, it’s a skill that you can learn and slowly master as you train in open waters.

Wouldn’t it be nice to offload the sighting and navigation while you are focused on competing in open water or just swimming for pleasure?  OnCourse Goggles does exactly that for you.


The ‘miniaturized’ device is encased in the frame of the goggles and consists of a high-precision magnetometer, a 3-axis accelerometer with tilt compensation, a micro-controller, a rechargeable battery, and a pair of feedback LED lamps, one on each eyecup. The device uses earth’s magnetic force to navigate.

OnCourse Goggles is very simple to use. Once you strap it,  all you need to do is baseline the course by looking at a landmark or buoy and click a button on its frame. Any deviation from the baseline will trigger the LED lamp to blink – deviation to the left will blink the lamp on the left and vise-versa. You can also easily re-baseline your direction in the midcourse simply by clicking the same button.

OnCourse Goggles has an intelligent and elegant design, and is easy to use.

I spoke to some open water swimmers that spanned the spectrum – recreation swimmers to triathlete swimmers- to get their opinion about OnCourse Goggles. I got mixed responses, but most of them agreed that the idea was quite innovative. Disagreement was mostly around fairness in using OnCourse Goggles for competitive sport, despite this being approved by USAT for use in sanctioned competitions. Some felt sighting and ability to navigate is a skill that is developed with practice and that skill should be a consideration in competitive open water swimming, and some even felt it could be a disadvantage to the swimmer who cannot afford it. To its defense, some argued that it is not any different from some triathletes using expensive wetsuit, skullcaps, bicycles and helmet.

While the debate on OnCourse Goggles continues, we also need to consider – this kind of innovative devices can actually ignite interest in many people to get into the open water and enjoy the swimming in open water. It’s very important to choose the marketing message very carefully.

Who says innovation cannot be disruptive? In fact, most of the time it is. That does not mean we need to disrupt innovation.

-Meghna Sil


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