Published on May 17th, 2012 | by Emma
History of Swimming Goggles
For swimmers, eyewear has changed an unbelievable amount. Here we take a look at the first swimmers to use this underwater eyewear right up to the modern swimming goggles.
Early History of Goggles
Swimmers have been traced right back to the 14th century where the Persians used tortoise shells to cover their eyes when diving in the sea for pearls. After these make shift swimming goggles there isn’t much recorded until the 16th century. African and American Indian slaves began to use goggles to enhance their comfort according to the International Swimming Hall of Fame
Swimming Goggles with Lenses
Skin divers from the Polynesian Isles were the first people recorded to use a glass lens in their swimming goggles. These weren’t anywhere near the anti-fog, UV protecting goggles that are available today though! Their swimming goggles began by trapping air against the eyes when the swimmer’s face was down in the water so they could see more clearly. Later, the Polynesians crafted the glass into their swimming goggle lens to make it much easier.
Competitive Swimming Goggles
Competitive swimming goggles were first used by those swimming to cross the English Channel, rather than for use in swimming pools. Thomas Burgess who crossed the English Channel in 1911 used a swimming goggle which looked similar to a motorcycle goggle. His goggles still weren’t entirely waterproof but he swam breaststroke to swim and never completely submerged his eyes. Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to cross the English Channel and she also used a motorcycle goggle however she managed to make hers waterproof by making a paraffin seal.
Goggles were bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Swimmers either had to withstand the discomfort or suffer with the chemicals that got in their eyes.
In the late 1960s, swimmers wore goggles that were created by themselves made with plastic cups which were attached around their head with elastic.
Since then, manufacturers started to design goggles that were smaller and more comfortable to wear. By 1972, swimming goggles were part of the standard equipment and have been developing since then to high tech pieces of equipment that we can now see.