By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Open water swim goggles for mass start triathlons need to be built differently than pool goggles. TYR’s new Special Ops goggle acknowledges the different design requirements. The TYR Special Ops goggle joins an already successful line of swim goggles for pool and open water but finds the middle ground between a dive mask style, like TYR’s Arc 180, SwimMask and Hydrovision full swim masks and their pool goggle offerings like the minimalist TYR Socket Rocket 2.0. and their classic Tracer Racing Classic. TYR has found a sweet spot between the dive-mask protection and visibility and the hydrodynamics of the mini-goggle with the Special Ops.
A key requirement in a true triathlon open water goggle is impact protection, not against lens breakage, but against getting hit in the face. Triathlon swim goggles are more than just optics, they’re safety equipment. TYR built a deep silicone eye cup on the Special Ops goggle. While the primary role of the eye cup is to seal out water a deeper design provides protection if you are bumped in the face by an errant heel or elbow in the swim.
Another benefit to the deep eye cups on the Special Ops is flexible fit. Since the Special Ops uses a molded, flexible one-piece nose bridge the deep hypo-allergenic eye cups provide a molded fit on a wide variety of face shapes. In addition to adding durability so the goggles survive in the bottom of your race bag, these eye cups will likely outlast less robust designs even going from fresh water to chlorine training pools to salt water.
The Achilles heel on most goggles is the strap. Every triathlete who has had a goggle strap break while treading water thirty seconds before their wave starts will appreciate the strap on the TYR Special Ops. The strap is one piece molded polymer that divides into two sections at the back of the head for stability and fit. Compared to older, conventional pool goggles the strap is thicker, reducing the chances of breakage. Adjustments for strap length are easy since the adjuster buckle has a slot in it to pull the free-running end out of the buckle to tighten or loosen. I wore the goggle over my hair with no uncomfortable pulling from the strap.
The key feature on the TYR Special Ops are the lenses. The Special Ops has polarized lenses. Polarization is a series of lines on the lens so small you can’t see them. The frequency and direction of the lines helps reduce light reflected horizontally from the surface of the water. The benefit is you see across the surface of the water to the next turn buoy with much less glare. The glare reduction also reduces stress in a mass swim start where swimmers may be swimming into a rising sun and splashing water turns their field of view into a confusing sheen of blinding white. The TYR Special Ops lenses reduce that sheen and glare significantly. Polarized lenses have been used for years by fishermen and boaters to cut through reflected glare from the surface of the water. The benefit for a triathlete navigating between turn buoys in an open water swim are obvious. One caveat to wearing polarized swim goggles (or sunglasses); the LCD display on your wrist top computer or sport watch will appear to have a large black spot on it when viewed through a polarized lens.
The TYR Special Ops goggle is available in four stock colors and a multicolor “unlimited edition” version. Each frame color has a different lens color tint but all of them are polarized. The subdued blacked-out version has a color neutral gray lens with a silver mirrored outer surface to reduce transmitted light. This is the go-to choice for swim starts that have you swimming into a rising sun. The white/red combination uses a rose lens to enhance contrast and is excellent for overcast or grey sea conditions where it is darker. The white/purple combination uses a colored mirror surface for bright conditions when surface reflection is exceptionally harsh such as calm days. A fourth version uses a multi-color goggle frame that is easy to find in your race bag and comes with a mirrored surface copper colored lens that produced a warming effect.
TYR’s Special Ops goggle is a great addition to the TYR open water line-up that is also at home in the pool. With the polarized lenses, deep, flexible eye cups, durable strap design and good lens colors this may be the only goggle you need from pool to triathlon swim start. TYR did a nice job with their Special Ops goggle. It joins a select group of designs that are well suited for the open water swimmer who doesn’t want a full face, mini-SCUBA mask design but wants more protection and greater field of view than a pool specific goggle. The addition of polarization even positions the TYR goggle ahead of most competitors in this small but important category.