Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why it's hard for whales to swim with sharks

I’ve been joking about swimming with sharks for months now, but an opportunity presented itself in my email box via Groupon and I couldn’t pass it up. I am going on the Shark Tour offered by La Jolla Water Sports. No, the sharks are not dangerous. They’re leopard sharks with mouths too small to even take off an arm. Two hours. Underwater. Sharks. Coral. Pretty fish. Heaven. I bought the Groupon without even knowing if I could find someone to go with me. I will go alone if I have to. They supply masks, fins, and snorkels, but most importantly, they will be guides and tell us where to go to see the good stuff.

So now that I am going, I have another problem: what to wear. I do not have a bathing suit that’s fit for public consumption. No. Really. Every time I have dreamed of taking scuba diving classes, I have always stopped short because I’m too worried I won’t fit their provided wetsuits (I’m not a standard size) and the humiliation I’d face when they informed me scares me too much to consider inquiry. I go to the pool at my trailer park with shorts and a t-shirt and even that is scary for me. But I am committed now. I have to wear something to go snorkeling.

This is what I had in mind. A cute suit that would cover all my cellulite and enough of my stark white skin that I wouldn’t get mistaken for a beluga whale. Off to Google I go. HA! Those cute suits only exist for kids and teens. Once you get into adult sizes, forget any pretty pattered lycra. It’s all solid and boring.

This was the very best I could find for adults. Even at a hefty $70, I would buy this in a heartbeat, but of course, it doesn’t come in whale sizes. It goes up to 2X but with my bust and hips, there is no way I could fit in that size.

This is what I found in my size: basically a wetsuit made with Lycra instead of neoprene. It goes all the way to the ankle! Do I not stand out enough at the beach as it is? You want me to arrive in longjohns? My lower arms are the only part of my body that has even a hint of tan and while my legs are not sexy by any stretch of the imagination, I carry almost no fat at all below the knee (it’s all on my hips and thighs). Plus, it’s $99! Ouch. I’d been secretly hoping I could start swimming more and maybe LOSE some of this fat, but this suit is not going to help me feel more comfortable at a public pool.

So I started thinking separates. I didn’t like the idea because I’m so short-waisted. I really wanted that long, uninterrupted front panel to draw the eye down to my acceptable shins, but what I wanted didn’t exist. Given that I had no choice but to compromise, maybe I could go back to my original vision and get a pretty printed fabric now that I was forced to settle for bike shorts and rash guards. Something like...

Again, this was a pipe dream. Large women have NO print choices at all. Large men have one print choice:

Ugh. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against camo prints on people who could conceivably have real use for camo. Military guys and gals. People who hunt or who participate in paintball wars. However, it’s just not “me”. Plus, although it is supposedly 4X, I’m very skeptical this would fit me. The size chart goes by weight instead of measurements, and I am considerably over the weight limit given. It’s cut for men, meaning probably no allowance for bust. At least this is very nicely priced at only $19.99 for the set. Further reason to doubt it would fit. Nothing made for large people is ever reasonably priced. Ever. Which brings me to my next point...

Here’s a very pretty-colored rash guard (swimshirt) that comes in my size. However, it’s $60 for just the shirt. Add some swim pants and I’d have to spend at least $90 total. And of course pants do not come in this pretty color or any other feminine color (pink, lilac, red, orange, or yellow). At all. They simply do not exist. If I want to keep the top and bottom matching each other (so I don’t get visually cut in half) I am reduced to all black or all navy, with the choice of navy eliminated if I want to be modest. The capri length only comes in black.

This monotone combination is so blah and boring I couldn’t find a model wearing anything like this to show you. Yes, I will feel nominally presentable to go snorkeling, but it probably won’t motivate me to swim as exercise more. I haven’t made the final decision and placed my order yet because I’m so uninspired.

This whole situation is pretty sad. Swimming is one of the best exercises for fat people because it’s highly aerobic and low impact. Swimming is about the only exercise I don’t totally despise. I love swimming. Someone needs to start making practical, sun-smart swimwear from the coolest patterned and brightly-colored lycra, in larger sizes. I even thought of doing it myself, but no sewing patterns exist, even for wetsuits. I would have to draft the pattern as well as sew it. While I have drafted patterns for regular clothes, I have no experience in swimwear or wetsuits. If lycra wasn’t so extremely expensive, I might experiment one of these days.

In the meantime, I’ll be wearing the monotone, dark-colored, 2-piece sunsuit from Beluga Fashions.

But I WILL be swimming with sharks.


  1. Look at stuff marketed to Muslims and Mormons maybe?

  2. Sounds like a reasonable idea. I have to wonder why, if they HAVE what I am looking for, that it didn't show up on my previous Google searches. I have been at this for literally DAYS. I guess I need to Google "Muslim swimwear" instead of "plus women divesuits". I would never have thought of that, Andrea. I will try it.

  3. Caprice, while I can't entirely relate--I'm not a plus size--I can relate in other ways. I'm tall. I'm also not "pear-shaped" (I am an "apple"). And I'm very short-waisted (all my tall comes from leg). So pants that fit normal women are too short, too high in the waist (hitting my rib cage at times!), and too tight in the waist. Fortunately, teens are tall, and I can usually shop in the juniors section (low-rise jeans actually almost hit my waistline), but the selection is limited if I don't want to look like some middle-aged chicky going through a mid-life crisis and trying to relive her groupie days.

    And despite being short-waisted for my height, finding a one-piece swimsuit that is long enough for me is difficult. I don't do bikinis anymore, so that is not an option. And tankinis usually make me look like Spongebob Squarepants because of my appleness.

    The other thing I have issues with is shoes. I'm a size 11. Which means most stores don't even carry my size. And if I do find a shoe I love based on the *size six* display, if it's in my size the proportions are different and it looks like a whole different style half the time.

    Anyway, I also want to say how PROUD I am of you!!! You get out there and swim with those sharks! THEY don't care what you're wearing. And if you start swimming for exercise, think of all the awesome suits you can reward yourself with when you do lose some weight. When you start worrying about people judging you while you're out there, think of me cheering for you over here. These big old feet can stomp pretty loudly for ya ;).

  4. As Andrea suggested, I employed Mormon and Muslim as search terms.

    The Mormons have suits which are probably considered modest by most of the population, but by the looks of things, they must have extra ozone in Utah because they don't have ANYTHING that covers shoulders, arms, or necks. They also didn't have much of anything in larger sizes, which makes some sense if you consider their stereotype is always riding bicycles and they don't guzzle sugary soda like the general population does. Still, I know Mormons DO come in plus sizes and they're probably just as frustrated as I am.

    Oddly, I had more luck with Muslim swimwear. They didn't have printed lycra, but they did have several styles with pretty colors (purple, aqua, pink, lilac etc). I actually kinda digged the one at Okay, it still had the huge problem of being so over-the-top modest it would make one a spectacle even worse than the "wetsuit" models I showed above. However, in its favor, it comes in sizes even LARGER than I need (!), is cut loose so you don't have to reveal your exact shape, and it was super reasonable at only $65 for BOTH pieces.

    It even occurred to me that the hajib might be useful in the same way as dive-hoods or swim caps are. Chorine wreaks havoc with my hair and swim caps help reduce chlorine exposure. Then again, I'd probably be too self-conscious to wear a hajib in public, no matter how I could pass it off as swim-related. However, it would be pretty easy to cut off.

    I don't like the long sleeves or baggy pants either, but maybe they could be cut down and taken in a little so they didn't create drag. All in all, the Muslim swimsuit idea holds quite a bit of promise and I am seriously considering buying it to alter.

  5. Drat. Just realized I totally butchered the word "hijab". Twice. So obvious I have no business wearing one if I can't pronounce it.

  6. I feel your pain. I am not a size 2 either, darling. As far as a wetsuit, well, I have no use for one where I'm at, so I can't give you any pointers. But, I do think it's awesome that you're going to 'swim' with the sharks. I wish you luck, and I can't wait to hear how it goes. As far as your suit, don't worry; I doubt the fish will notice or care. :)

  7. After devoting another full day to Google, I have had some success mingled with much more frustration. I found a sewing pattern that would work. It's not the right size, but I think I could modify it. I also found a website where one guy shows you how to draft a pattern from scratch to one's EXACT measurements. There's several videos, charts, and illustrations. It looks pretty complicated, but I think I could do it.

    HOWEVER, once I got excited about this idea, I went shopping for fabric. One of the reasons I don't sew much anymore, despite having the skill, is that most fabric is too expensive for home sewing and most everyday garments are cheaper to buy off the rack. However, in cases of special needs, like where the garment I want DOES NOT EXIST, I have the skills to make it and would pay the price for the fabric if I could just FIND it and buy what I want (as opposed to buying a whole bolt).

    I knew Lycra was on the expensive side. I was prepared to pay. What I was NOT prepared for was how few choices I had beyond solid colors! Absolutely DISMAL! I cannot find ANY of those cute patterns being used on children and teen swimsuits. Nor any of the beautiful tropical prints used in the adult one-pieces and bikinis. The clothing manufacturers must have some kind of hold on the market because I just could not find a single example of pretty print fabric for retail sale. There was a good selection of solids and a few ugly prints. Two-toned paisley and lots of stripes (destined to be distorted in a STRETCH application, you morons) and there were a bit more choices if I would go metallic. Evidently dance and skating costumes are more widely in demand. I shudder to think how metallic lycra would hold up to chlorine though, not to mention looking gaudy on a whale.

    Now all the wind is gone from my sails again. Why struggle through the learning curve of drafting a pattern if you cannot obtain the fabric you want to make the garment from? It should not be this hard in this day and age to buy the same fabric as clothing manufacturers use. I'm going to try some brick-and-mortar fabric stores and see if they have any better selection. Maybe their corporate buying power gets them better choices. Why they don't then turn around and sell online is beyond me, but I will go do the outdated, horribly inconvenient "shopping in a store" thing just to satisfy my curiosity.

  8. How fun! That's what I'd do, sign up to swim with sharks and then having nothing to wear. Of course I'd probably end up not thinking about it untl the day I was going, then I'd be "Oops." :)

  9. Amanda! Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Welcome!

    I will have to do a follow-up to this entry because I did finally find something to wear. Now I have to find a waterproof camera and, since my 20-year-old daughter is the only person I could manage to convince to come with me, I have to help HER find something for herself. Although she is so skinny, she will have no trouble at all when it comes to size.

  10. I purchased my swimwear at last year... but yes, I did pay $$$ for it. :( It has lasted very well though... multiple washes and no signs of wear. The quality is definitely there. I love that their shirts do include a separate swim bra that came with the top (or they did last year. I'm looking to order again this year... this time sleeveless or short sleeved as the 1/2 sleeves are just too hot. Good luck. I looked forever it seemed to find a modest swim suit that was flattering.

  11. I purchased my swimwear at last year... but yes, I did pay $$$ for it. :( It has lasted very well though... multiple washes and no signs of wear. The quality is definitely there. I love that their shirts do include a separate swim bra that came with the top (or they did last year. I'm looking to order again this year... this time sleeveless or short sleeved as the 1/2 sleeves are just too hot. Good luck. I looked forever it seemed to find a modest swim suit that was flattering.

  12. Hi Dani! I finally found a black shirt on ebay and some swimpants. Some day I may make an all-in-one suit for myself, but even doing that would not be easy as I'd have to modify a pattern or draft my own. I continued this article at , explaining what I did and what other things I found. Thanks for the comment!