July 02, 2008

The Art Of Stuffing A Kielbasa

Every week, the LA Tri Club puts on a Wednesday morning ocean swim that has become quite the festive fete. Though it starts at the early hour of 6:30am - on a school-day nonetheless - it consistently attracts about 50 to 100 people. If you close your eyes and force yourself to throw up, it almost feels like the start of a triathlon, which is kinda good, because that's the whole purpose.

The swim is a "speed circuit," which may not be the best name for the activity. Perhaps it's better simply named a "swim circuit" - or maybe just a "don't drown circuit". Either way, this so-called circuit pretty much entails everybody starting en masse and running from the sand into the ocean, then swimming 250 meters out to a little buoy, rounding the buoy and swimming the 250 meters back to shore, running out of the water, across about 50 meters of frustratingly deep sand, then back into the water to repeat the whole thing again as many times as you please, or until your toes get stung by a stingray, whichever comes first.

This past Wednesday was the first time I attended this particular swim, despite the fact that I've heard all the hoo-haa about it for years. Catherine and I got there at about 6:15 and pulled into the parking lot with the rest of our early morning brethren. The parking lot was full. Doors were ajar, trunks were open, goggles were defogging, bodies were lubing, flip flops were flopping and everybody was getting themselves prepared in their own special ways. I looked around at the masses in their own worlds with their own processes and you know what I discovered? I discovered that there are many different ways to squeeze into a wetsuit. It almost seems like an art.

So I decided to do a little research on this whole thing. What I've found is a wealth of information about putting on a wetsuit and in just a short time I've become the world's foremost expert on wetsuit putting-on-ing. Just because I like you, I'm going to share all of my knowledge with you right here, right now. Don't you feel lucky? I thought so.

Basically, the art of putting on a wetsuit can all be boiled down to five different techniques: The Fold, The Frog, The Jump, The Leap and The Tush. Let me explain...

The Fold
The Fold is perhaps the most popular technique for putting on a wetsuit. Some of you folks may also know this as The Fingernail, The Pull or The Shimmy method. Whatever you like to call it, it's pretty simple and is the technique usually taught to new-comers.

The Fold begins with two feet in the wetsuit (having feet firmly back inside flip flops is optional, though recommended). In the early stage, the suit rests just above the knees. If required, the user can stand up and waddle to the other side of the car with the hopes of not falling down, in the same manner as one might do the moments before the start of a burlap sack race.

With wetsuit bunched on quads, the user reaches down and proceeds to pull and yank the bottom of the suit leg, massaging the suit up the leg until the mid-leg bunching has been maximized and you can create none more bunching.

For those wishing to be certified in The Fold method, one essentially utilizes a wetsuit rolfing technique to manipulate the suit (this is a trick question in the certification test - just a heads up.) When maximum bunching has been achieved, user then pulls the suit above the hips and continues the folding technique on the legs and arms until the tightest fit possible has been achieved.

The Fold technique is a favorite of Type A personalities. The problem with this is that, because they are Type A personalities, there is always more Folding and pulling that can be done.

The Frog
Though The Fold is most effective for the common body types, The Frog is apparently a very effective assembly system for those people with wetsuits that need a little extra lift in the crotchal region. The process entails getting the suit almost halfway on, where the legs and hips are fully covered with only the upper body remaining (a Fold technique may or may not be used in the early stages of this process). To an outside observer, it may seem like the user is but a couple of arms and a zip away from being done and ready to waddle to the water. But, alas, there is one more step to be had.

Prior to even beginning the upper body maneuvering, you will find The Frog-ger suddenly bending the legs and squatting very low to the ground, as if they just had sudden flashbacks to their last time in a Chinese Port-A-Pooper. And just when you think they're going to fall right onto the ground - kablaaam! - they straighten their legs and grab their crotch in one fell swoop without their feet ever leaving the ground.

The overall purpose of The Frog technique is to lift up the crotch area of the wetsuit for a tighter, more snug fit. But The Frog maneuver is not easy. It requires a level of leg-hand-crotch coordination that is not common to multi-sport athletes. If done properly, it is a thing of beauty. But for The Frog neophyte, well.... let's just say there are certain triathletes who will no longer be able to make babies. If you are interested in learning the proper, USAT-sanctioned Frog technique, please feel free to contact Catherine. She is a certified Frog instructor.

The Jump
Certain people unfamiliar with wetsuit placement have confused The Frog and The Jump, assuming they are different parts of the same maneuver. They're not. Don't listen to those people.

The Jump is a very controversial method of putting on a wetsuit. Certain pundits have claimed that The Jump is not actually a technique but rather a "flair". One often cited study reports that "...[The] Jump, though widely accepted as a viable method for getting into a wetsuit, has been proven to have less than 3.86% effectiveness in decreasing Hogan's Air Displacement..." (In case you don't know, Hogan's Air Displacement is the amount of air - in cubic millimeters - that exists at any given time between one's wetsuit and one's skin. It was named after a Captain Hogan that was a prisoner of war in Germany and escaped by swimming 300 miles to England with nothing more than a Hefty trashbag and a package of rubber bands to keep himself warm. Hogan's Heroes was loosely based on him, though after the Glad bag lawsuit, the story line was changed and Captain Hogan died a poor, lonely man with nothing to his name but a lifetime supply of trashbags.)

The study continues, "...we can safely surmise that The Jump is nothing more than a self-serving technique that aids only in battles of ego and self-confidence. "

Arguments aside, I must believe that people find true value in executing The Jump. The technique is rather rudimentary and occurs in distinct sections of the wetsuit assembly process. Specifically, once the legs have been fully inserted into the suit and such suit has been firmly raised up around the hip region, the user slightly bends the legs (though not as deep as with The Frog) and, with hands grasping the edge of the suit, bounds off the ground while yanking the suit higher up the hips. The Jump can be executed between one and three times during any single wetsuit dressing. To qualify as a true Jump, one's feet may not leave the ground by more than 6 inches.

Flip flops are optional with The Jump; it is recommended that the user be aware of their terrain and use proper judgement accordingly. The Jump may also be combined with The Frog (though please only attempt this with sufficient experience and support).

The Leap
Unlike The Jump, there really isn't a lot of controversy about The Leap. Most everybody is in agreement that this method adds absolutely no actual value towards putting on a wetsuit. The Leap is just like The Jump, with the one exception being that the user bounds well over 6 inches from the ground. Leapers oftentimes jump for heights in excess of 1 foot. The Leap is usually only done one time in any single wetsuit dressing and is most often followed by the rolling of eyes from all nearby witnesses. You'll know you have just missed witnessing a Leap attempt when you hear bystanders muttering under their breath such words as "douchebag" and "blowhard".

The Tush
The Tush is a rare and dying technique, and perhaps one of the most difficult of all methods to put on a wetsuit. It is believed that The Tush was originated by surfers in Costa Rica, back before Costa Rica was a safe place for whitey. Somewhere in the 80s, The Tush became quite popular amongst the surfing community and even edged over into scuba diving for a few years in the early 90s. By the mid-90s, triathletes began to fiddle with The Tush method but it never really caught on.

The Tush technique entails performing the entire first two phases of wetsuit placement while sitting down on the ground (or, originally, on a surfboard). Though some articles have claimed that sitting on the trunk or bumper of a car still qualifies as The Tush method, the true connoisseur would disagree.

Putting on a wetsuit with The Tush technique is extremely difficult. Though getting the feet into the wetsuit is not overly challenging, moving the suit over the upper legs and onto the tush is a feat only reserved for the most experienced. Unfortunately, once you get your feet into your wetsuit, you're really at the point of no return with The Tush for standing up with a wetsuit around your ankles is a nearly impossible task.

I don't recommend you try The Tush without proper support and instruction. I've seen people try and, frankly, it gets ugly.

* * *

As far as I have been able to tell, those are all of the modern day wetsuit assembly techniques that are currently recognized by the KSAA (Kielbasa Stuffing Association of America, the national governing body for putting on a wetsuit). If you've heard of anything else, let me know.

I hope this has been helpful.


KodaFit said...

I had a teacher when I was in elementary school that said we should always try to learn at least one new thing a day...

I'll have to score today a success in that regard!

Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this topic.

Anonymous said...

this is a riot...and SO true...pretty sure I'm type A and a 'folder' :-)

Robin said...

I think you left out the "Inside Out" technique (unless it's a sub-category of The Fold) but otherwise a very thorough treatment of the subject. That swim workout sounds like a blast! It would never work where we swim because of all the fishhooks lurking in the sand on the lakeshore, unfortunately...

Tony said...

What about the 'Partner Assisted Jump' technique?