What is the Best Kickboard for Me?
Non-swimmers do not appreciate differences in swim equipment. “Why does that racing suit cost $400 when I can get $20 swimsuit at Walmart?” But for those of us who rack up thousands or tens of thousands of yards a week, even minor differences in equipment can be noticeable. This article reviews the best kickboard. How are they alike? How are they different? And which is the best kickboard for YOU!
The Basic Kickboard
You can find these classic kickboards at almost any public pool in the country. They are manufactured by many swim companies, from the giants (Speedo, Finis) to eBay knock-offs. They are flat, generally, 20 inches in length, have a curved leading edge and that’s about it. These featureless boards are designed with only one concern in mind… keeping costs low. Unfortunately, this sole focus on cost leaves swimmers prone to injury or poor training techniques. If you have to use one for a few laps… that’s fine. But competitive swimmers should really be using a performance kickboard.
The Basic + Handholds
The next step up in kickboard performance adds handholds. Again, kickboard manufacturers offer a variety of configurations, but in general, the handholds define specific locations for you to grasp the kickboard while you swim. This design idea is a little shortsighted. Why would a swimmer want to support their weight entirely through their hands? And the closer the handles get to the back end of the kickboard the less balanced it is in the water.
TYR sells a higher-end kickboard that deviates a bit from the most basic flat designs. It measures four inches shorter than standard kickboards. Handholds at the front allow the board to provide support for forearms, and the middle section is curved (concave side up). The design allows for the swimmer to roll slightly side to side, such as when swimming freestyle. Overall, it’s an improvement over the most basic designs but really designed for the side-to-side rolling function.
Drill Specific Kickboards
Finis sells a unique design that looks part kickboard and part swim paddle. It is much smaller than other kickboards (12-inches x 12-inches) and is intended to keep your body in a streamlined position by sitting below the water’s surface. A velcro strap helps your fingertips to also stay in a streamlined position without having to grip the board. Finis does claim it puts less stress on the shoulders, but partly because the board is not meant to support much weight at all. Use with face in the water.
For those that (1) have a really small swim bag, or (2) aren’t ready to invest in both a kickboard and a pull buoy, Sporti makes a hybrid product. Like most hybrid products, this one doesn’t serve either purpose very well. As a pull buoy, it’s not quite thick or buoyant enough. As a kickboard, it doesn’t provide as much support as traditional designs and it’s a little awkward to hold while you kick. If you’re serious about improving your kick training, you’re better off committing to a product designed specifically for kicking.
Ray-Board: The Most Comfortable Kickboard You Can Own
We’re admittedly biased on this, but Ray-Board™ is the only true performance kickboard available. Its unique shape places your arms in a comfortable bend position, with your elbows slightly below the surface. This allows your body to maintain a more natural swim position while you kick, and you don’t have to arch your back or strain your neck or shoulders, making it extremely comfortable to use lap after lap. Ray-Board overcomes the top problems with flat kickboards. If you’re serious about swim training, you should be using Ray-Board in all of your workouts. It is hands down the best kickboard of 2020.