Chaffing -- Is it a given?

So far, my longest time in water has been 4-5 hrs.....all fresh water, not sea/salt water.

But, I've seen people talk about the chaffing that they suffer in a variety of conditions.
Fresh, salt, short, medium, and long distance/time.

I've NEVER had chaffing issues in the water (on the run, THAT's a different story).
But it seems others regularly have it.

I wonder, if chaffing indeed a given - is it inevitable - (provided the right conditions exist)?
Or, are some people "just going" to get it, and others won't?

Because I've never gotten it, I don't particularly think about it before I swim. I use sunscreen, but that's it.
So, I wonder how I'd "know" what to use, where to put it, how much to use, given that I have zero experience w/ it.
You can read a plethora of information about the use of chaffe-reduction protections.... the only way you know you need it to discover the hard way that you need it? (Is that a no-brainer question?)



  • kejoycekejoyce New EnglandSenior Member

    I think some people have skin that is more prone to chafing, and that there are also stroke-related considerations. In the end, yes I think it is inevitable if you swim long enough - especially in salt!

    I chafe very little - I can swim for 3-4h in salt water without any anti-chafe goop and come out fine. I have found that over 4h in salt I do have a couple small spots where my suit will leave marks, but that's it. I think it's partially my skin, but also that I have a pretty "open" stroke, if you will - there aren't any spots where my arms rub against my sides and my arms stay away from my body. I have had a bit of thigh-chafe after a long time in salt-water when I've mis-placed the goop. Skin-on-skin = bad news.

  • abbygirlroseabbygirlrose Los Angeles and Palo Alto, CASenior Member

    I am on the other end of the spectrum from @kejoyce, I sometimes chafe in the pool or lake and will chafe in salt water after less than 30 minutes. That being said, I am definitely in the sensitive skin camp in all areas of life.

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    I agree totally with Kejoyce. I think it is about the person and the conditions. When I first got into the sport, I read all the horror stories about chafing and so I was ready to go. Researched, bought stuff etc. After really getting into the game, and doing distances from 2 to 13 miles, I found that I only have two areas that are an issue of any armpits, and my "nether region." And even those areas are hit and miss...kind of like they have a mind of their own. SO, I do apply Body Glide when I remember to, and I have no issues. When I forget....I still rarely have issues. NOW, if you want to talk tongue chafing....I still haven't found a remedy for that (have tried mouth wash, cola, etc.). My tongue peeled for three days after Key West. So gross. Even a really long fresh water swim will give me tongue issues. As with stroke and kick and body type having a lot to do with whether or not your body will chafe, there must be something about my breathing method that causes my tongue to take serious stress sometimes. It IS cool to freak out my wife and kids by pulling big pieces of skin off my tongue however!! :)

  • miklcctmiklcct London, United KingdomMem​ber

    In the past I got chaffing near my balls - I had to replace my swim suit for that. The problem solved afterwards. (I also got chaffing in my tri suit in the past - I will need to check again if it really causes chaffing in the future if I'm doing longer triathlons)

    Though my longest swim to date is about 5 3/4 hours in fresh water and about 5 1/4 hours in salt water, which with a good suit I didn't get any chaffing at all without any lubricant. I need to see if I can do 8 or 12 hours in the same swim short.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    In answer to your question: yes. At least for me.

    I learned the hard way in my first 5k. It was also my first OW swim in salt water (besides a triathlon when I was a yoot). Finished it with terrible chaffing under my arms and the crotchal region. Here's what it looked like:

    But like you say, how do you know what to use? My next OW swim was a year later in the UK in a river. I had to wear a wetsuit (stupid UK rules) so I got some of that glide stuff and put it in all the suspected places. But that was not enough.

    The wetsuit I had was a farmer john (irony of irony, it counted for the race director as the required wetsuit, but since it had no sleeves, I had to sign the waiver as if I was swimming skins). I used the Glide under the straps of course, but that mattered not. I had two huge scars for 8-9 months after. Here they are:

    Horrible. I now liberally slather my pits and other chaffy places with baby butt cream when I'm going to swim longer than 3 hours or so. I use vaseline for shorter swims, especially in salt water.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USSenior Member

    I've gotten chafing on my arm, from my goggles. The cheap Tyr vision correcting goggles are kinda square at the outer corners. I'd worn that style for years, and no problem. I think some pairs are just rougher there. Now I file those corners down on all my new pairs and haven't had any more chafing from them.

    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    As a Lifelong Laker I thought I knew what chafing was (unpleasant but not unbearable). THEN I swam in salt water. O.M.G. :#

  • kejoycekejoyce New EnglandSenior Member

    i got what i had coming... after saying how infrequently i chafe, i got a small chafe spot (from a suit I hadn't work in a while) after 6 salty miles on Saturday :D

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNSenior Member

    Yep, plan on chaffing. Like many of the others, lube up the pits, collar bone where your suit hits it and towards your nether regions where it hits your groin area. Also something to consider is if your suit isn't super tight at the top, lube up the nips too and/or find a tight suit. The "girls" can chafe in about 20 minutes and YEOWCH! At least with that you can drop the top part of your suit if nobody else is around (or you don't care). :) Body glide or a heavy slick of Vaseline worked for me from anywhere between 2 and 20k.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    I've never had boob chafe, but a mate once greased "the girls" for her EC swim and they slid out. :D

  • swimrn62swimrn62 Stowe, VTSenior Member

    Yeah, you have to be conservative lubing up the nips. If you're buxom, they do end up sliding about with each rotation, looking for an escape. My one attempt (and one only) to avoid sea lice bites was a total failure on all fronts.

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    I have a spot on my left shoulder where it just lightly brushes the side of my face where I always open up. Even if I shave right at the start (I keep a razor in my bag for that purpose) I’m still going to be raw if the swim is over 3 hours. My best bet is to shave.

    Lube takes care of everything else...


    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

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