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A growing sphere of influence

Aqua Sphere’s sales and marketing manager Martin Newton talks to Robin Barwick about the brand’s growing presence in the swimming and triathlon markets
06 January, 2010

Aqua Sphere’s new Ironman Speedsuits were launched at the 2009 Ford Ironman World Championship at Kona, Hawaii in October, but what is wrong with Bolton? They have a perfectly good Ironman event there!

Firstly, Hawaii is the ‘Big Daddy’ of Ironman events and receives massive coverage worldwide. Hawaii is where the original Ironman championships were founded so the heritage is there. It is the pinnacle of the sport to compete in an Ironman in Hawaii.

Secondly, our Speedsuits were developed for use in ‘non-wetsuit’ events (where water temperature exceeds 21° Celsius), which includes Hawaii, while Bolton unfortunately isn’t ... at least it wasn’t the last time I swam in Rivington Reservoir! Don’t get me wrong though, Rivington is a fantastic Ironman venue in its own right.

What is so special about the Speedsuits?

The snug fitting and water repellent fabric not only provides compression to reduce muscle fatigue but also provides an element of buoyancy superior to that of a regular swimsuit. In the absence of ‘regular’ wetsuits, Speedsuits are the fastest suits in the water.

Are many world-class triathletes wearing the Speedsuits in competition?

Germany’s Faris Al Sultan and New Zealand’s 70.3 World Champion Terrenzo Bozzone were among the professionals who wore the Speedsuit in Hawaii. UK elite athlete and Coach Richard Allen will also wear the new Speedsuit in 2010.

The Speedsuits are due for retail delivery in February. How has selling-in gone?

Nearly all our wetsuit stockists have identified it as an important addition to their Ironman/Aqua Sphere range for 2010. The main sell through period will be from March to August, and we have been pleasantly surprised by the uplift of traditional sports retailers buying into the suit range, now that they have the eye protection lines (goggles & masks) well established.

Is triathlon still a growing sport in the UK?

Triathlon is still one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, with next year’s BTF race calendar set to be the busiest yet.  There are BTF organised races every weekend from April to September, with many indoor events during winter. There are also varying triathlon distances so people of virtually all ages and abilities can participate. This makes the sport more attractive to people who might be regular gym users, but who want to get out and do something more challenging. Triathlons are great for your ‘weekend warriors’, and people find the challenge quite inspirational. 

For those who are not strong swimmers, wetsuits these days are so buoyant that there is no way swimmers are in danger of sinking. It is hardly an effort to swim in them, it really isn’t.

Aqua Sphere has reported year-on-year sales growth of 20% in 2009. How have you managed this in such tough times? 

Our Eye Protection lines are the core Aqua Sphere products. We are still at the forefront of innovation when it comes to SCUBA, snorkel and swimming eyewear. We have also developed a successful swimwear collection with Italian-made quality, which will be key to our growth as we continue to offer the best materials and design for products that are always in stock.

How much of the Aqua Sphere product range is manufactured in Italy?

The whole of the Eye Protection range - which includes the swimming goggles, open water swimming masks and accessories – is manufactured in Genoa, which is where you find the highest-grade silicon. We have been manufacturing down there for almost 60 years.

Aqua Sphere is the official swim kit partner to the Great Swims that were launched this year. Has that involvement been worthwhile?  

The Great Swim Series has been an unprecedented success, attracting over 10,000 open water swimmers to some of the most breathtaking lakes in the UK. The series is televised on Channel 4, and as official Swim brand we aim to grow this event significantly. 

What else can we look forward to from Aqua Sphere in 2010? 

We are always expanding our product range. The UK is more conservative than some of our European friends when it comes to colour-ways and swimwear design, but items such the Vista Lady and Kayenne Junior, in a variety of colours, will complement our 2010 swimwear collection. Also look out for the new and innovative Aqua Trek, a true non-slip, pool-friendly sandal.

At Aqua Sphere we innovate, rather than replicate, and end users are certainly demanding better quality kit as swimming for fitness, triathlons and in the open water continues to grow.


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