With record-breaking heat all over the world, beating the heat has become a preoccupation for most of us. If you’re like me, the best way to pass the sweltering hours on a hot summer day is poolside. Swimming is not only a great family activity but a lifelong hobby that I thought I would have to abandon when I made the decision to observe hijab.
Lucky for me, as I was agonizing about my decision to follow my principles or continue my love affair with all things aquatic, the burkini burst onto the scene. At the time it was only available online from one or two companies. They weren’t stylish, but they got the job done. After watching a clip about Australian lifeguards who had modified their uniforms to conform to their religious beliefs, I was convinced that all was not lost.
Until that moment I have to say that the only “modest swimwear” I’d seen was stretched across the backside of old ladies, or demurely flouncing around the expanding midsection of pregnant women. A few Christian girls in my city wore what looked like a tankini, but replaced the bottoms with bicycle shorts. I balked at the few offerings I found online for “modest women” of all faiths. They didn’t give me the kind of coverage I was looking for and, honestly, they were ugly. The burkini wasn’t a beauty either, but it covered what I needed covered and was loose enough to leave me some dignity as I moved in and out of the water.
So, I saved what seemed to be the exorbitant amount of money (I was a broke college student) needed to purchase one of these modest swimsuits.
It was revolutionary.
First, let me tell you that it was blue. Bright blue. Smurf blue. I joked that I was an underwater ninja and this was my uniform. But more importantly, it fit snugly around my face, allowed me a full range of motion without pulling across my chest, hung low enough so that my fanny was covered at all times, had hidden tethers that kept the tunic down and thumb holes to keep my sleeves from riding up with wear. The bottoms had gathers around the ankle, an inner pocket on the waistband and the leg was wide enough to not to cling to my skin but didn’t hinder me with extra material.
This suit was not just for wading in the water with the kids. It was for serious swimmers, and the designers had thought of all the tricks. The material wasn’t just knockoff spandex, it was quick drying and didn’t cling even when wet.
I got a job at a youth swim camp that summer. It became part of my everyday wear, and after a week, I was over the “smurfiness” of the look. It wasn’t a great look, but I wasn’t worried about that anymore.
Fast forward to 2018 and the market has changed significantly. Where once there had been only one or two variations available, there are now dozens of designs, cuts, and fits for every hijabi swimmer. Burkinis range from “slim fit” swim pants and tunics with detachable swim hijabs to the “swimwear” that looks more like a tracksuit. I’m told that those models are more popular with older women and women who don’t swim but enjoy spending time seaside or boating. Where once your options were limited to a narrow set of colors, color combinations, and decorations, the situation is completely reversed. I may have had to look like a smurf, but you don’t have to.
As the market has changed, so have I. I have learned what I like and don’t like in a swimsuit. I have also had the chance to try quite a few of the modifications out there and find what works best.
So, when SportHijab.co sent me a Capsters swim hijab to review, I was really excited. I have two burkinis that I use regularly. One is the classic two piece. The Sportiva from al-Sharifa is designed with swimmers in mind. The design is slimmer, without being “slim fit”. There is more give in the armpits and slimmer sleeves. It is ideal for getting your daily laps in. The other is a three-piece from East Essence. It is wider and more loose and is mostly usefull when hanging out by the water with friends and family. The separate headpiece is like a modified swim cap, allowing me enough room to tie my hair up inside. I am using these two as my reference points.
My daughter wearing Capsters Swim Hijab.
I decided to put the Capster swim hijab through its paces during a hot afternoon at the pool with my kids.
Let me begin by saying that the fabric is of excellent quality. It is proper swimwear material. The material allows water to bead on the surface and roll off rather than immediately get absorbed, becoming heavy and uncomfortable. Quality material means a lot to me, and the actual construction of the hijab shows me that somebody was trying to pay attention to the details. No uncomfortable seams or itchy tags or ridiculous branding in conspicuous places.
As always, my first complaint is that there isn’t much room for my hair. If your hair is moderate length or thin, you should have no problems. But if you are like me, with a long, thick mane, you might struggle to wind it up in a way that gets it to fit under the hijab comfortably.
A side profile of how Capsters Swim Hijab fits and may pose a bit of a tighter challenge for thicker ethnic hair. Totally doable but just a heads up for all Muslimahs to consider.
It held up well during a water fight, and stayed in place while I swam back and forth with my kids. Then came the real challenges.
It didn’t do so well UNDER the water, as it did in it. One quick surface dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a dropped locker key was enough to dislodge it. A few laps across the pool with a vigorous breaststroke also made it slip out of place.
So, what was the verdict?
This is a great hijab for those women who love water sports but not necessarily serious swimmers. In my opinion, the classic two-piece burkini is still the best option for daily swimming. The “pouch” at the top for hair and the slip-on design helps to keep it in place while you swim, dive, and ski. However, for rowing, casually swimmers, or just fooling around at the beach, this is a great option. I would recommend it for those who are making the transition into full-time hijab but aren’t ready to invest in an “Islamic swimsuit”. You can pair it with a rash guard and swim leggings, or slip it on before a race. You can use it during water aerobics or while wading in the pool with your kids.
Swimming is a great activity for the whole family and can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. There is no reason why women who observe hijab should be sidelined, or forced to wade into the water encumbered by layers of fabric. We have demanded and the market has responded. At splash parks and public pools everywhere, I am seeing more and more Muslim women getting wet and wild. This offering by Capsters is another great option to help get you off of your sofa and into the sun.
Safura Salam is a freelance writer, mother, and a part-time gym hero. She studied journalism at Penn State, and went on to work for the DNC before deciding to write full-time. Her work focuses on helping others fulfill their potential, tell their stories, and encouraging diverse voices in storytelling. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.