Proformance Band

Balance bracelet for seasickness… Not!

It’s embarrassing, being married to a skipper-type person like Tony, that I get seasick. Sometimes violently so… Our time in Sodwana was marked by some totally spectacular amateur dramatics on my part, culminating in me curled in the foetal position on the deck at the back of the boat, whimpering pathetically because my by then empty stomach wouldn’t stop trying to eject itself inside-out through my oesophagus.

Boat rides are fine, but the combination of a rocking boat and the smells of fuel fumes and neoprene can turn my stomach in an instant. This leads to some very antisocial behaviour on the boat, and (I am sure) it makes Tony want to hide his face in shame. I sometimes even get sick while I am diving, if it’s a particularly surgy day or site.

Our divemaster in Sodwana, a super-relaxed young fellow called Dean, recommended one of those new-age balance bracelets, saying it had really helped with his seasickness. I need to admit that I am a skeptic of NOTE when it comes to any whiff of bogus science or non-western medicine. I am  not convinced that our bodies even have a magnetic field, let alone that it needs “balancing”. But the alternatives – staying off the boat or using anti-epilepsy medication as a seasickness prophylactic – were not palatable.

Ginger, a widely-touted natural remedy, never seems to be on hand when I get on the boat. (A packet of ginger-snaps the night before a dive, however, seems like a solution I’d enjoy trying, as long as I can distract Tony from trying to help me out!)

Proformance Band
Proformance Band

Enter the Proformance Band, available (I’m a girl – this is important) in clear or black versions. It has two little holograms at opposite sides, and you’re meant to position them over the middle of your wrist. It’s available in several sizes – mine is a small, but it’s a bit too big. There are several other brands on the market, all making the same vague claims. Power Balance is another big one.

The alleged mechanics of the band I will not explain – I’ll just get embarrassed and want to crawl under a desk – but it’s supposed to help with balance, power, and flexibility. (It’ll also bring you a cup of coffee and a rusk in bed every morning.) It’s also supposed to help with seasickness. The claims on the box are vague, characterised by qualifiers such as “may help to…” and “is believed to…”

I did some googling on the subject of these bracelets – there are various brands – and was unable to find ANY hard science backing them up. There are countless enthusiastic testimonials, however, from every man and (I kid you not) his dog, and on the strength of these and my HOPE that it’s stop the barfing, I bought one for the rather princely sum of R300.

I wore it constantly for over a month, and unfortunately (or fortunately) all the boat dives I did during that time have been on calm seas. I haven’t felt ill at all. I thought I might carry on wearing the bracelet until I could make up my mind either way whether it’s doing anything – and I am perfectly OK with the notion that it might do something just because I think it should or might – but my bro in law Andrew brought some information to my attention on Christmas day which prompted me to put an end to the experiment.

A double blind test was conducted in Australia – finally – and found that users may as well wear a rubber band around their wrists. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruled that Power Balance must cease their misleading advertising and refund consumers who feel they’ve been deceived. There’s an embarrassing statement on their website in which they admit to the hoax:

In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims…

This is enough for me. I felt very self-conscious wearing the bracelet – I feel like it was advertising that I believe, along with Thabo Mbeki, that HIV was delivered to earth by spacemen – and I’m going to move on to ginger as a proposed seasickness palliative. I expect this to be enjoyable. I will report back when I have enough data to draw a conclusion.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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