How To Choose A Wetsuit | Open Water Swimming & Triathlon Wetsuits

- Wearing a wetsuit in a triathlon

can significantly aid your swimming.

It helps you keep your body warm,

also helps to make you more buoyant in the water

and even act as protection against other swimmers

and their flailing arms.

- Oh come on Mark, surely a wetsuit is a wetsuit right?

- Well, you'll be surprised Mark

because there are som big differences between

the wetsuit that you're wearing

and the wetsuit that I'm wearing.

But I do understand it can seem like a bit of a minefield.

There are so many different styles of wetsuits on offer,

with so many different features lending themselves

to different styles of swimmers and types.

So today I'm going to be running you through

how to choose a wetsuit.

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Well the first triathlon specific wetsuit

was developed in the late 1980s

by a chap called Dan Enfield.

He was an IRONMAN athlete and he basically set about

to try and create a wetsuit that made him

faster through the water, and also through transition.

Now 40 years on and technology and innovation

have pushed this even further, and now

we've got countless wetsuits to choose from.

Now jokes aside about wearing

my surfing wetsuit for swimming

but actually this is a question that I see and hear

time and time again, and in short,

yes you can swim in one of these but it is worth noting

that they do generally use a slightly thicker neoprene

for insulation, and also a slightly tougher

and less flexible neoprene for its wear and tear.

Whereas a triathlon wetsuit like I'm wearing here

is more flexible, it's hydrodynamic through the water

and super easy to remove through transition.

Well they do this by having a number

of different panels with varying neoprene thickness

and that helps with flexibility where it's needed

and also with the buoyancy

for the body position in the water.

But where do we actually start

when we're choosing a wetsuit?

Well before we even start picking up any wetsuits

it's important that we figure out

what kind of swimmer we are.

So are we someone that swims perfectly flat in the water

when we're swimming in the pool,

or are we someone that drags our feet along the floor

of a swimming pool?

Now if you are new to swimming,

or you're a slightly weaker swimmer

then it is very common to have a slight drop

in the hips and the legs whilst you're swimming.

But fortunately there's suits for all different

styles of swimming that can actually help to improve this.

So they do this by changing the thickness of neoprene

and the buoyancy from the chest to the legs.

So if you are someone that drags your legs

along the bottom of the swimming pool

then you'll be looking for something that has

slightly thicker neoprene in the legs

and therefore more buoyancy compared to the chest.

So a suit like this one, and that will then help

to adjust the tilt of the body

and the body position to make you flatter in the water,

and therefore better.

Whilst for those lucky folk that swim relatively flat

in the water already you'll be looking for

a suit that doesn't really affect your position

or tilt in the water, you'll be looking for

a suit that has a relatively similar neoprene thickness

between the chest and the legs,

so you'll remain nice and flat.

So a suit like I'm wearing here or this one here.

Now fortunately most brands cater

for all different styles of swimming,

and all different positions of swimming

and they'll normally explain this for each of the suits.

Some use a series of numbers like 3/5 or 4/4

and what these numbers mean is, the first number

is the thickness of neoprene in the chest,

whilst the second number is the thickness

of neoprene in the legs, so a 3/5 for instance will mean

3 mil neoprene in the chest and then 5 mil in the legs.

So more buoyancy in the legs,

that's gonna help someone that already drags

their legs along the bottom of a swimming pool.

A 4/4's gonna mean 4 mil on the chest, 4 mil on the legs.

So very similar buoyancy, you're gonna remain very flat.

So that's gonna suit those natural swimmers

who are already nice and flat in the water.

And then there's the fit, probably the most important part

about choosing a wetsuit because if you go too big

you'll have water gushing in, and if you go too tight

you probably won't be able to swim very well.

Now a triathlon wetsuit should feel more snug

than your standard water sports wetsuit

which does take a lot of people by surprise,

so you often see people opting for a size too large.

Fortunately most brands offer a large range of sizes

to choose from, almost a size for everyone.

They've got sizes for the tall yet slim,

and extra female sizes for the more curvy.

So you just refer to the brands size charts

using your height and weight and if you do find

that your height and weight don't sit within

a certain size category, they normally recommend

going by your weight or of course you can

contact the brand for their advice.

Now on paper I'm actually too tall for the suit

that I'm wearing here, and this suit here

but by going by my weight, I've managed

to get a perfect fit, it just means that

the ankle and wrist openings sit a little bit higher

then usual, takes me a little bit longer to put on,

but once it's actually on it feels great.

So a few brands offer this style of wetsuit

which basically has a thermal liner

which doesn't absorb water so it maintains it's loft

which maximises that insulating effect.

It's not a brand new technology

we've actually seen it for years in surfing

and water sports wetsuits, but over the last few years

they've started to trickle that technology

into swimming and triathlon specific wetsuits.

Additionally whilst modern wetsuits

are super flexible, some people just don't get on with them.

They don't like have neoprene on their arms,

and they find them restrictive.

Now I'd normally put this down to an incorrect size

or not having the suit put on properly,

but if you've tried everything there are also

sleeveless options that a number of brands also do.

Aside from budget, it may also come down

to the importance of that wetsuit for you.

Are you just starting out in triathlon,

or are you needing a wetsuit for your training swims?

In which case you may well just want

a cheaper, more entry level wetsuit.

Or if you are a regular competitor

and you're looking to improve on your triathlon times,

beat other competitors, or win races

then you may well want to spend

a little bit more money, get a higher end wetsuit

that's gonna help shave those valuable seconds off.

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Finally I suggest trying on a wetsuit before you buy it,

and if you can jump in the water and try it out for real.

Though I do understand not everyone can do that,

so worst case just spin your arms around

to test out the flexibility of that suit.

It might look silly, but you triathlon shop

will understand trust me.

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If you'd like to see our wetsuit versus non-wetsuit

video you can just see that by clicking down here.

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just click down here.