Wetsuit buying guide
Why should I buy a wetsuit?
For many triathletes or novice swimmers, wetsuits can and should give you more confidence. The buoyancy for one means you will always pop up to the surface of the water. Here are some key advantages about the benefits of having a wetsuit.
- Warmth: For Age Group Triathlons (excluding Open Age Group) if the temperature is below 24deg, then wetsuits are optional (and compulsory below 14, 15 and 16deg for Olympic, Half and Full Ironman races respectively). The neoprene / rubber material traps a layer of water between the skin and suit. This is then warmed by the body temperature and helps maintain heat, delaying hypothermia in the water.
- Buoyancy: A wetsuit provides extra buoyancy in the water, which can make swimming a little easier. This is due to the fact that the wetsuit should put your body in a good swimming position making it easier and more efficient to swim.
- Speed: A wetsuit aids the reduction of drag in the water for the swimmer, this with the effects of providing buoyancy and giving the swimmer a better body position all contributes to a greater reduction in time over the swim. The wetsuit material should also provide a slicker surface than your skin, so also reducing drag.
- Energy Conservation: This is the aim as you normally still have a bike and a run to go. The wetsuit should help you to swim easier, either the same speed but with less energy cost, or swim faster (faster speed but same energy cost).
How should I choose?
Finding the right wetsuit is completely individual and a personal choice. Here are a few things to look out for and bare in mind when sorting out your wetsuit choice.
- Material / Neoprene: Wetsuits use different grades of neoprene, with their own thickness and flexibility properties. Thinner material may be used around the shoulders for easier movement.
- Buoyancy: Brands use thicker material to help lift you to the surface of the water, therefore lowering the drag and helping you swim more efficiently and faster. Some suits will use thicker material around the legs for athlete who need to life the legs more.
- Neck Line: A good seal around your neck is key. Without the seal, the neck becomes a water scoop and the suit will fill with water, however some people think it can feel restrictive on your breathing. It’s therefore key to find a suit with a neckline that feels comfortable and not constricting around your neck. Some suits now have a softer material lining the neck which helps.
- Zipper: Suits either zip bottom to top or top to bottom. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, and again it comes down to personal preference. A reverse zip (seals top to bottom) can help prevent the cord being pulled down during the swim. It can also be thought to allow for a easier or quicker removal of the suit to save time in races. Whichever zipper you prefer and chose, just practice the removal anyway to speed up your T1 time. It’s something that is often forgotten in training!
- Taped seams: Most wetsuits these days have taped seams on the wrist and ankle areas. This allows for the athlete to cut the length down to make it easier to get the wetsuit off.
- Catch panels: Some wetsuits have panels on the forearm that are designed to increase feel for the water and propulsion during the catch phase of your swim.
What kinds of wetsuit are available at Wiggle?
There are several different kinds of wetsuits available depending on personal preference and comfort.
- Full Cut: This is the full length, full body (ok not including hands, feet and head) covering.
- Sleeveless: A full wetsuit, but with no arms. Some people prefer this as they feel they have better motion and flexibility around the shoulders. Most wetsuits these days though have different material thickness in places to ensure full movement, however some people still prefer to have a feeling of more freedom.
- Short Cut: Much like the sleeves, some people prefer to have a shorter cut wetsuit. This can be for various reasons, one includes that it can sometime be easier to get out of the wetsuit in T1.
Wiggle buying tips
- Comfort is King: In general the suit must be comfortable from crotch to shoulder. It should not restrict your shoulder mobility or shoulder/arm reach.
- Price profile: The quality and price of a wetsuit will vary from entry level through to elite. How do you chose the right one for you? Are you a beginner to the sport? Are you a weak swimmer? How much do you want to spend? Much like buying a bike, ask about for some advice and probably set a budget that you feel comfortable spending and investing in the wetsuit.
- Size matters: Follow the size charts and options for the brand you look at on the Wiggle website. Your weight will be more relevant than your height. (Think racing weight too.) If you fall between 2 sizes then probably consider the larger size for comfort. If you have worn the suits before and are looking for a ‘performance’ suit then opt for the smaller size.
- Big brands: Wiggle stock most of the main brands, all of which have a range of suits from entry level through to elite. Look out for the following brands. 2XU, Aqua Sphere, Blueseventy, McNett, Orca, Sailfish, Speedo, TYR, Zone3 and Zoot.
Many manufacturers are now starting to make female and male specific wetsuits. This isn’t just the fit but also now the difference in material thickness at different parts of the body. Males (sweeping statement) find it harder to float and so need to be more buoyant in different parts of the body compared to the female composition.