If you're just getting into triathlon and open water swimming, or looking to upgrade your existing wetsuit, this guide will help you make an informed decision.
From choosing between bouyancy level, materials, and cuts, to performance profiles in the water, there is much to consider when choosing a wetsuit. We look at the main benefits a wetsuit provides and help you understand and compare wetsuit performance.
Why should I buy a wetsuit?
For many triathletes or novice swimmers, wetsuits give you more confidence, a smoother profile in the water, and better control. But it's not one size fits all. Different swimmers will have their own preference when it comes to things like the degree of buoyancy, for example. Some key advantages of a wetsuit are:
- Warmth: For Age Group Triathlons (excluding Open Age Group) if the temperature is below 24 degrees, then wetsuits are optional (and compulsory below 14, 15 and 16 degrees 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 your body temperature, maintaining heat.
- Buoyancy: A wetsuit provides extra buoyancy in the water, which can make swimming a little easier. Holding you high in the water - especially your hips - the suit helps you maintain a good swimming position easier.
- Speed: Wetsuits reduce drag in the water. This, along with the added buoyancy and better body position, means faster times.
- Energy conservation: This is an important aspect with the cycle and run still to go.
How should I choose?
To find the right wetsuit for you, think about your style and the type of athlete you are. Here are a few areas you should consider.
- 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. If you're a powerful swimmer but lack technique, then thicker suits with more bouancy could be the way to go. If you're looking for flexibilty to get the most out of your finely-tuned stroke, then a thin suit will be a great choice.
- 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 lift their legs more.
- Neck Line: A good seal around your neck is key. Without the seal, the neck becomes a scoop and the suit will fill with water. However, some people think it can feel restrictive on your breathing. It’s key to find a suit with a neckline that feels comfortable and not constricting around your neck. Some suits now have 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 allow for a quicker removal of the suit to save time in transisiton. Whichever zipper you prefer, practice removal to speed up your T1 time. It’s something that is often forgotten in training.
- Taped seams: Most wetsuits have taped seams on the wrist and ankle areas, making it easier to get the wetsuit off.
- Catch panels: Some wetsuits have panels on the forearm designed to increase feel for the water and propulsion during the catch phase of your swim.
Wetsuit cuts, which are right for me?
There are three main kinds of wetsuit cut available, offering different performance benefits for a variety of swimming styles.
- Full Cut: This is the full length, full body style of wetsuit, perfect for cold water.
- Sleeveless: A full wetsuit, but with no arms. Some people prefer this style for the increased range of motion and flexibility.
- Short Cut: Much like the sleeveless, some people prefer a shorter cut wetsuit, which is great for faster transitions and warmer water. Not so great in cold water though...
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: The quality and price of a wetsuit will vary from entry level through to elite. Premium priced wetsuits offer higher levels of performance and features, but there are some great entry level options available at Wiggle that give you a taste of the elite models.
- Size matters: Follow the size charts and options for the brand you're looking for on Wiggle. Your weight will be more relevant than your height (think racing weight too). If you fall between two sizes, then 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 blueseventy, Zone3, dhb, Sailfish, and Speedo.
Exclusive to Wiggle, the Zone3 Men's Azure Wetsuit includes an innovative 'Extreme Flex' material offering flexibility around the shoulders and arms for a comfortable and energy efficient swim. This gives you full range of motion to glide freely through the water, conserving energy and reducing fatigue.
Pushing the boundaries of what can be found on an entry level wetsuit, the Zone3 Women's Azure Wetsuit is perfect for both the beginner and intermediate tri-swimmers at a seriously competitive price.
Designed to strike a excellent balance between buoyancy and flexibility, the men's HUUB Varman 3:5 Wetsuit delivers both and provides a unique swimming performance for triathletes, with HUUB's exclusive +43 Foam delivering more buoyancy without using thicker material.
Blueseventy's Helix is now in its sixth iteration and impressing athletes with its natural swim rotation, balanced body position, and insane upper body flex. A true second skin and lightning fast through T1.
The Zone3 Women's SwimRun Evolution Wetsuit is designed for both swimming and running, so no kit change is required. Combining a great fitting wetsuit with the benefit of high stretch leg panels. It also feaures a front zip for breathability and running comfort.
Boost your performance with dhb's all new Aeron Wetsuit 2.0. Redeveloped for 2020, the suit now features Yamamoto neoprene as it blends speed, flexibility, buoyancy, and comfort for competitive open-water swimmers and triathletes.