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3340 Views 7 Replies Latest reply: Jun 10, 2011 2:40 PM by NzAndy
NzAndy Pro 77 posts since
Oct 23, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Mar 24, 2011 8:51 PM

Wetsuits 101

I thought a thread focusing on wet suits would be in order because there's a lot of information about them and all newbies should be at least somewhat interested.  I've done some sprints and (despite my wife's claims) don't claim to know everything so additional comments are of course welcome.


The first thing to cover is the main types of suits.  I'd highly recommend a tri suit over a waterski type for several reasons.  Tri suits are made for swimming and have extra contouring on the arms that help your stroke and the rest is very smooth to reduce drag.  While good waterski suits also allow for arm stretchability they don't have the other features so stick to the tri suits.  As for sleeved or sleeveless, that's personal preference.  My suit has full sleeves and I've never had an issue with the water being too warm.  Besides, I'm not a strong swimmer so I want that honeycombing on the arms for the extra power on my stroke.  Of course, I don't swim in really hot places either.


All major brands have been given good reviews by the people I know who use them.  All brands make a range of suits from basic on up which is no surprise.  As a newbie most of us will most likely be after the second model up on the ladder.  The basic models tend to not have the extra panels to help the arms stretch from my research last year.  From what I saw, the next model up had good features and wasn't much more money.  High end suits cost twice as much and unless you're after top level performance or really need the extra comfort or options they have I'd recommend against them for beginners.  Personally I use an Orca Equippe S2 and I love it.


Getting a suit that fits you is important, but remember that the neoprene will stretch some and after some use it will go on easier and fit to your shape.  Make sure you get some practice in it before race day because it's different swimming in one than just a swim suit.  My tri club has special group swims at the pool for everyone to use their suits and so we don't look so out of place.  There are lubricants available to help the suit settle on you, but my favorite is olive oil spray.  It was a favorite in my last tri club because it's cheap, won't hurt the neoprene like petroleum based lubes, and won't react with sunscreen or cause allergies (that I know of).  We used the spray on the wrists and ankles and sometimes around the collar to help it settle going on and it helps them get off easier when you get to transition too.


There was a whole thread on what to do when you get in the water but the short of it is to get in before the race starts and flood the suit.  Get back out of the water and let it mostly drain.  The remaining layer of water also acts as a lube and will give you the best thermal performance as well.  Yes, the water may be cold but if you take the hit before the race starts you'll be more comfortable when it's time to perform.


I think that's the majority of what someone should know before buying a wetsuit.  If you're not sure about buying one they can be rented too which can give you a chance to try some different brands for fit.  If I missed anything then feel free to add in.




  • violets-are-purple Amateur 12 posts since
    Mar 9, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Apr 1, 2011 10:58 PM (in response to NzAndy)
    Re: Wetsuits 101

    hi andy

    thanks for this post-- very informative!  i guess my question is, how long before the start of the race does one get into the wetsuit?  best,


    violets are purple...   "it never gets easier, you just go faster"  greg lemond

    4/30/2011 athleta iron girl, lake las vegas nv

         800m swim/ 22.5k bike/ 5k run 2:41:49

  • CarolineAbraham Amateur 10 posts since
    Nov 21, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Apr 4, 2011 8:51 AM (in response to NzAndy)
    Re: Wetsuits 101

    I am doing my first triathlon in June. It is a beginners sprint tri. The water part is .25 miles in calm lake water with the expected water temp around 75. Would you still suggest a wetsuit? I noticed they have things that you can wear for all 3 legs but I wasn't sure if it was to be worn under a wetsuit or if you just swim, bike and run in it. I've included the link so you'll know what I'm looking at. Thanks in advance for your help. I'm really nervous about the race especially the swim part. Your thread is making this easier for me.


    This is what I'm looking at


  • BT.ROB Legend 270 posts since
    May 12, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Apr 4, 2011 3:06 PM (in response to CarolineAbraham)
    Re: Wetsuits 101

    Excellent posts Andy. A couple of things to add. One, wetsuits in USATriathlon-sanctioned races are limited in thickness beginning Jan 1, 2013 to 5mm, which isn't a problem for nearly all tri-specific wetsuits but may be a problem with water-ski neoprene (I don't know what the common thickness is for these types). How often a local tri will measure is unknown, but probably not a likely occurance. Second, there are regulations regarding wetsuits and water temperatures: allowed below 78 degrees, optional 78-84 but not eligible for prizes, prohibited above 84 degrees. Since wetsuits give you bouyancy and generally have less water resistance than skin, I take advantage of any opportunity to wear a wetsuit. The temperature regulation also applies to skinsuits/speed suits which have neoprene in them. The website has a list of approved suits. General tri-suits made of lycra and some other materials are fine.


    Caroline: go with a wetsuit and practice getting it on and off and swimming in it. Wear the tri-suit you linked under the wetsuit.


    Have fun and good luck.



  • CarolineAbraham Amateur 10 posts since
    Nov 21, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Apr 5, 2011 5:36 AM (in response to NzAndy)
    Re: Wetsuits 101

    Thanks guys for all the help. Good info!


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