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Swimming Wetsuit Guide

There are lots of wetsuits on the market, so make sure you buy a triathlon/swimming specific suit to give you the best support. Zone3, our official wetsuit sponsor, have written a guide to wetsuits below.

Fit

It is important to consider the fit when buying a wetsuit to try to select the correct size for you. A triathlon-specific wetsuit is designed to improve the swimmer’s body position in the water. This is achieved by combining buoyant and flexible neoprene panels into a comfortable, form-fitting suit. Read more about the differences in triathlon-specific wetsuits HERE. 

All swimming wetsuits are designed to be tight fitting, and like a second skin. 

The most important thing when determining whether the size is right for you is first making sure you have put the suit on correctly. The correct fitting wetsuit might feel much too tight/loose/big/small if it’s not being worn in the correct position.

See the video below for how to put on a wetsuit:

You don’t need to bend over to touch your toes or do a squat in your wetsuit. The important thing is that you should be able to go through the motion of swimming relatively easily on land.

Remember that once wet, the suit will fit better. The suit will also mould to your shape the more you wear it.

Some more tips to check the fit:

  • Check to see that the suit pulls into your lower back and there is not a big gap. If there is, try bringing the suit higher up on the crotch and bringing the neckline higher. If there is too much excess fabric in any particular area this could mean that the suit is too big. This may let water in.
  • Extend your arms from your sides, parallel to the ground. The wetsuit material should be close to your armpits and there should also be some small bumps or folds on the top of the shoulder. If either of these thing is not the case, you may need to move the arms of the suit towards your shoulders. To do this, extend one arm over your head and carefully slide the arm of the suit towards your shoulder.
  • Extend your arms in front of your chest, crossed at the wrists. There should be a minimum of gaping at the neck or billowing in the chest. It is expected that a small amount of space or folds will be in the wetsuit.
  • If you feel that the neck is uncomfortable: try pulling the suit up in the back of the legs, butt and especially though the zip. Grab the base of the zip, and work any excess material towards the shoulders. This will relax the fit in the front of the collar. Wetsuits can take some time to get used to because the neckline needs to be higher than any other garments. Water entry is kept to a minimum as a result of this high neckline.
  • Finally, after you have finished your swim rinse it out with fresh clean water. Then, hang the wetsuit to dry away from direct sunlight. When you take your wetsuit off during training, try to do it as if you were in a race to practice how you will in the race.

 

Flexibility

Flexibility can vary significantly between each different suit. It’s important to move through the water as economically as possible rather than fighting against the suit with every arm rotation. Every movement that is competing with resistance unnecessarily saps energy, affects technique and lowers efficiency. All Zone3 suits offer a ‘spring loaded’ shoulder design to generate a more rhythmic swim stroke. This enables faster and more energy efficient swimming.

Buoyancy

Check the thickness of the neoprene, there should be a panel of neoprene that is at least 4mm thick, normally in the legs and torso, there are some cheap pretenders on the market with 1-2mm of neoprene all over, while these may offer some warmth in mild waters (temperatures above 17°) they will give you no buoyancy and are not a true triathlon/swim specific wetsuit.

Types of Neoprene

There’s a variety of different neoprene available, with Zone3 suits using a combination of ‘Extreme Flex’, ‘Speedflo’ and ‘Smoothskin’ fabrics, as well as Yamamoto #39 and #40 cell SCS Nano. Yamamoto rubber is a premium, high performance neoprene. Yamamoto #40 is the newest, most flexible and buoyant neoprene available. It has extreme stretch properties, which make it perfect for areas where free movement is crucial.

As well as being thinner, the outer surface of the neoprene used for a triathlon wetsuit is slicker with high hydrodynamic resistance to reduce drag. The smooth, engineered surface is super-efficient through the water. This helps to ensure a competitive edge and significantly reduces swim times. Zone3 suits are coated with an aqua dynamic covering, which significantly minimises any drag through the water whilst also improving the suits durability

 

Entry Level vs Top End

Higher-end wetsuits tend to be thinner, as they are designed with more elite athletes in mind. An entry level suit will often provide greater warmth and buoyancy but reduced flexibility. Maximum wetsuit thickness for competitive triathlons is 5mm to help reduce the risk of overheating. Also, wetsuits are only permitted when the water temperature is below 21C for this very reason.

All our suits contain a mix of different neoprene thickness’s, to achieve the perfect balance. Our ‘Measured Buoyancy’ provides optimum efficiency, for all level athletes.

The Vanquish, designed for more elite athletes, features super thin 1.5mm neoprene to five unparalleled flexibility through the shoulders, arms, chest and back.

Our entry-level Advance suit uses 2mm neoprene with a 3mm chest and back panel. Thicker 5mm neoprene on the torso, hips and legs help with buoyancy and position in the water.

Caring for your wetsuit

Swimming wetsuits are made from very delicate neoprene, here are some pointers on caring for it to help it last longer:

  • Avoid using your fingernails when putting on your wetsuit! Nails can cut the neoprene very easily and leave small crescent moon shaped cuts, these have the potential to pull into bigger holes.
  • Avoid tugging on the zip with the cord, the weak part of the wetsuit is at the bottom of the zip at the base of the spine, it can easily rip here, ask someone to zip up the suit for you.
  • After swimming, rinse off the wetsuit in clean fresh water, leave inside out to dry, once that side is dry turn the right way out to dry any excess water off the outside.
  • Store out of direct sunlight, this can degrade the neoprene if left in the sun for extended periods.
  • Don’t leave on a hanger for extended periods of time as this may stretch the neoprene in the shoulders, loosely fold to store.

 

 

Accessories

If you really enjoy your open water swimming or struggle with the cold there are a few extra accessories you can consider – although please note, some items can only be used in training
and not for races.

Neoprene caps are made out of the same neoprene as your wetsuit and with a chin strap, they can offer extra warmth in the very chilly water. NB: a lot of people do find the strap under the chin off-putting or uncomfortable, so Zone3 also offer a strapless version.

Neoprene socks offer an extra bit of warmth for your feet for training to help keep you in the water a bit longer. Not allowed for triathlon races, occasionally allowed for open water swim races if water is very chilly, check with the organiser first.

Neoprene gloves can help keep your hands warmer. People who suffer from Raynaud syndrome can sometimes seek permission from event organises to wear non-webbed neoprene gloves during races but you must contact the organiser prior to the event for permission if you plan to do this.

A neoprene vest under your wetsuit can help add warmth when training, however not recommended for racing as they are very hard to remove by yourself once you’ve finished the swim.