It’s the end of May and the open water swim season is pretty much in full swing! With co-vid restrictions swimming pools are still closed so a lot of people are getting back in to open water or even trying it for the first time and maybe need a wetsuit.
I took the time to talk to fellow coach and wetsuit retailer, Gill Anderson at Tri n Swim Well to get some tips on buying a wetsuits.
Do some research and look at reviews on line first to see what products are available.
Talk to a swimming specialist who has some knowledge of swimming. Surf shops and water sports retailers will often sell swimming wetsuits but are unlikely to have any specialist knowledge. Finding a retailer who has actually seen the wetsuit on a swimmer and seen people swimming in it will really help as they’ll have an idea how flexible the wetsuit is, how it fits and what sort of swimmer it will suit.
Ideally find a shop that will let you swim in the wetsuit. Tri n Swim well have an endless pool you can use, or some retailers are doing demo days at open water swimming venues where you can get some advice and try one out.
Decide on your budget
Budget Range is £100-£150. Wetsuits in this range are a great place to start especially if you’re not sure how much swimming you’ll do. They’re not so flexible so great for shorter distance events such as a sprint distance triathlon with only a 400m swim, but might not be so comfortable for a longer event such as an Ironman or 10km swim.
Mid Range is £150-£350. Wetsuit in this range are suitable for a wide range of swimmers and distances.
Top Range is £350-650. Top range wetsuits have more technical features to them and are designed for speed, performance and distance. They usually include features such as a special coating to the neoprene which makes it faster and they often feature stability panels which help to keep you straight and stable. They will be more flexible and more comfortable for longer distance events.
Think about the brand that you’re choosing. An advantage of choosing the bigger more well known brands is that they will have a good warranty so if the zip etc breaks the warranty will cover it.
There are different types of suit depending on the type of swimmer and what sort of swimming you do. Most brands put them into 3 categories
Extra buoyancy for people who have sinky legs or a are new to open water swimming so need some extra lift.
Neutral Wetsuit has the same level of buoyancy at chest and legs. This is helpful for a good balanced swimmer as they don’t need any extra help with leg lift. If a balanced swimmer ends up in a wetsuit with too much buoyancy it can make the legs too high making it hard to get any grip on the water with the legs and can give you lower back ache and neck as it affects posture in the water.
Performance. A top end wetsuit is aimed at people who are swimming longer distances so want a little bit of buoyancy in the legs and lots of flexibility.
It’s useful to get an expert to help with choosing the right wetsuit for your goals and current swim stroke. At Tri n Swim Well you can try out a wetsuit in the pool but also get some feedback via video to see how it affects your stroke.
Sizing: Some wetsuit will only do Small, medium, large with nothing in between and some only do unisex wetsuits which likely won’t suit a lot of women.
Always check the size guides as Huub and Orca both have a size medium-tall but are for completely different weights and heights.
Sizing is done by height and weight and sometimes a chest measurement which can obviously vary widely. An experienced supplier (like Tri n Swim Well) will be able to tell what size you need by seeing you even and offer a video fitting service.
Swimming wetsuit need to be closely fitter and may well feel very tight especially if trying them on at home when you’re hot and sweaty and can’t test it out for a swim. It’s common to look at your new wetsuit and think it looks too small or to put it on and feel like you can’t move when actually it’s the right size. This is where experienced advice or a test swim will make all the difference.
If you need some advice and help on buying a wetsuit then please get in touch with me or fellow swim coach and colleague Gill Anderson at Tri n Swim Well. There’s a 5% discount in their wetsuit store if you quote pennywilkin at checkout.