Over recent weeks there has been a huge uptake in open water swimming. Due to the lack of open swimming pools it seems we are all searching out local lakes, rivers or seas to swim in. And as a result wetsuit sales have gone through the roof! If you are looking for your first wetsuit then read on for my top tips as well as some links which still have a decent amount of stock (at the time of writing!).
It might be tempting to buy a surf wetsuit instead of a swimming wetsuit. However surf wetsuit are designed to keep you warm, whereas swim wetsuits also help you float and give you a better swim position. The neoprene material also creates much less drag than a surf wetsuit.
Second – hand
Ask around! A lot of people have more than one wetsuit which they might loan to you or sell on. So post on any local swim/tri groups and you might find a great deal. I previously sold my old wetsuits in this way.
For your first wetsuit you might like to consider hiring for a season. This allows you to dip your toe in the water (haha) without commiting. For example: Zone3 Season hire – You can rent their top range Vanquish suit for £200 for one season (April to October).
A lot of lakes also have a hire service. And although some have stopped doing this for the time being due to COVID-19 others have taken steps to continue offering this service.
If you want to buy a wetsuit then there are two main considerations: Fit & Buoyancy.
Fit: When buying wetsuits it’s all about fit, less about brand. Different brands have different fits so follow the size guides and be prepared to return a suit if it doesn’t fit you.
The wetsuit should fit tightly without restricting your breathing and still be flexible enough around the shoulders. You really need to get the wetsuit up high enough on each leg by pulling up holding the inside of the wetsuit before attempting to fit around the shoulders.
Generally speaking the more expensive wetsuits have thinner neoprene around the shoulders which allow more free movement.
Buoyancy: Entry level & male specific wetsuits tend to have thicker neoprene around the lower torso and thighs. This is to raise the body position in the water and give you a better swim position. Since women tend to have less sinky legs than men often they have slightly less neoprene in these areas.
Often brands will sort their wetsuits by the type of swimmer you are from natural more buoyant to progressive with more sinky legs! Orca’s website does a great job of differentiating the different types.
Special features (speed cuffs/panels etc) are often found on more expensive wetsuits and although they are unlikely to slow you down they also probably wont offer you any freespeed unless your technique and fit is perfect! So don’t worry too much about this.
The following wetsuits are all under £200:
Zone 3 Advance currently low in stock on the Zone3 website but it looks like triuk still have plenty of stock.
dhb Aeron – there are also other dhb options available.
Orca S7 – extra buoyant
Blue Seventy Sprint – super flexible shoulders for the price!