Buying the right swim wetsuit based on your swimming goals, ability & budget may not only save you money in the long run, it will also help to support good swim technique, prevent injury & improve performance. So what makes a really good swim wetsuit & what is right for you?
First, it is important to differentiate between a surfing/water sports wetsuit & a swimming wetsuit. Many newbies make the mistake of buying cheap thinking all wetsuits are fit for purpose. Designed simply to keep you warm & buoyant, traditional water sports wetsuits tend to be made of cheaper, thicker & less flexible open neoprene. They can restrict movement & absorb water, making them heavy & fatiguing, detrimental to technique & increasing the risk of injury. Swim wetsuits are specifically designed for swimming. They are made from high quality & super flexible neoprene covered by a hydrophobic closed skin. This makes them lighter, flexible, more buoyant & hydrodynamic through the water, thus helping to put the swimmer in an optimal swimming position. Swimming in a quality, well fitted swim wetsuit shouldn’t significantly change technique, won’t cause increased fatigue & may even improve swim performance.
As an experienced open water swimmer with a history in performance textiles, this would be the professional advice given:
What are your swimming goals & what do you need to budget?
If you are new to open water, try & attend a demo day or hire a swim wetsuit to see if you are going to enjoy it. If you’re going to be an occasional open water swimmer or just doing a charity event, then borrow, hire or buy a quality suit that fits. If you plan to commit to regular open water swimming, plan/ budget to invest in a quality swim wetsuit that supports your goals & swimming ability. For most that is around £180-£350.
If you are a good competitive swimmer / multisport athlete, you should be looking at a higher end racing wetsuit like the Yonda Spirit ll or Ghost ll that offers the best hydrodynamics & performance.
If you are a newbie, or less technically able swimmer, building for a swim challenge, consider mid range wetsuit that still deliver great flexibility & performance such as the Yonda Spook or Spectre. For Apples & Pears a better option may be to invest in a bespoke tailored wetsuit, Snugg Wetsuits make great made to measure swim wetsuits from £350.00.
Whichever wetsuit you choose make sure it fits you like a glove not a straight jacket!
A poorly fitting £1000 wetsuit will be worse than a great fitting £50 second hand wetsuit. The correct body length combined with great flexibility & cut around your shoulders/torso are the most important parameters of how well a wetsuit fits & performs in allowing you to swim with the least restriction/resistance & fatigue. If the body of the wetsuit is too short/narrow, it will compress & restrict your movements & breathing. Likewise, if the shoulders of the wetsuit are too tight, they will restrict movement, resulting in unnecessary fatigue & poor stroke technique. If the body of the wetsuit is too big, it is likely to flood with water, making it cold, heavy & fatiguing.
Wearing a wetsuit for the first time can feel claustrophobic. Don’t panic! An open water swimming wetsuit is designed to fit like a second skin. However, you should still be able to breathe! Once on & fitted, flush your wetsuit with water, this will slightly lift the neoprene away from your body, the water acting as a lubricant as well as keeping you warm.
Buoyancy, technique & stroke
Females tend to have greater natural buoyancy & more propulsive leg kicks compared to males & therefore they typically sit higher & more horizontal in the water. It is really important to match the buoyancy of the wetsuit to the swimmer & their technique. Swimming in an over buoyant wetsuit can result in back hyper extension & injury. Cheap entry level wetsuits tend be made from thicker & over buoyant neoprene & can be a cause of such issues. Swimming breaststroke in a full length wetsuit is challenged by the resistance of the neoprene in the legs & the buoyancy. A half leg wetsuit makes a significant difference. The Yonda Spook wetsuits are the first, entry level wetsuits that have really addressed both of these issues.
Salt or fresh water
Salt water swimming requires less wetsuit buoyancy because it naturally lifts you into a higher body position. If, however, you plan to swim mainly in fresh water, especially if you aren’t a naturally floater, or you have a limited or weak leg kick, then you may want more buoyancy support from your wetsuit. Buoyancy panels in the chest, hips & legs, will support a more relaxed horizontal body position in the water, reducing drag resistance & improving your swimming performance.
Image 1: Swim wetsuit neoprene panel’s come in a range of thicknesses. The thicker the panel, typically the less flexible & more buoyant the panel will be. Entry level wetsuits tend to use cheaper, thicker & less flexible, but warmer neoprene, whereas racing wetsuits typically use thinner more flexible higher performance neoprene. Image 2: Flexibility in the shoulder & torso panels is vital to both fit & swimming performance. Image 3: The hydrophobic skin of a swim wetsuit reduces surface resistance, making the wetsuit more hydrodynamic through the water, however, this skin can be easily snagged or torn by sharp items, such as nails.
Pre order your Yonda Spook 2021, due September via our shop