A wetsuit not only keeps you warm during colder swims, it also gives you buoyancy, which aids your speed. “Besides providing buoyancy, a wetsuit controls body temperature and improves efficiency in the water,” says Richard. “This contributes to a faster swim split and less energy is expelled as the body is higher in the water It also lifts the legs higher as well, which usually causes a lot of drag.” Wetsuits are compulsory if the water temperature is 14 degrees Celcius or lower. But just like bikes and shoes, there is a dizzying array of wetsuit choices.
Wetsuits come in mens and women’s sizes and your height and weight are important factors that need to be taken into account. “Tightness, functionality and how the suit feels is important,” says Richard. “Transitions are also a vital part of triathlon, so a suit that comes off easily will save energy and time.”
Prices range from about R2,000 for an entry-level suit to over R8,000 for a top-end model. But before you hand over your hard-earned cash, consider the following: What’s your budget? How often will you use the suit? What distance will you be swimming in the suit? Comfort is super important if you do long-distance swims. A bigger wetsuit could cost you time instead of saving it.
So you’ve walked into the store and you’re looking at all the options. “Don’t go straight for the brand that everyone is buying,” warns Richard. “Try out a few suits and make sure the fit is quite tight but not too tight on the shoulders. Never buy a wetsuit without trying it on and remember, a bigger wetsuit could cost you time instead of saving you time.” Remember to take your tri kit to wear while you try suits on.
What to look out for:
Arm panels Often features special designs to help you catch the water better. It’s thinner here than on the shoulders and legs.
Leg panels Thicker here to aid buoyancy.
Lower leg Thinner so you’re able to get the suit on and off quickly and you don’t need extra buoyancy here.
Neck The neoprene will be thinner here than in the rest of the suit. It should be soft so it doesn’t rub.
Shoulder panels You want the neoprene thickness to be thinner here for more range of movement.
Torso Many suits have these grooves to channel water more efficiently.
Zipper It’s normally covered along its length and features a secure flap at the end. The pull cord is long so you can reach it.
Originally published in the July/August 2013 issue.