March 14, 2013

What's a triathlon wetsuit?

Loiter around the start of any open water triathlon and you will see as many different wetsuits as competitors. 

In Ireland the water conditions are rarely near or above the limits set by ITU governing the requirement of compulsary wetsuits in the swim leg, so inevitably you must wear a wetsuit in triathlon racing in Ireland.

As a result anyone trying out triathlon will reach for the old surfing suit in the shed or borrow one from a friend. A wetsuit is a wetsuit. Right?

Not really, well, not at all to be honest.

A surfing wetsuit is designed to keep you warm when surfing or sailing. You are up, exposed to the elements and need to keep warm. Hence the 5mm or 7mm thickness of the neoprene or Winter suit / /Summer suit to help retain some body heat. Also the neoprene is quite tough as it has to withstand the occasional contact with a board or deck or rock etc.

When swimming you are immersed in the water (which may be cold but at least no wind chill) only have to worry about contact with other bodies in the water and are looking for a wetsuit which has a number of important primary features:

Warmth- The neoprene or rubber material traps a small layer of water close to the skin that is warmed by core body temperature and delays hypothermia in water.
Buoyancy- The wetsuit provides safe and fear-reducing buoyancy, but should not be relied upon as a life preserver. However, increased confidence in the open water can be another benefit. 
Speed- Reduction of drag, the effects of providing buoyancy to the hips and legs, and the ease of breathing and sighting all contribute to a 10% or greater reduction in time over an Olympic distance swim (3-5 minutes!). 
Energy Conservation- This should be your goal on the swim, since you still have some biking and running left to do!

After that, proprietary features like, body roll panels, forearm friction, zip up / zip down, easy on / off cuffs, Yamamoto neoprene, silicon coating, number of panels, all work to improve the fit and the function of the wetsuit in use. They also generally add cost to the wetsuits too.

How should a wetsuit fit?
  • Snug but not tight.
  • No folds or excess material.
  • Retaining shoulder mobility is important!
  • The fit of the neckline is a consideration so that you don't feel like you are being suffocated.
  • Make sure that the arm an leg holes are equally snug so they do not act as scoops to pull in water = extra weight.
  • Many wetsuit styles offer different zipper options for the back and even legs.  This comes down to personal preference for when you put it on and take it off during a race.
Of course when it comes to buying your wetsuits, whether its your first entry level suit or you are trading up to an advanced level after a couple of seasons racing, the staff at +Amphibian King Galway are on hand to help you sift through the choice and pick your perfect match.

We will work with you to identify the suit that will best suit your swimming abilities and your goals. Then selecting the correct size for you and possibly the most important thing, advising you on how to put it on properly.

+Amphibian King Galway also host wetsuit clinics through the early part of the season as we get ready for open water swimming. Watch out for these Tri-it-Out sessions as these are a perfect opportunity to test a new wetsuit for fit and function in the safety of a swimming pool.

Book your appointment for fitting through

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