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Top Tips To Buy A Wetsuit

There is a very strong possibility that the Discovery Triathlon World Cup Cape Town will be a wetsuit compulsory race, in accordance with the ITU competition rules governing wetsuit use and water temperature. Besides keeping you warm during the swim, wetsuits also assist with buoyancy and help you swim faster. BUT, the perfect fit is essential! Road 2 ITU coach Glen Gore from Tri-Lab Multisport shares his top tips to help you get the wetsuit that's right for YOU!

  1. More expensive is not necessarily better. For the average triathlete who considers their swim to be the worst discipline, an entry level suit will do just fine. The cheaper entry level suits are often thicker and more-hard wearing which means, if you look after it, you get more wear and tear out of the suit than the higher end suits that are made of less pliable/softer materials.
  2. If you consider yourself a half decent swimmer, who has come from competitive pool swimming perhaps and now wants to partake in triathlon, you may want to spend a little more and go mid to higher-end. Why? Simple, the materials are softer meaning more flexible on the shoulder and upper body areas. They are also easier to get on and off which is crucial in T1 when you are looking to gain and not lose seconds. The better swimmers will want to spend extra on a wetsuit – don’t buy cheap at first – and then find you need to upgrade later on.
  3. A suit needs to fit super tight, so perhaps buy one when you are at your thinnest. Possibly before the start of each summer or halfway in between. If the suit starts to fill out and you cannot fit it anymore, may we suggest dieting. This is a sure way to keep your body weight in check. Nothing worse than spending a couple of grand on a wetsuit only to find it too small a few months later.  A suit will become “softer” and easier to get into as it takes on some wear-use. As long as it is not strangling you around the neck-line and you can breathe comfortably, then the suit is right for you. The sizing charts are often very accurate and if you stick 99% to these, you will end up buying the suit that is made for you unless you are out of proportion for some reason. Custom might be the way to go then but good custom made suits are few and far between.
  4. Don’t confuse claustrophobia with the suit being too tight. We have seen many a triathlete panic when they put on the suit. Not because it’s necessarily too tight but because they almost suffer from some form of claustrophobia. Using a suit and getting comfortable in one requires time and training in one. So take your time and use as often as possible. In time, with the correct mind-set in place, the suit will become something you start enjoy wearing as opposed to hating every second you're in it.
  5. A good suit will make you swim faster. For a fast pool swimmer, we estimate at least 5 seconds per 100m faster with the suit on. The less accomplished swimmer might benefit to the tune of 10 seconds plus. That is a lot of speed around the swim course with no extra effort put in. The more comfortable you feel in the suit, the more you will enjoy it with the benefits from the extreme buoyancy that each wetsuit provides.
  6. A triathlon wetsuit is totally different to a scuba or surfing wetsuit. Don’t get too confused. A triathlon wetsuit is made to keep the water out and ensure you are fast. A surfing suit on the other hand is made to take water in and heat it up so you stay warm. They are heavier and rest assured you will not swim well in one. Rather spend the few extra bob and buy a quality tri wetsuit.
  7. Look after the suit (wash in fresh water after each use and dry-off in a shaded area) and it will last at least 3 years +.
  8. Don’t swim too often in a wetsuit during the training phases. Initially you will swim in it a lot to get used to the suit but once that has happened, store away and try save for race days and pre-race week warm-up swims only. You don’t want to rely 100% on a wetsuit to swim well, then you learn to swim well without the use of one, the benefits are then doubled when you suit up and go race
  9. Compare pricing and take advice from those that have been in the sport for a good few years. Their advice could end up saving you money.
  10. Good luck with the purchase. Costly for such short swims you would think but well worth every penny spent if you buy the suit best fitted for you.