Saturday, July 25, 2009

Triathlon Wetsuits: A Primer

Here's short guide on triathlon wetsuits. I just want to qualify that I'm not a pro on triathlon wetsuits in the sense that I don't make them. My experience comes from swimming in them and selling them for years.

Features - Triathlon wetsuits have some or all of the following features. Generally when you pay more you get more but that's not always the case.

- Catch panels in the arms - To some degree or another most triathlon wetsuits build in a material or special construction that increases the amount of water you can pull on the catch phase of your swim stroke.
- Slick coating - The surface of many triathlon wetsuits including mid to high end suits have a special coating that makes you move faster through the water. This is a benefit for all swimmer because it makes it easier to swim thus saves energy and effort.
- Special Cut - Triathlon wetsuits are constructed to take into consideration proper swimming form. This like all other features focuses on supporting a more efficient swimming technique.
- Special Materials - You'll see many different types of textures and materials in tri wetsuits. All of these materials serve different specific purposes with the broad purpose of making it easier to swim.
- Tighter fit - important because less water in the suit mean dragging less water which leads again means less effort.
- New Technologies - The highest end triathlon wetsuits offer special technologies that you won't find anywhere else in wetsuit construction. Most of these are dramatic and visually obvious features. The best way to describe some of these features is to provide links to some suits which offer these technologies. Just one look and you'll see why they are different.

Beginner - Here are some notes and resources for beginners looking to buy a triathlon wetsuit.

- A triathlon wetsuit is designed for surface swimming. Unlike surfing and diving wetsuits which have considerations for warmth. Most performance triathlon brands only focus on buoyancy and flexibility. These considerations make swimming more efficient, easy, and fast. This is important for triathletes who need to do a bike and run right after.
- Entry wetsuits start in the $200 range for full sleeve triathlon wetsuits. Sleeveless wetsuits start below $200.
- With $200 entry level wetsuits as compared to wetsuits $300 and up there are compromises in what you are getting. In many cases you aren't getting the "standard" high quality manufactured rubber that offer greater flexibility and buoyancy.
- At the lower price point manufacturers build in a triathlon cut and still try to offer a few features only found in tri wetsuits. Again the trade off is that manufacturers generally have to substitute brand name neoprene for generic neoprene and this is a concern because much of the flexibility and buoyancy comes from the high quality materials.
- Triathlon Wetsuit Buying Guide
- Triathlon Wetsuits at


  1. I think triathlon wetsuits help for competitors who may be a bit weak in the swim leg. If you're swimming in warm water, they may be a hindrance though since they may cause you to overheat. It probably is better to rent a suite before making a final decision.

  2. Uh most open swims in the northern USA pretty much require a suit until late July August. Even in August lake Erie can be cold, let alone mirror lake in Lake Placid. I had a buddy that almost drowned in Erie during a tri in July due to water temp. Tris in a small lake that are shallow OK but big open lakes wear a suit. Cold kills and weakens faster than heat. Often by the time you know your in deep do do, it's to late.