Beginners Guide to Triathlon Wetsuits

This post was generously contributed by guest blogger Michael Finnigan 

When I first considered doing a triathlon I was particularly concerned about how expensive the kit was. I was worried that I’d compete in one event, lose interest, and then have wasted a lot of money. So I held off for years. Much later I still found myself daydreaming about the sport and I decided to take the risk. After all, the bike and running gear I would use – the wetsuit was a gamble.

Now, I’m sure many of you tough-guys out there were in the same predicament as me and didn’t want to part with your hard earned cash. There was even a time where I seriously considered taking to the northern waters my swimming trunks – it was only 200m after all – but an experienced friend made me see sense and gave me some much need information regarding triathlon clothing, which I’d like to share with you.

So let’s start with the basics. Triathlon wetsuits provide athletes with a number of benefits: Buoyancy, warmth and improved performance in the water, thanks to their streamlined material. They also have a thick layer of neoprene that keeps out the cold and will let you stay in the water for much longer than without. They also give you a sense of security as the added buoyancy removes the fear that you’re going to sink and trust me, after almost a mile or so in the freezing water there are times when you think you might.

Triathlon wetsuits come in three categories: Beginner, Intermediate and Expert. Beginner suits are made with budget in mind. They need to get you through training and events and if you don’t spend a lot of time in the water you are unlikely to realise what you’re missing with more expensive suits.

Intermediate suits are for people who train regularly and plan to compete in wetsuit legal races. They’re made from buoyant rubber and are more flexible and comfortable than beginner suits. The better quality material also improves speed in the water.

Expert suits, on the other hand, are the best of the best. They offer an enormous range of movement and warmth. They’re lightweight and comfortable and are incredibly buoyant. Their unique shape will help you get the most out of your stroke, making you travel faster with less effort.

There are lots of brands to choose from, but the main things to consider when you’re buying a wetsuit are:

  • How cold is the water?

If you’re up north then consider a thicker suit.

  • Are you a slow swimmer?

If so, consider buying a more buoyant suit.

  • Are you quick of the blocks?

Then buy a more flexible suit to get yourself ahead of the pack.

Ultimately there are a lot of things to consider and getting the right one for you will determine how well you do in a race. Renting a suit before you buy is also a good way of working out what type of suit is best for you and if you get one from the internet make sure that you have the option to return it if it doesn’t fit. In my opinion flexibility and buoyancy is king, as you are probably going to be warm enough in almost any suit.


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