Swimming Specific Wetsuits

16th August 2015

Choosing the right one for you

Getting the correct size wetsuit for open water swimming and triathlon is quite an art form. We have put these tips together to help you get your wetsuit fitted correctly.

The MOST important thing is to get a tight fitting wetsuit. There is no point making your swim harder by dragging gallons of water around with you in your wetsuit making your arms and shoulders ache. Your time will be slow and you won’t enjoy the experience.

If you want to enjoy your wetsuit swim then your wetsuit will feel tight on dry land, it should be a struggle to get into and you should need assistance to do the zip up.

Wetsuit size charts vary across brands, so ask the advice of triathlete friends, RG Active coaches and do your own research on the fit of different brands. Go for a swimming specific wetsuit as they will be more flexible, offer you buoyancy and the fit and features will be designed to help you swim faster and more efficiently in open water.

Getting it on…

Your wetsuit WILL look too small for you and you should be thinking ‘I’ll never fit in that’.

Handle your wetsuit with care, consider using gloves if you’re trying it on for the first time (online purchases and hiring) or in a shop when buying as you don’t want to damage it before you’ve paid for it or in case you need to exchange it.

Firstly get the wetsuit as high up your legs as possible before you start pulling it up your body. A good tip is to put plastic bags over your feet, then as you put your feet in your wetsuit legs the wetsuit will easily slide up your legs. The bottom of your wetsuit legs need to be a good 2 or 3 inches above your ankles and just below the bottom of your calf.

Work the suit up your legs gradually moving the excess neoprene upwards towards your waist. Do not pull from the top like you would pull on trousers as the rubber will stretch and eventually tear. There should be no folds or excess rubber in the legs.

Now pull the wetsuit up you body and do the same with the arms. The arms of the wetsuit should be behind your wrist bone and you should gradually move neoprene up the arm working from your wrist to your shoulders. It is important that you get the suit fitting tight right into your armpits.

Before zipping up, bend over at the waist and gently pull any excess neoprene from your stomach upwards a bit at a time towards you neck. This lifts the wetsuit up your front and lowers the back to stop it pulling and reduce chafing on the neck. Ensure the neck and zip neoprene is lying flat too, a common cause of chafing.

Now get a friend, fellow athlete, family member, shop assistant to zip you up as you flex you shoulders backwards.

If the suit is too big at the waist try grabbing the wetsuit at the base of the zip, in the small of the back. If you can grab a handful of material, it’s probably too big.

Ideally your wetsuit should feel restrictive and uncomfortable when on dry, but you should still be able to breathe! A close fitting swimming wetsuit will not restrict your swimming stroke. The suit should be more comfortable when you are in the water but you want as little excess water between you and the suit which is why we keep on about the tight fit when dry.

…and getting it off!

Your wetsuit might fit closely but for triathlons put you also need to be able to get it off quickly. The tighter the suit the easier it is to remove. Its easier when the suits are wet so don’t despair.  Specialist lubricants will help you – these are ALWAYS put on last – after you’ve got your wetsuit on.

Never use petroleum based Vaseline or oils to lubricate, use a product like Brave Soldier’s ‘Friction Zone’, which is non-petroleum based, and will not harm the neoprene.  Rub the lubricants on you wrists and lower calves for swift wetsuit removal and more importantly on the back of your neck and into your hairline that is the area most prone to chaffing.

For more information about triathlon wetsuits, wetsuit fitting or anything else related to open water swimming please email us at RG Active or visit the RG Active website.

To gain open water experience prior to your first open water event why not attend one of the open water specific or triathlon training days organised by Human Race and coached by the RG Active coaching team. RG Active also hold weekly open water swim coaching sessions in multiple venues around London.