Triathlon Wetsuits Explained

11th July 2019

Find out the technicalities of a wetsuit and try them out with a Zone3 wetsuit hire here

The sport of triathlon has improved and developed greatly since it’s first events in the 1970’s. Along with the sport, triathlon apparel has also improved in leaps and bounds. Triathlon wetsuits have changed vastly over the last 40 years, with technology continually innovating design and what’s possible.

A common query is how triathlon wetsuits differ from surfing wetsuits. Surfing wetsuits are designed primarily to insulate, whereas triathlon wetsuits are designed to insulate, add speed to a swim, and increase buoyancy, whilst allowing optimum flexibility. Wetsuits were first developed for diving and water-sports and were designed to provide warmth in the water and are manufactured with thicker, tougher materials to provide insulation whilst also coping with wear and tear. The thicker neoprene on traditional wetsuits is quite restrictive and more difficult to remove.

Triathlon wetsuits are designed with multiple benefits in mind and flexibility is probably the primary feature. Triathlon wetsuits are made to be hydrodynamically resistant and easy to remove in transition. Their construction is very different to surfing wetsuits, with a significantly higher number of panels and varying neoprene thickness, to ensure maximum flexibility through the shoulders, buoyancy to elevate the body position in the water and thermal protection.

Flexibility can vary significantly between each different suit, and its important to be able to move through the water as ergonomically as possible, rather than battling against the suit with every arm rotation. Every movement that is competing with resistance unnecessarily saps energy, effects technique and lowers efficiency. All Zone3 suits offer a ‘spring loaded’ shoulder design to generate a more rhythmic swim stroke, therefore enabling a faster and more energy efficient swim.

The most important part of choosing your wetsuit for your triathlon, is making sure you’ve got the right fit. Zone3 triathlon wetsuits are designed to improve your body position in the water and allow for efficient movement while swimming. This is achieved by combining buoyant and flexible neoprene panels into a comfortable, form-fitting suit.


Beginner Triathlon Wetsuits vs Elite Triathlon Wetsuits

Higher-end wetsuits, such as the Zone3 Vanquish tend to be thinner as they’re designed for speed rather than insulation and focus more on flexibility than warmth and buoyancy. A more entry level wetsuit, such as the Zone3 Advance, will often provide greater warmth and buoyancy, but reduced flexibility.

All Zone3 wetsuits contain a mix of different neoprene thickness’s, to achieve the perfect balance. Our ‘measured buoyancy’ provides optimum efficiency, for all level athletes.

The Vanquish, designed for the more elite athletes, features super thin 1.5mm neoprene to give unparalleled flexibility through the shoulders, arms, chest and back. Whereas our  Advance suit uses 2mm neoprene with a 3mm chest and back panel. Thicker 5mm neoprene on the torso, hips and legs help with buoyancy and position in the water.

The Vanquish has received an overwhelmingly positive response from top coaches who’ve had the chance to test the suit. The overall response is that the suit “takes performance and comfort to new levels” and is “incredibly fast”. The Vanquish is designed to make sure your shoulder, arms, upper back and latissimus dorsi have as much flexibility as possible. This is combined with some of the world’s most buoyant materials around the quads, hips and glutes.

Performance in the Vanquish is improved by using the following:

A highly praised ultra-thin one-piece shoulder panel that has now been extended from the middle of the chest to the centre of the back. This panel is only 1.5mm thick and made with Yamamoto’s premium #40 SCS which is one of the lightest and highest stretch materials available


The extension of this area combined with the lack of seams make the suit extremely comfortable, allows for improved chest expansion and enables a higher elbow position in the water. As soon as you put this suit on you can really feel the difference.


This is now combined with an innovative new ultra-thin 0.3mm Yamamoto BRS SCS material on the arm sleeves. This is the world’s thinnest SCS neoprene and reduces the weight and buoyancy of the arms. This allows a quicker stroke recovery after the catch phase and reduces arm fatigue during the swim, perfect for swims of 1.5km or more.


The focus on ensuring maximum flexibility means you can increase your distance per stroke, conserve energy and minimise the risk of shoulder injuries.

Zone3 wetsuits are coated with an aqua dynamic covering, which significantly minimises any drag through the water whilst also improving the suits durability.


Ease of removal

The final key design difference between a triathlon wetsuit and water-sports wetsuits are their ease of removal. Transitions are the 4th discipline in a triathlon. All Zone3 wetsuits feature ‘Pro Speed’ arm and leg cuffs which use a specially formulated silicone coating, to make sure the wetsuit comes off as quick as possible. Zone3 suits also use downwards zips.

In conclusion, a water-sports wetsuit could be worn for a triathlon, although the swim would be made significantly harder, as well as the first transition onto the bike. A water sports wetsuit is likely to be a hindrance due to its difficult removal and lack of speed and buoyancy. Water sports wetsuits are also likely to be swim illegal, due to race regulations often banning suits with anything over 5mm thickness neoprene.

You can hire your Zone3 wetsuit for the month or season now and try before you buy!