If you found this page from a web search, then you are probably on the brink of, or have just taken, the plunge into open water swimming. I did exactly the same thing after signing myself up for a Triathlon and spent a bit of time doing desk research & getting advice from various swimmers and triathletes.
So let me share what I found out – here’s a quick rundown of what you might want to consider with your first wetsuit purchase…
- How good a suit do you need? This is your first wetsuit purchase and you may or may not use it long-term. You might suck at swimming, so turning up at your first triathlon in a wetsuit that costs more than most people’s tri-bikes, and then finishing last is not going to gain much kudos. Match your price point to your level. Are you an entry level triathlete/swimmer? If yes, start out with an entry level wetsuit.
- What does that cost? Prices start around £40, although at that price, I’d be worried about the quality on the neoprene. Something around the £100 mark will produce a decent enough suit for training and/or your first race.
- Rent or buy? There’s not much in it really. Rented suits start around £50-80 for a season, and then you pay an additional sum if you want to keep it. Most are rented brand new so you are not renting someone else’s sweaty swimwear. Rented wetsuits which ARE returned can sometimes be purchased much less than the original retail price – if you want a £300 wetsuit for £120, get in touch with the rental website.
- Sizing? I am not a standard size, what size do I need? Trust in the brand’s own sizing charts, not the retailer. Phrases like “small/tall” can be confusing – stay calm! Measure your height and weight and chest size (run a measuring tape around you chest with your arms outstretched. The tape should be just under your armpits. Check again with your arms relaxed – somewhere in between is your actual chest measurement). Visit the brand website for the wetsuit you think you might like and check which size of suit fits your build. Find a sizing which matches your weight and chest size, don’t sweat it on the height – it’s no great shakes to be a few inches too tall or short. All will be fine.
- Try on a few. If you can find a store which will let you, go for it – different brands have different cuts and shapes which may better suit your body shape. Remember neoprene is stretchy, and will relax a little in the water. I’d rather have a tighter fit myself.
- Choose a wetsuit for your intended sport. If it doesn’t say “suitable for open water swimming/triathlon” then it probably isn’t.
- Got one? Get help putting it on, and wear gloves and socks to protect the neoprene.
- Going to try it out in the open water? Don’t go solo – take a swim buddy. And a towel.