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Triathlon Wetsuit

There are four major reasons for wearing a triathlon wetsuit, and these will differ somewhat for those reasons for just wearing a regular wetsuit. Not included in those reasons is the fact that beginners and poor swimmers should wear one if they intend to swim competitively. Here are the four main points to remember.

  • Buoyancy - The higher you can maintain your position in the water, the faster you will move.

  • Energy Conservation - Swimming is very energy consumptive and the wetsuit helps conserve energy for the other triathlon events.

  • Speed - A wetsuit helps reduce drag or friction in the water thereby speeding your movement through the race.

  • Warmth - The core body temperature warms the layer of water trapped between the neoprene or rubber helping to maintain body temperature and avoiding hypothermia.

Differences Between Wetsuits

Triathlon swimming wetsuits differ from wetsuits used for surfing, scuba, or windsurfing, with the main difference being in how they interact with the water around them. Swimming wetsuits are designed for speed while a scuba or other wetsuit is designed more for warmth.

Non-Swimming Wetsuits

The purpose of the non-swimming wetsuit is to provide warmth and protection, which is accomplished by a design similar to a heavy, flexible sponge. This traps water between the material and the body, which absorbs heat from the skin's surface and holds it close to the skin helping maintain consistent body temperature. Attempting to swim in this type of wetsuit would be very tiring, as the weight would drag you down.

Swimming Wetsuits


Typically, a swimming wetsuit is comprised of a neoprene-rubber blend formulated differently according to the company. Often a proprietary blend meeting the specific requirements of each level of triathlon competition eventually becomes an industry standard. The exterior of the triathlon wetsuit has a slick and hydrophobic coating that repels water, thereby reducing friction and drag on the athlete.

There are four types of wetsuits. These are Full Cut, Sleeveless, Shortcut, and Bibjohn + Pullover.

  • The Fullcut is more buoyant, generally warmer, has less drag, but is more difficult to remove.

  • The Sleeveless works well in warmer waters but does not provide quite the speed of the fullcut. This type of wetsuit is more easily taken off and could be a consideration in a triathlon event.

  • The Shortcut design is even easier to remove but obviously does not have the warmth of or the same buoyancy considerations of the Fullcut and Sleeveless.

  • The Bibjohn + Pullover can be advantageous as it leaves the upper body unencumbered movement wise and still provides buoyancy for the middle and lower body. When more warmth is required simply sliip on the pullover.

Buying Considerations

When purchasing your triathlon wetsuit you should consider fit, temperature ranges, and price.


Take your time in trying to find the best fit.

  • The fit should be snug, not tight.

  • There should be no extra folds or excess material hanging from the suit.

  • Shoulder mobility may be the most important factor so be sure there is a full range of motion.

  • Arm, leg, and neck openings should be snug enough that there is a minimum of water scooping that will drag down your efforts.


In what temperature ranges will you be participating? As a rule, follow these temperature guidelines:

  • Fullcut - water temperatures of 50 F and above

  • Sleeveless - water temperatures of 68 F and above

  • Shortcut - water temperatures of 68 F and above

  • Bibjohn + Pullover - all water temperature ranges

Pricing a high quality Triathlon Wetsuit is much like most precision equipment. What you gain in price will most likely result in shorter life and lower performance. You should be able to find good quality product in the $200 to $400 range.

When it comes to triathlon wetsuits, good fit and temperature ranges are the most important considerations before deciding on price.

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