Wetsuit 101

We received a lot of questions about renting and buying wetsuits as we gave our open water swim clinics, so here’s a brief Wetsuit 101:

  • Swimming wetsuits are different from surfing or scuba wetsuits. Read product descriptions for ‘smooth skin neoprene.’  The chest and legs should be about 5 m thick and the shoulders should be about 1.5-2 m thick. Here’s a short video that discusses what to look for.

  • Sizing: it should be snug, tight even.  You don’t want water to trickle down through the neck. Sleeveless v. Sleeved depends on water temp, length of swim, and swimmer build.  Those with broad shoulders may be more comfortable in a sleeveless.  Wetsuits come in more specific sizes than just S, M, L or 8, 10, 12.  It’s worth trying on a couple of sizes to ensure best fit.

  • Just a few of the good brands: Blueseventy, Orca, TYR, Aquasphere, Promotion, Xterra, and more.

  • Putting on & taking off a wetsuit: Apply any non-petroleum lubricant like Body Glide, cooking oil spray, butt balm, et cetera on neck, wrists, ankles to prevent chafing and aid faster removal of the suit.  Start with pulling the suit on your calves and slowly work your way up to torso.  You want to pull from inside the suit because nails easily puncture the outer layer.

  • When to buy a wetsuit: Best prices are found in the fall and early winter when retailers are clearing older inventory and selling the previous season’s rental suits.  If there’s a specific brand you like, it may be worth it to get on their mailing list so you are notified about sales and deals.  And check local list serves like craigslist for used suits.

  • Just a few of the places that sell swim gear: Endurance Sports (Mukilteo), Speedy Reedy (Seattle), REI. Online: swimoutlet.com, kiefer.com, wetsuitrental.com.