What You Need to Know About Wetsuits

Go For Comfort

Whether you rent, borrow, or buy the golden rule is comfort.  When it comes to wetsuits, this can be a tricky thing. 

If you feel like you've slipped into a sausage casing then you're probably on the right track but, if possible, get a professional fit just to be sure. Here are a few guidelines to consider when choosing:

  • The wetsuit should feel snug when you're out of the water because it expands about half a size in the water;
  • If water bubbles up more than a quarter of an inch (according to Xterra wetsuit website) or the material bunches up you need to go down a size;
  • If it feels like it's pulling up in the groin every time you take a stroke then it's probably just a little too short in the torso;
  • If you're going to wear your tri-clothes under your wetsuit in the race try it on this way before you buy it;
  • Try different brands to find the one that's right for you since wetsuit sizing varies by company.

More: Wetsuit 101: Get Reacquainted With Your Wetsuit

For The Ladies

It took a while but most wetsuit companies now offer women-specific wetsuits that are built for the female form.

  • Women typically have wider hips so if this sounds like you look for a wetsuit with a longer zipper to make it easier to get on and off;
  • Women have less upper body muscle mass and in general higher arm turnover so the sleeves should be thinner than the men's to accommodate this difference;
  • The wrists and ankles should be narrow to prevent water from entering the suit.

Four Quick Tips

1. Lube Inside and Out: Be generous with non-petroleum-based lubricant when you put on your wetsuit. Areas that most often chafe are going to be around your neck and in the front of your armpits, the latter being one that often gets overlooked. For fast transitions be sure to use lubricant in key areas:  around your wrists and lower legs both inside and out so the wetsuit slips off much faster.

2. The Plastic Bag Solution: If you have trouble getting into the arms and legs of your wetsuit, put a plastic grocery bag on your foot or hand before slipping on your wetsuit to speed up the process.

3. Beware of Long Fingernails: If you have long fingernails pinch the material up or try wearing a thin pair of gloves to avoid poking small tears in your wetsuit.

4. Avoid Chlorine: Chlorine can degrade the glue that binds the seams so unless your pool is filled with saltwater you may want to avoid wearing your suit while pool swimming. One additional word of caution here:  Swimming in chlorinated water may likely void your manufacturer's warranty.

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