How to Choose a Wetsuit
- By Shaun Guest and Jené Shaw and seen on Triathlete.com
We enlisted the expertise of Patrick Baum, customer service specialist for TriSports.com, to demystify the wetsuit selection process and map out the basic steps you should take to zero in on the just- right suit for you.
Assess the athlete’s build. “Proper fit is everything, so that’s where we start,” says Baum. “If it’s over the phone, we ask a lot of questions to get an idea of the person’s build—height, weight and so forth. Do they have a runner’s build, a cyclist’s build, a swimmer’s build?”
Consider swimming ability. “If someone’s not a good swimmer we try to get them into something that will hopefully get them in a better position in the water—buoyancy throughout the suit that puts them up higher in the water so they’ll go faster,” says Baum. “If someone’s a very strong swim- mer, a lot of the time they want flexibility because they don’t want anything getting in the way of their stroke. In that situation we start looking at a suit with Yamamoto 40 [extra stretchable neo- prene] in the arms for shoulder flexibility.”
Consider price point. “We get an idea of what races they are going to be doing—do they need or want a super high-end suit in the $600-plus range?” adds Baum. Or maybe they are just starting out, and need a low- to mid-range suit.”
Identify best-matching brand. “Each brand fits differently, and each has a sepa- rate size chart,” says Baum. “We try to fit the customer in the middle to bottom of the weight range and comfortably within the height range.” If they are in the store, Baum has the customer try on a suit and jump into the in-store pool to test it out. Phone or online customers can take advantage of Trisport.com’s “one free swim” policy. “We want people to get in the water, because feel in the water is critical,” says Baum. “If it doesn’t fit right in the water, they can send it back.”
Sleeves or no sleeves? “A lot of it is personal preference,” says Trisport.com’s Baum. “Sleeveless might work out when just starting out because there’s not a lot of constriction around the shoulders. If a lot of your races are going to be in warmer water, a sleeveless tends to work for the season. But having said that, you don’t see pros in sleeveless wetsuits that often—if they can get away with a full-sleeve suit they’re going to wear one. If someone is talking about wanting a versatile suit that is also very fast, you go full-sleeve.”
How’s it supposed to feel? Baum says if you can breathe OK and zip up the wetsuit without too much trouble (it should feel very tight but not constrict breathing) and you are within the brand’s sizing guidelines, the suit should work. You may not have full range of motion on dry land with the wetsuit straight out of the box, but it should feel more comfortable in the water.