Monday, July 10, 2017

Swimming with a Wetsuit: The Fundamentals


Marcus has just finished installing a pole at the top of the shower so that after use the wetsuit can be washed in tepid water to remove debris, and maybe salt/dirty water, and hung to dry.   Because everybody knows that.

And then I thought.  Does everybody know that?

Here then is a quick summary of Wetsuits as used for swimming and why you might want one

01 Wetsuits have been traditionally used for Swimmers in the triathlon but now their use is spreading to regular swimmers

02 Swimming wetsuits are made of different material to Diving Wetsuits or Casual 'shorty' wetsuits, they are not interchangeable.

03 The Wetsuit is made of buoyant material, part Neoprene so that when you swim your whole body is resting higher in the water making resistance much lower.  You swim so much faster

04 So in a Triathlon competition, below a certain water temperature you can wear a Triathlon race-suit or a wetsuit.  A race suit is like a all in one swimsuit made from cloth like, non buoyant swimsuit material.  If you use a wetsuit you will swim faster, however you will have the time of getting out of the wetsuit at the transition to get onto the bike part of the race.  So it is a tradeoff

05 Wetsuits have a variety of thicknesses and surface coatings.  The coating claims to make you go faster by making the surface slippier and hence water-dynamic.   There are limits on wetsuit thicknesses specified in Triathlon competition rules, but practically too thick and it restricts your arm and leg movements.  The best Triathlon suits therefore have variable thickness with thinner more flexible regions around arms and legs.

06 Wetsuits are actually fragile.  I'd recommend always having cut ones nails short and smooth before attempting to put them on.  Your nails can easily cut the outer surface and the cut will then just spread, basically ruining the whole garment.   Thin cuts can be glued together but 'it is never quite the same'.  In fact a tip is to put your hands into two ultra thin plastic bags, like you get at the veg section of the supermarket.   Use those whilst you pull the wetsuit on,  still being careful not to dig your nails into the wetsuit exterior.  Then when on save the bags for the next time.

07 Almost all wetsuits zip up on the back.   The zipper has a pull cord to enable you to so this solo and most suits have a velcro area to attach this long cord so it does not snag or catch on something as you swim

08 Wetsuit sizing is very problematic.  Best to go to a shop for your first wetsuit.  It should be tight, but if your chest feels compressed, i.e. you can't breathe freely, then it is too tight.   It should not be loose otherwise it is going to be quite literally  a 'drag' in the water

09 Wetsuits keep you warm.   As a sensitive soul Marcus would wear a suit at anything below 20 degrees C water temp.   Agata famously went swimming in just a swimsuit at 14 degrees once.  I can't ever do that

10 Wetsuits protect you from bugs.  In Lausanne lake, duck fleas are a problem.  But any skin  under a wetsuit is protected,  so in that case you just have your hands, feet and face to worry about!

11 Wetsuit prices go from just under 100 GBP to over 400 GBP.  Generally speaking you get what you pay for.   You can also have custom fit wetsuits where they measure you and make a bespoke suit.

12 I currently have 3 wetsuits.  An ultra thin one that is easy to put on, but provides no speed advantage, but does protect against cold and bugs.  I have a top of the line, expensive, more buoyant, difficult to put on second suit.  Good for any long swim (say over 1.5Km) or longer competition.  And I have the 3rd wetsuit which is an old one that I could not sell, it serves as emergency backup and guest wetsuit.


So now, if you are a swimmer, who want to swim in sub 20 degrees C water, who wants to stay warm and protected, and enjoy swimming significantly faster than in just a swimsuit consider buying an entry level wetsuit.  I think it will be a purchase you will not regret.  Oh, and don't forget to wash it and hang it dry after use :-)

Here is a link

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/wetsuits/