The benefits of wearing a swimming specific wetsuit

Unlike those used for diving or surfing, swimming specific wetsuits are made for the express purpose of surface swimming in open water. They were originally introduced to maintain warmth when swimming in colder open water swims.

These days the primary focus of swimming specific wetsuits designs is to also provide additional buoyancy, allow unrestricted arm movement, and reduce drag. All of which add up to significantly enhancing your swimming speed.

This has resulted in swimming specific wetsuits becoming a highly technical, performance component of ocean swimming.

How do they work?
Swimming specific wetsuits provide greatly enhanced buoyancy for the swimmer. This buoyancy brings your body higher out the water providing better water displacement, and lower surface friction from the water.

How does a wetsuit make me faster?

The primary function of a swimming specific wetsuit is the provision of additional buoyancy. This additional buoyancy results in less drag as the body is positioned higher out of the water. The result is a maximised performance potential.
All wetsuits are made of “neoprene rubber” which is naturally buoyant. Different types of neoprene have different rates of buoyancy. For swimming specific wetsuits, the neoprene that is used has a high most amount of air cells. This is like a honey comb effect. The rubber is made with microscopic air bubbles. This means that it is lighter, more flexible and more buoyant.

In the case of normal surfing and diving type wetsuits, neoprene is laminated on each side with nylon fabric. This helps to protect the rubber against abrasion. However, in the case of swimming specific wetsuits, one side (being the external surface) is left as raw rubber, and is then coated with a special low friction coating called “super composite skin”. This special coating has a very low rate of friction and it therefore glides much more easily through the water.

In theory, the most buoyant (and therefore fastest) wetsuit would be one made of the thickest possible material. ie, the thicker the material the more buoyant it is. However, swimming in such a wetsuit would require a far greater amount of muscular force to rotate the arms and freely move the body. Consequently, swimming specific wetsuits are made with a variety of rubber thicknesses. 5mm rubber is used in the main front body area to maximize buoyancy. 3mm is used in that back to aid freedom of movement, and 2mm rubber is used in the sleeves and underarms to allow total freedom for the swimming stroke.

At blueseventy, we are always looking for the right blend of buoyancy, flexibility and cutting edge materials to make sure that our suits are the fastest they can possibly be.

What to look for when buying a wetsuit?

Various design features and materials provide varying levels of performance enhancement. Some important factors to consider when buying a wetsuit are:

  • Surface friction: Most (but not all) swimming specific wetsuits are now manufactured with hydrophobic outer skin. This rubber has a silicon type surface treatment, which has much the same effect as Teflon in a pan. This slippery surface improves the glide benefit of the wetsuit by reducing surface resistance.
  • Design: Design is vitally important. In addition to limiting water entry, design fit can make for a comfortable, or chaffing swim. Water entry is normal in a wetsuit, but too much water will add to the weight of your suit and reduce your buoyancy and speed.
  • Flexibility: Flexibility, freedom of movement, and stroke rotation are crucial factors. This is extremely important when choosing a fullsuit (full sleeve and legs).
  • Breathing: Sustained performance will be compromised if the wetsuit is too restrictive around the torso or throat. This reduces the breathing capacity of the lungs, which reduces the level of O2 in the bloodstream and the resulting power output of the muscles. Wetsuits that do not restrict these areas will provide greater performance enhancements. However, it is important that the suit is not too loose as this will incur water entry and water pockets. Always go for a firm but comfortable fit.

Where to Buy?

For more information about blueseventy wetsuits – check out there range in our ocean swim store.

Sandra Smith says 7 December 2012

I would like advise about purchasing a wetsuit for a 57, 80 kg lady!

    Grant says 11 December 2012

    Hi Sandra,

    We advise you start here – if you are still uncertain then give one of the local stockists a call to arrange a fitting so you are 100% sure.

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