Originally used to protect swimmers from cold water, wetsuits now rival TT bikes in technological features. Not only do many of today’s suits fit like a second skin, they also enhance speed and efficiency by improving body position, aiding rotation from stroke to stroke and reducing overall drag. And now they can make an athlete look like a superhero, six-pack abs included (see Tyr’s Freak of Nature). But just like bikes, not all wetsuits are created equal, so we put seven very different suits in the water to find out how they stack up in speed and comfort.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.
2XU ST:3 Sleeveless Team $280
Best for: Good swimmers
It’s tricky to make a sleeveless suit with neck and shoulder openings that form a good seal without feeling uncomfortably tight. 2XU comes close with the ST:3. “I can’t believe no water slipped down my back and chest,” one tester reported. Swimmers with naturally decent body position will find that this suit does not force up hips and legs awkwardly while still making nice hydrodynamic body position. The wetsuit has respectable flexibility through the torso and legs, however the collar might be too tight for some.
Tyr Freak of Nature $1,200
Best for: Showing off, comfort
For athletes looking to make a statement on the start line, the Freak is clearly the frontrunner. But what do you get for $1,200? “It feels like it was custom-made for me,” said one enthusiastic tester. Made entirely of the most flexible wetsuit rubber, Yamamoto #40, the Freak conforms to the entire body like a second skin, with panels for extra buoyancy placed in exactly the right spots to aid swim position and rotation without noticeable bulk. The low, comfortable collar keeps water out without hindering sighting, while the tire-tread forearm panels feel like they enhance forearm propulsion. With the right aero helmet, the Freak could also be worn as an Iron Man superhero costume on Halloween, an extra use that may help justify the eye-popping price tag.