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How to Pick a Wetsuit

How to Pick a Wetsuit

How to Choose a Wetsuit

Some triathlons will have an open water swim, and depending on the water temperature, a wetsuit may be required or optional for race day to increase additional warmth in the water. A wetsuit can not only help warm you up, but it will help you float and stay on top of the water and often will allow you to swim faster due to the extra buoyancy. It is important to note that there is a difference between racing wetsuits and surfing wetsuits, so if you have any additional questions regarding what to look for in a wetsuit, please do not hesitate to reach out.



A swimming or triathlon wetsuit will be designed with thinner sections under the armpits and around the shoulder to increase the range of motion. Some of the top-end wetsuits will also have thinner material in the forearm to allow for a better “feel” for the water. The necklines are generally lower in a swimming wetsuit than in a surfing wetsuit, which allows more head movement for your breath during the swim. There will also be thicker neoprene around the hips and legs to help lift your legs and give you a better body position in the water. If you have ever worked with a coach, you have probably heard the phrase “get your hips up”, or “we need to work on your body position”; a wetsuit will help achieve that goal.


Wetsuits should be very close fitting, and it will take an extended amount of time to put them on. Once you have on your wetsuit, there should not be any sagging or loose-fitting areas. You should have the proper range of motion in your arms and shoulders, so if you feel as though you are constricted in the shoulders, you probably have a wetsuit that is too small. If the body of the suit is too short or narrow, it will restrict your range of motion. 

However, if it is too big, then the suit will fill with water which will make you feel heavy and experience greater fatigue. The wetsuit will not feel comfortable to wear on dry land, but once you get in the water, it should feel comfortable.


Sleeveless vs Full Sleeve

Wetsuits come in two different options; sleeveless and full-sleeved wetsuits. The choice between these two will generally come from personal preference, but it is important to understand the benefits of one vs the other. Sleeveless options look like a tank top on your shoulders and have very little to no restriction of shoulder movement. I have found that former swimmers will generally go with the sleeveless option in shorter races because of the increased shoulder mobility. 

However, since there are no sleeves, there is obviously a decrease in overall neoprene material, which can affect buoyancy. Sleeveless wetsuits will come at a cheaper price point due to the lack of material on the arms.


Sleeved wetsuits are basically full-body suits that cover you from the neck down. The sleeved versions are better for those who are inexperienced swimmers or someone who gets cold easily in the water; the increased amount of coverage does retain more body heat and can help with upper body buoyancy. The sleeved version of wetsuits can be more expensive based on the amount of material used but can help with the comfortability of novice swimmers because of the increased buoyancy.


Wetsuit Practice

It is important to note that all wetsuits and brands will fit a bit differently, so if you can practice in the open water with your wetsuit before race day, it would be a great benefit. Swimming in the open water is different than swimming in the pool, so open water practice is crucial for novice swimmer who may be nervous about their first open water race. Hiring a coach with extensive swimming knowledge and experience is a great benefit to your triathlon training, so as you start to prepare for your next race, reach out with any questions you may have!


Coach Michael Rourke is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach, Level 3 Playtri Coach, and an American Swim Coaches Association Level 4 swim coach. He coaches junior and adult triathletes of all levels, as well as high school elite swimmers. He is also a 70.3 World’s Qualifier and USAT Age Group Nationals Qualifier. Coach Michael is currently taking on new athletes, so if you are interested in Remote Swim Analysis or Individual Coaching Programs, send him an email to

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