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Triathlon swimming - wetsuit considerations

Kevin Koskella reviews the benefits of wearing a wetsuit

After the bicycle frame and components, purchasing a wetsuit is the largest expense in a triathlon. During the 1980s, triathlon events began to permit the use of wetsuits in competition. Benefits include increased buoyancy, expansion of potential workout and race venues, increased safety, and general comfort.

Why a Wetsuit

  • Warmth - The neoprene or rubber material traps a layer of water close to the skin that is warmed by core body temperature and delays hypothermia in water less than 80 degrees
  • Buoyancy - The wetsuit provides safe and fear-reducing buoyancy but should not be relied upon as a life preserver. However, increased confidence in open water can be another benefit
  • Speed - Reduction of drag, the effects of providing buoyancy to the hips and legs, and the ease of breathing and sighting all contribute to a 10% or greater reduction in time over an Olympic distance swim (3-5 minutes!)
  • Energy Conservation- This should be your goal on the swim since you still have some biking and running left to do!

Additional Considerations:

  1. Open water swimming is often done "double capped" using latex swim caps
  2. The fit of the wetsuit should be "second skin" tight. Legs and arms can be "cut" to length with sharp scissors, if necessary. Fit around the chest and arms for ease of movement are the single most important fit consideration
  3. The first time you swim in your wetsuit, it can feel like your breathing is restricted. This diminishes with practice as long as the fit is proper
  4. "Neck rash" is the chafing that can occur around the neck due to the movement associated with breathing. "Rash Guards" are shirts that help prevent this rash and can be obtained at Costco and most surf shops. Also, Vaseline helps prevent this
  5. Wetsuits should be rinsed after each use
  6. Use of "body glide" at the lower legs, neck, and wrists can help in suit removal.
  7. In a race, start unzipping your suit as you exit the water

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • KOSKELLA, K. (2006) Triathlon swimming - wetsuit considerations. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 32 / May), p. 9

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • KOSKELLA, K. (2006) Triathlon swimming - wetsuit considerations [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Kevin Koskella coaches masters and triathlete swimmers in San Diego, CA. He operates the website, a resource for beginner to intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming.