What type of wetsuit is best for a sprint triathlon?
May 17, 2011 8:38 AM   Subscribe

What type of wetsuit should I buy for a sprint Triathlon?

I am participating in a sprint Triathalon on July 31. The swim portion is 1/3 of a mile, in a semi-protected part of the Portland (Maine) Harbor. The average temperature for the Maine ocean water is about 58 degrees in July/August, though I suspect that it may be colder this year as we are having a chilly, wet spring.

From what I have read, the pros for a full coverage wetsuit include better buoyancy and more protection from the cold water. The pros for a sleeveless or short-sleeved/knee length wetsuits are that it's easier to take off and less expensive. Plus, I should only be spending about 20 minutes in the water (I hope!).

This is my first triathalon. I am a fairly strong swimmer in the pool, but have no experience in the ocean (though I will be participating in some ocean-swimming clinics).

I'd also appreciate any other advice about what to look for in wetsuits, or about triathalons in general.

Thank you!
posted by suki to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried skinning that temperature water yet? It's possible that you won't even need a wetsuit; I've done swims of that distance in that general temperature range without any problem before. Might be worth doing a test run before you drop several hundred (or even thousand) dollars on a competition wetsuit.
posted by saladin at 8:42 AM on May 17, 2011

You'll definitely want a wetsuit at <6>my full suit. I dive in Monterrey, too!

The last race I went suit-less for was an Olympic in Hawaii where the water was 75F. If you're going to do more, you may as well have a wetsuit. I'd start with a full and get shorts if you find you want something for buoyancy even when it's warm.

You can always rent one to try it out, especially since most places will apply the rental cost towards a suit you then buy there. You'll be able to get the right fit more easily that way as well.
posted by kcm at 8:51 AM on May 17, 2011

(my answer got eaten)

You'll definitely want a wetsuit at less-than-60F. It's possible to swim without it, but (for example) my last sprint was in a lake at 60F and I wanted a hood to go with my full suit. I dive in Monterrey, too!
posted by kcm at 8:52 AM on May 17, 2011

Sleeved wetsuits will be harder to move your shoulders in, too. I'm really coveting a sleeveless for this summer, personally; I wanted one when I did the swim portion of a relay triathlon last fall, also in Maine.
posted by nat at 8:54 AM on May 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you!

First, my apologies for misspelling triathlon in my question!

The people putting on this Tri strongly recommend a wetsuit, and I am way too much of a wimp to go without.

I was wondering about how having sleeves would affect my mobility, but also I understand that more coverage decreases "drag." Again, as this is just a sprint, I don't know if either of these factors will matter.

And I don't know if I'll do another Tri, though I am considering participating on in early fall (the swim portion will be in a lake).

I'll look into renting one - I can test them out when I do the clinics.

Thank you everyone!
posted by suki at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2011

If you're new to the sport, consider renting so you can get an idea of what you like and what you don't. I wear a swimsuit up into the high 60s. I wear a full, and the tightness can be a bit offputting until you get used to it. I've swum long distances in a full though and it's not really affected my mobility as such, just remember to grease yourself up before you swim!
posted by poissonrouge at 8:48 PM on May 17, 2011

I've raced in both. For shorter distances I'd use a sleeveless, for HIM and IM long sleeve all the way. If it's really cold wearing two swim caps can help keep you warm.

Baby oil your legs/ankles and wrists (if wearing a long suit) for ease of removal and body glide your neck and around your arms to prevent chafing

And race strong!
posted by WayOutWest at 5:36 AM on May 18, 2011

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