I have to admit, I have always been a wetsuit hater.
As a relatively strong swimmer, I hate losing range of motion in my pull and the feeling of the suit against my neck on the swim. I had purchased a closeout suit on a bargain site and worn it all through training and on race day for an Ironman. I think I still may have a scar from the chaffing I received during that Ironman swim.
Last year as my early season half Ironman approached, I’m fairly certain that I was the only person hoping for a non-wetsuit swim. Someone suggested I try out the Orca wetsuit and it was a game-changer. It fit perfectly in all of the right places and I felt like I was moving effortlessly through the water.
The lesson is, the right wetsuit should aid your swim rather than hinder it.
So how do you know if you have the right wetsuit? It really comes down to fit.
Here are our top 6 wetsuit fit tips
- It’s gonna be tight. Most people who come into the store tell us that it’s too tight but we can see that it fits perfectly. Your suit is actually too tight if it cuts off circulation in your legs/arms or you completely lose range of motion in your shoulders. Neoprene will actually stretch in the water and over time so if you’re in-between two sizes, go for the one that’s a bit more snug.
- Make sure you pull it way up! No droopy crotches! It should fit snuggly onto your torso. This is the most important place to get a good fit - arms and legs are secondary. When you try the suit on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A buddy or even a kind stranger can help you get it up just a bit higher than you thought!
- Your arms and legs may hang out…..or have way too much material. Wetsuits are made for people of an average height. Personally, my legs always stop at mid-calf because I’m a tall female. It’s really your torso and quads that are the most important for giving you that added buoyancy in the water so make sure those are covered. If you have really long arms, you may prefer a sleeveless suit. If you are on the shorter side, you can cut the sleeves or legs so they don’t hang over after you purchase the suit.
- Check the neck. You wouldn’t believe how many people have DNF’d a race —or even stripped out of a wetsuit mid-race because they felt like they were choking. My friend Joanna left her wetsuit floating somewhere in the Savannah River because she was sure she would die if she kept it on. Your collar will stretch a bit over time, but if it feels too tight, look for a wetsuit with a lower collar (Orca is a great brand for this). You also will want to add some tri-slide or body glide to the collar area so you don’t end up with a chaffed neck.
- Don’t worry so much about what the ‘size’ says. Your body type matters way more than what size you might normally wear….and many wetsuits come in some weird sizing options — for example Orca’s men suits are by number while the women’s suits are by traditional S, M, L, XL size. If you order online and it doesn’t fit, you can return the suit. If you can come into the store, realize that a wetsuit fitting typically takes between 30-45 minutes, depending on how many you try on. Take the time to try it on and make sure you get the fit right.
- Practice in your wetsuit. Ideally, you’ll get 4-5 open water swims in before your race but if that’s not an option, take it to the pool and wear it for part of your workout. Typically pools are way too warm for you to wear the wetsuit for the entire workout. Be sure to rinse it out after wearing it in the chlorine. Also, practice taking your wetsuit OFF. We have a customer who raced his first wetsuit legal triathlon (a sprint) and had a 12-minute T-1 because he couldn’t figure out how to get the wetsuit off. He finally saw a friend take hers off in 10 seconds flat and mimicked what she did.
Many of our employees (including me), wear Orca wetsuits. Orca offers a variety of wetsuits for different types of swimmers but we find our most popular suit to be the S6, either sleeveless or full-sleeved.
The S6 is going to offer the maximum floatability of any of the Orca line which means it will help correct sinking legs or keep you floating when fatigued from a long swim.
The S6 is also the only Orca suit that offers a sleeveless option which many swimmers with broader shoulders, poor range of motion in the shoulder, or who race in water that tends to be closer to the cutoff temperature, tend to favor.
Check out the S6 and other options from Orca here.
Do you live in the Atlanta area? We offer a free wetsuit fit. You are welcome to come by the store anytime!