The following was borrowed from the XTERRA Wetsuit website, and it does a very good job of answering the question, “Why do I need/want a wetsuit?”
We have all seen the hordes of athletes gathered at the banks of a lake in the early morning for a swim start, and in the ranks of swimmers one thing stands out: A sleek X on the front and the word XTERRA around the neck of most athletes – most athletes are wearing wetsuits! But why are so many triathletes out there in wetsuits? Why does anyone need a wetsuit and not just a swimsuit for races or open water swimming events like these anyway? Worry not, here’s an explainaton. There are many reasons why you should look into that wetsuit before your upcoming event:
– SAFETY –
There is no denying that the swim portion can be a bit intimidating for some, but it doesn’t have to be. Here in lies the main reason why everyone needs a wetsuit: piece of mind. A wetsuit provides important advantages that all contribute to safety, including warmth and buoyancy. Although many of these benefits are discussed below in further detail, let’s keep it simple for now, a wetsuit facilitates a safer swim, period. There is no sense stressing over the swim when you approach it with safety in mind. And don’t worry, we’re not going to recommend swim floaties next.
– WARMTH –
This one is easy, everyone benefits from swimming in colder water with a wetsuit. But if you live in a warmer climate, don’t write that wetsuit off just yet. There are plenty of other reasons why you’ll need a wetsuit.
– BUOYANCY –
Buoyancy plays into many factors of the swim as well as the rest of the race. The more buoyant you are the higher your body floats in the water, and the higher you are in the water, the less effort you expell with each stroke. Attack the swim portion with a wetsuit and your body will thank you during the run portion. A little extra gas in the tank near the end of a race never hurt anyone.
– HYDRODYNAMICS –
Yes, we are going to get all scientific on you for a second. Wetsuits are coated with special finishes commonly referred to as SCS (Super Composite Skin) coatings. These coatings do more than just keep you warm, they repell water. If you wear a wetsuit for a race, you are more than just a docile swimmer enjoying the sights; you are a torpedo shooting past the competition. Halfway through the swim you’ll completely forget what the person that started next to you looks like. Don’t worry, after the race they’ll be shopping for their wetsuit as well.
– LOOKING COOL –
We’re not going to pretend we know fashion, but have you ever seen a triathlete sprinting out of a lake, water beads cascading in every direction? Trust us, it is cool…just saying.
– WHEN? –
Ok, so now you know why you need a wetsuit, but when do you need a wetsuit? Well, there are several situations merit a wetsuit. First of all, if your event is going to take place in colder water, colder climates, or at higher altitude, then a wetsuit is a must, no doubt about it. Also, if the swim is over 100 yards or more, we highly recommend a wetsuit. Several factors listed above play into the need for a wetsuit in longer distance swims, but the three most important are safety, buoyancy, and hydrodynamics.
– LEGALITY –
Are all races wetsuit legal? The answer is no, not all races and open water swimming events allow wetsuits. The main reason is that some events the water temperature is too warm. For example, a summer race held in Miami is going to be too hot for a wetsuit, hands down. That being said, in any race where you can wear a wetsuit, do so, as you are always safer and faster in one!