Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Choosing a wetsuit? It's a minefield out there...

There are five things I ask myself when I'm shopping for new clothes. I have successfully been guided by these questions over the years and avoided several possible fashion disasters, all bar one involving pink striped jeans, a ripped t-shirt and an over large denim jacket with shoulder pads. All circa 1988 and perfectly acceptable back in the day. These days I can't look at the only photo taken of me that year where I happen to be wearing it without wincing. Why did nobody tell me that outfit was so awful? Anyway, despite this one setback I am confident that my sartorial measure works and I shall be using the five question approach when choosing my new wetsuit. The summer open water season is soon to be upon us. Last years blueseventy on its last legs, and I have a Christmas present (an I.O.U a wetsuit) burning a hole in my pocket. It's time to start some serious looking.

Tick list in hand, I began my search only to find that the more I looked the more obvious it is that my list was not going to cut it. As I pore over various websites, taking all sorts of different jargon, I notice that there are actually far more things to consider than I realised, and my tried and tested go-to questions are not fit for purpose in this instance (as demonstrated below) and therefore for the purposes of buying a wetsuit I need to rethink. My modus operandi is usually as follows:

1. Do I like it?
It's a wetsuit. It keeps me warm, afloat and offers a layer between me and any possible fish attack. I like all of those, especially the last one.

2. How much does it cost?
I am a Yorkshire man's daughter and being frugal (or plain old tight as my Dad likes to say) is embedded from birth. I want the best, value for money and a discount.

3. Is it appropriate for the occasion?
I can't imagine anything else doing a better job, so I'll go with yes.

4. Does my bum look big in it?
Won't know till I try, however they do mainly come in black, and as black is known to be slimming, I am therefore quite hopeful.

5. Is it orange?
Should be ok as mainly come in black or black, however even orange stitching would result in it being a big fat no from me. I don't do orange unless it's sitting on a layer of cake and topped with dark chocolate.

I have read several different account and opinions about buying the right wetsuits. My head is spinning with information and may well explode, but the general gist of it (if I've got it right) is that I should instead be asking the following:

1. Does it keep me warm?
I am always cold, and as I will be swimming in water that varies from 14.5 (our agreed getting in temperature) to 20 degree Celsius (everything crossed we reach these dizzying heights this year) I therefore would be better with a thicker one, but with a risk of tiring sooner than if in a thinner one due to movement restrictions, however a thinner one won't keep me as warm...

2. Does it keep me buoyant?
I'm not convinced I need too much help with this one... Nuff said, but most definitely need to buy a womans. It's to do with the buoyancy profile, but the thicker it is the higher the risk of becoming too buoyant and I'll be swimming too high to the surface and therefore be less efficient.

3. Will it help me to swim faster?
If I get the buoyancy right then it should in theory make me more efficient and therefore faster.

4. Is it comfortable?
I'll need to be sure I can move my arms and legs independently of each other and that I can move my head. That means it's got to be flexible - unlike me!
Also, I had particular issues round the neck resulting last year in Al at Swimyourswim 'customising' the neckline of my last one. I say customising, I mean taking a knife to the back of it and cutting some of it off. Not to be recommended, and only did it because I knew I needed a new one and it was the back end of the season with only a couple of swims left, but worked a treat.

5. Is it orange?
It won't be. I won't order an orange one!

It's clear that it's not a one size fits all and there are so many variations of density, flexibility and buoyancy, but here's the thing -I'm not particularly fast and will never make the Olympic squad, although this isn't for the want of trying! I just want to have enjoyed every swim I do without feeling cold or restricted and to be able to get out in one piece, and so with this in mind I intend to buy a few different makes to try on at home (with free returns of course), and although I won't be able to try them in the water I will be standing in my lounge swinging my arms round like a pendulum a few times, checking I don't need a shoe horn to get it on or off (important to be self sufficient) and hoping that I've hit the jackpot in so much as the one that feels the most comfortable is also happens to not be orange, be the least expensive, makes me swim like a dolphin, keeps me as warm as toast and is the most flattering... When making what I feel are important decisions like this though, there is one person, my Dad, that I can always rely on to say the right thing at the right time and put things into perspective. His words "in a life or death survival situation no-one's going to be looking at your backside..." is a really good point, but I'm just not entirely sure I'm prepared to risk it on this occasion!


  1. Hi,

    I'm going to be doing Windermere in September. Will be following you training and hope to keep up with the training.

    Did you pick a wetsuit? I satisfied the inner Yorkshireman by buying one at the end of last year, from 2015. Saved me about 40% of the list price. However, it was still about the most expensive wetsuit I could have found had I paid full price. Main selling point for me was that it's specifically designed for long distance. Only done a few short swims, but it seems to do the job in 12-14 degrees for 40 minutes or so. Anyway, it's a Zone3 Victory D. Worth checking out.

    Best of luck with your swim, and looking forward to the next instalments.

    1. I'm torn still... I've narrowed it down. I thought I'd try one each from the obvious brands and hope that one stands out. I need to pull my finger out though. It's almost warm enough for me to get back in the open water. Seriously not looking forward to trying them all on... that's a whole other blog!
      I hope your training goes well. I usually post a running commentary on Twitter about mine. If you're not on already feel free to follow and chip in. I'm on @openwaterwoman_