Water Temperature: I'm good with cold, but I am not an ice-swimmer.

Frequency/Distance: I swim an hour weekly (tri-club), with two hours additionally every 2-3 weeks, but I have yet to swim more than 200m without pushing off a wall.

Skill: I have been swimming for a few months. Through training, I have been able to manage a small constant glide at an easy pace.

Would a wet suit provide added benefit to swimming in different temperatures of water in varying distances? Is my skill level a significant factor in considering which type of wet suit I should consider? How do water-temperature, swim distance and skill influence the choice of using a wet suit for the swim-stretch in a triathlon competition?

  • I asked in my club - but everyone there is quite competitive (I'm the taillight in my age group), and the answers I got all pointed at the competitive advantage of a wetsuit. Mar 18, 2013 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


Differing suits might provide a benefit, but I think that would be offset by your overall skill level.

Older swimsuits and skins increased the amount of drag on the body, which is a bad thing for competitive swimming. I noticed a big difference in drag between the speedos I wore during Masters swimming versus the light skin I wore when scuba diving. The rule then was less is more as your own skin presented less drag. << Insert obligatory "yes, I dated myself there" comment >>

Newer swimsuits / skins can present less drag than your own skin does since the material is a tighter weave. Case in point, many Olympic swimmers are now wearing full swim skins. I believe the balance now is between economics versus performance gain.

I think I would purchase suits based upon the temperature of the water you expect to be competing in. If it's a lake and you know it will be cold, having a little heavier suit will keep you warmer so you can function better. Likewise, if it will be more reasonable temperatures then I would go with a lighter suit. The focus is really upon staying warm enough that you can keep swimming.

I don't compete in triathlons, but I expect you wear the same base layer for all 3 events, so keep the other 2 events in mind when picking your swimming gear.

Finally, I would recommend just focusing on improving your overall swimming skill versus worrying about the minimal benefit that you may receive from hydrodynamics. After you get to the point where you're knocking out a few miles of swimming per practice then you will be at a point to consider differing suit types.

  • 1
    The water temperature + time spent in water really makes the difference I guess. At my last triathlon there were some people who didn' wear neoprene - I really felt sorry for them, bcs, 17,5°C water is cold... Jun 24, 2013 at 13:53
  • @RafaelCichocki I scuba dive in 3mm shorty when the water is warmer than 16°C hahahahaha - Here in the Cape Town the water ranges from 6°C to 20°C. All fun and games :-)
    – AquaAlex
    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:13

Wet suits will make you more buoyant which for a swimmer is not a good thing.
Can also increase drag, there are better materials that give less drag or even improve ability to glide in water. And may also offer some thermal protection.

I was workign as a PM for a engineering company that developed measuring equipment that was used by Sport Science Institute, under Prof Tim Noakes, to measure various thigns when Lewis Pugh did his swims in Arctic Oceans.

And he was able to train his body to swim in almsot freezing water without a wet suit :-)


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