General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Wetsuit Buoyancy Rss Feed  
Moderators: jmk-brooklyn, Ron Reply
2010-10-18 10:56 AM


24

Subject: Wetsuit Buoyancy
I h?ave never worn a wetsuit and had a couple of questions.  I am a pretty weak swimmer at this point.  How much does a wetsuit actually help your swimming?  If I get tired on a long swim can I float easier in a wetsuit than without one?  Last thing, is thicker better when it comes ??to t???h?e wetsuits?  I know that 5mm is the maximum thickness allowed in some competitions.  Is that mean it is better than one that is 4mm thick?  Thanks for any help.


2010-10-18 11:11 AM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Silver member
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
Don't worry about the thickness. Get a brand name suit (2XU, X-Terra, Orca, Zoot) and it'll be a decent setup.

You will have to try to sink in a wetsuit even if you do not move.
2010-10-18 11:12 AM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Expert
976
500100100100100252525
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy

I just purchased my first wetsuit and tried it out Friday in the Gulf. Let's put it this way, I could float pretty easily. I'd swim about 400 yards around a couple of buoys and stop to wave to my wife on shore so she would know I am alive. Well when I stopped I had trouble staying upright because my butt wanted to float up It is like swimming with pull buoy.

I am a decent swimmer and can easily do the distance but my butt does have a tendency to sink. So, it really helps me just because it gives me better form. Although it probably could, I would never want to rely on it to keep me afloat. I don't do any distances that I can't do without a wetsuit.

Can't wait to try a race using it. Next race is Miami Man HIM in November so maybe it will be cool enough.

enjoy,
Duane

2010-10-18 11:16 AM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Expert
1137
100010025
Vancouver (not Canada) Washington (not D.C.)
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
A good wetsuit can really help you swim easier. The better ones will bring your hips and legs higher toward the surface and make it easier to move forward. It assists with some additional buoyancy but by no means is like a life jacket. If you get tired during a swim you can swimming and catch your breath and the suit will help you float some. You can also legally hold on to a boat (or stand on the bottom) as long as you aren't making forward progress.

The issue with thickness of wetsuit material is that the thicker, the more buoyancy and warmth. However, the thicker it is, the less flexible. You will notice as you look at wetsuits that most are thickest in the chest, thighs and sometimes back. They shoulders are the thinnest to allow for a natural easy swim stroke. There are full arm and "farmer john" type suits. The full arm is warmer but harder to get off. The john wetsuits give a bit more feel for the water and are usually a bit cheaper and less constricted feeling on the shoulders.

I'd recommend renting a suit for your practices and first race if that is an option. While buying isn't a problem, renting will allow you to maybe try several brands and get a feel for how they help your swim and how easy they are to get out of.

Finally, remember that whatever benefit a wetsuit brings to the swim, the open water element will take away some speed and predictability. Search for open water swims in your area and get used to it before race day. Also, if you don't normally swim with a swim cap, make sure to try that out as well just to get a feel for race day.

Good luck!
2010-10-18 11:59 AM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Expert
2004
2000
Pfafftown, NC
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
I had the same questions a few weeks ago.  I recently bought a wetsuit, and like Daniel says.....you'd have to try to sink in it.  If you flip over on your back, you can rest with VERY little effort.  You literally float like a cork.

"LIke swimming with a pull buoy".  I buy that.  I hate swimming with a PB.  The suit puts my legs, actually, in a BETTER position.

Ask the right people (aka accomplished OWS's) what they prefer (and why). 

Good luck!

p.s. - I am NOT a swimmer.  I'm just giving you the "wetsuit noob" perspective.
2010-10-18 12:27 PM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Veteran
186
100252525
Saint Simons Island, GA
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
I am a pretty weak swimmer and find the buoyancy offered by a wetsuit to be a HUGE help.  Wearing the suit will shave 30% or so off my time.  Really keeps my legs up and helps me maintain proper position.  Also gives you a nice peice of mind knowing that you have the extra buoyancy just in case.  It is MUCH easier to float with a wetsuit.  Good luck! 


2010-10-18 12:56 PM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Pro
5723
5000500100100
Melbourne FL
Gold member
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
Quite a bit.  A few years ago I was swimming in a small park lake and it has ~250yd lap in the swim area.  When I got the wetsuit I did a decent warm up and a few of laps without it, then some with the wetsuit.  Delta was consistently 45-50 seconds saved or about 20 sec per 100.

I have a sleeveless and can float without issue in it.  Like others stated, wetsuit manufacturers mostly use variable thickness and put the material where it is best suited.
2010-10-18 1:04 PM
in reply to: #3157966

User image

Pro
4340
2000200010010010025
Baton Rouge area
Gold member
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
General rule is (unless you are an elite swimmer) "Wear a wetsuit when the race is wetsuit legal".  There are always exceptions but one thing is you need to practice your transitions with a wetsuit.  Taking off a wetsuit shouldn't add more than 20 seconds to your transition but if you don't practice it could take a lot longer.
2010-10-18 1:56 PM
in reply to: #3158297


54
2525
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
Agreed, I am an atrocious swimmer - I swam maybe once a year before this year when I started training for tri's.  I got a wetsuit because I entered a tri and wasn't sure I could finish the swim.  The wetsuit gave me some peace of mind and I actually did have to rest on my back for a bit.  I don't think I would have finished the swim otherwise.

To the OP, get used to the wetsuit before racing in it.  It feels a bit awkward at first and be prepared for how hot it gets in there.  Mine is sleeveless and its still boiling after a swim.

gwmeader - 2010-10-18 1:27 PM I am a pretty weak swimmer and find the buoyancy offered by a wetsuit to be a HUGE help.  Wearing the suit will shave 30% or so off my time.  Really keeps my legs up and helps me maintain proper position.  Also gives you a nice peice of mind knowing that you have the extra buoyancy just in case.  It is MUCH easier to float with a wetsuit.  Good luck! 
2010-10-19 1:05 PM
in reply to: #3157966


16

Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy

I too am a poor swimmer and decided to purchase a sleeveless wetsuit this year to attempt an Olympic distance tri (after many years of being limited by my swim to just doing sprints). When it comes to the benefits of a wetsuit for a poor swimmer, these numbers don't lie: my best 1500m tt in a 50m pool without a wetsuit was about 45 min. In the Oly, I did the 1500m open water in my sleeveless in 36 min., even with poor navigation. Best of all, I was not that wiped out afterwards.

2010-10-19 1:16 PM
in reply to: #3157966

Iron Donkey
38600
500050005000500050005000500020001000500100
, Wisconsin
Subject: RE: Wetsuit Buoyancy
For the OP - you didn't mention if you were looking at sleeveless (or non-full) vs full wetsuit.

Some posters responded with some good answers.  The concern is to make sure to NOT think that the wetsuit IS a PFD - this is a false sense of security.  It does allow for buoyancy and keeping you afloat better to allow you to swim more on top of the water, which allows you to swim a little faster than if you did not have a wetsuit.  It provides comfort/warmth in waters that register in the colder readings (< 72 degrees or better F), so, 5 mm thick is better than 4 mm in colder water (at least for me, since I'm a twig ).
As pointed out, the thickness is not uniform, meaning it will be 5mm in thickness where needed most, but not as thick in other areas, for flexibility/movement.
Always try out your wetsuit prior to racing to get acclimated.
Good luck.


New Thread
General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Wetsuit Buoyancy Rss Feed