Orca Alpha $650
Best for: Comfort
Made from a mix of the most flexible Yamamoto #40 rubber and their second-most flexible variety, #39, the Alpha fits like a second skin. “It’s like the wetsuit equivalent of a Snuggie blanket, if Snuggies could glide through water,” raved one tester. Featuring thick five-millimeter patches of neoprene over the butt and quads, the suit gently raises hips up into perfect alignment without sacrificing flexibility anywhere in the suit. The low-profile collar kept water out without feeling too tight or limiting ability to sight. It’s best for experienced swimmers who don’t need a big lift in the water and need to feel uninhibited by their wetsuit. Our testers didn’t feel the forearm panels made a noticeable difference in stroke efficiency.
Xterra Vortex Sleeveless $300
Best for: Hip draggers
Nothing pops hips and legs out of the water like five millimeters of neoprene, and that’s exactly what this suit is made of: five millimeters of neoprene—the max USA Triathlon allows—straight down the front. For athletes whose legs feel like dead weight, the Vortex is a delightful pick-me-up. Of course, a compromise must be made for that benefit. Stretch in the torso is minimal despite the three-millimeter backside, so the swimmer’s body must conform to the suit instead of the other way around. But because it’s sleeveless, shoulder rotation remains uncompromised. Our only gripe: The large closure tab in the back of the neck makes sighting uncomfortable.
Blueseventy Axis $550
Best for: Forearm propulsion
Touted as a suit for hip-dragging non-swimmers, the Axis features extra buoyancy in the hips and legs to promote horizontal position in the water. While the Axis does make it easy to stay high and horizontal, skilled swimmers will appreciate the suit most for its flexibility and the proprioceptive feel for the water it creates. Instead of generating propulsion, the forearm grippers allowed the tester to feel when his forearms were not catching water properly, allowing him to quickly correct stroke mechanics before they deteriorated. The soft, comfortable neck sits lower than most other wetsuits, which testers said made sighting a breeze without allowing water into the suit. All that tech combined made one tester remark, “It feels so fast!”