The swim isn’t about winning the race; it’s about wearing you out. In theory, a wetsuit should help you get through the opening leg feeling fresher than you would without it, but most triathlon wetsuits do just the opposite. While any good wetsuit will aid in buoyancy, restrictive shoulders panels cause arm fatigue to occur faster on race day than it does in the pool for many triathletes.
Wetsuit manufacturers have tried plenty of tricks to free up your shoulders throughout the years. Whether it’s using ultra-thin neoprene or multiple panels throughout the shoulders, range of motion has always come at the expense of durability. If you make rubber super skinny and use a lot of seams, it also becomes extremely delicate. But that’s about to change.
deboer Performance Wetsuits is diving into the wetsuit market with revolutionary rubber, including an amazing new material called DuraFlex that is just 0.33 millimeters thick and virtually tear proof. It’s the thinnest material ever used in the most critical part of a wetsuit, and it means an end to in-race shoulder fatigue and restricted range of motion.
“The thinness of the sleeves is something you have to feel to believe,” says Ben Kanute, who wore deboer’s new Fjord 1.0 suit en route to winning Ironman 70.3 Oceanside two weeks ago. “I really believe it’s rip proof —I’ve tried my best to tear it. I can finally make it through the swim without my wetsuit wearing down my shoulders, and I actually enjoy wearing one for the first time.”
Kanute, the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship silver medalist, is just one of the world-class triathletes making the switch to deboer in 2019. Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champ Jan Frodeno is taking his swim to the next level with deboer, as is last year’s sixth-place Kona finisher Matt Russell. And this weekend at Ironman Texas, Daniela Ryf will make her assault on the Ironman world record with the Fjord 1.0 helping her swim faster than ever before.
“From the moment I pulled it on, I knew it was the wetsuit for me,” says Ryf, who is seeking a record fifth-consecutive Ironman World Championship this year. “I can’t have a wetsuit holding me back, and the Fjord feels like I’m not wearing a wetsuit at all.”
Reducing shoulder fatigue is one thing, but efficiency is everything in an Ironman swim. The goal is to get through the water using as little energy as possible, so when designing the chest panel for his suits, wetsuit industry veteran Alex de Boer took inspiration from the most efficient swimmer in the animal kingdom: A blue whale. The skin on whales’ underbellies is ribbed for a reason, and it has nothing to do with them having more blubber than any other creature on earth. That ribbing is part of what lets whales swim thousands of miles in one stretch, all while saving enough energy to grow to 300,000 pounds and live 90 years. It’s an incredible feat of evolution, and it’s about time wetsuits caught up.
Using patented WhaleSkin HBF Limestone Rib Neoprene, deboer’s Fjord 1.0 and Flōh 1.0 wetsuits channel water away from the body while aiding in buoyancy by increasing the surface area of the suit. Not only is this remarkable limestone neoprene more environmentally-friendly than the petroleum-based rubber used by most wetsuit manufacturers, but it’s also less permeable, leading to greater warmth, durability and stretch.
“The wetsuit is just plain fast,” Kanute says. “I broke 50 seconds for 100-yards in the pool—from a push. I haven’t gone that fast since high school, and that was from a dive. I’m at least a couple seconds faster per hundred with it.”
Kanute, Russell and Frodeno worked hand-in-hand with the design team throughout the development of the Fjord 1.0. Thanks to a suggestion from Frodeno, the breakthrough WhaleSkin technology is proving to have a dual purpose.
“The inside of the wrists also have WhaleSkin ribbing,” says deboer Brand Designer Daniel Puissant. “The first iterations didn’t have any kind of wrist panels, but Jan insisted that we try WhaleSkin on the wrists. It turns out we were able to increase the surface area of the wrists without increasing the thickness of the neoprene, making it easier to feel for the water.”
deboer Performance Wetsuits is making its official launch at the Ironman North American Championship in Texas this weekend, with Ryf and Russell swimming in the Fjord 1.0 in their bids for the regional title. Also available is the Flōh 1.0, built for those willing to brave any elements and able to handle temperatures down to 53 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). Learn more about both models at deboerwetsuits.com.