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2015 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Wetsuits

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The draw: Beginner-friendly

This suit offers everything you need to get through your first triathlon: great buoyancy, help with rotation, a snug fit and easy-exit features. Throw in a simple but aggressive-looking design, and you’ll have your game face on when the gun goes off. More experienced swimmers may find the shoulders inflexible compared to the most free-moving suits, while Clydesdales may find the Aegis’ fit a bit too slim.

The draw: Shoulder freedom

The first thing you’ll notice about this women’s suit is the bright pink lining. A second skin-like feel throughout the entire suit, including the oft-troubled (but not in this suit!) shoulders, make the Prophet a top choice for athletes who often find wetsuits restrict their stroke. Good swimmers will love this suit’s perfect float—enough to feel like a speed demon without popping you out of the water like you’re on a raft. The tight neck, however, might be a deal-breaker for some.
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The draw: Hip lifter

Killer value alert! Swimmers with a good kick will appreciate the Endorphin’s mild added buoyancy in the hips and front of the legs. Even with this extra lift, it still has a neutral feel in the water. A snug but flexible fit makes the suit ideal for training and racing. Let some water in before you start swimming to get that form-fitting feel. Otherwise, you’ll need to load up on the Body Glide. Either way, the Endorphin rips off quickly and easily.

Best for: Long swims

The flexibility throughout the shoulders and arms is fantastic, and the much-touted Core Power System really did make testers feel like they could swim forever—with perfect form. The CPS helped our testers maintain neutral position in the water, even with a tired core. Grab a buddy and give yourself at least 10 minutes to get the suit on; once that CPS locks you in, it’s difficult to pull the reverse zipper down on your own. Getting out of it, on the other hand, is a quick solo job for a fast T1.

The draw: Sleeveless speed

It goes without saying that sleeveless wetsuits don’t impede turnover. But the Maverick Pro has a little extra magic: It increases distance per stroke. Thick neoprene in the lower half makes that happen—an attribute super kickers may not appreciate. A snug fit in the chest and no-chafe, ultra-secure neck Velcro keep water out.
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The draw: Affordability

Even the best swimmers feel like they are strapped on a rocket pack when suited up in the Fusion. Perfectly placed buoyancy panels aid rotation and raise hips in the water for ideal body position. Pink honeycomb catch panels on this women’s suit give the suit understated femininity. Blueseventy keeps the price low by using more affordable rubber, which translates into slightly thick shoulder and elbow material that may chafe some pits on longer swims. But nothing beats the Fusion in speed for your dollar.
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The draw: Comfort

XTERRA developed this orange and black number to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 42:17 world record Ironman swim, set by Jan Sibbersen in Frankfurt in 2004. Featuring six arm and shoulder panels, the Blaze is designed for maximum comfort—and it delivers. Swimmers who need a gentle push rather than a shove to keep their hips from dragging will love this suit, as will ladies sick of pink-ified gear. Bonus: It rips off easily—no help required.

The draw: Warmer-weather appeal

Think of the Bionik as an extra layer of insulation when it’s not quite warm enough to go suitless. It won’t pop you out of the water with tons of padding, but it has a nice, neutral feel that’ll let you work on your stroke—and your kick—unimpeded. While comfortable, the low neckline may let too much water in for some athletes.

The draw: Natural feel

One tester said it best: “I feel like I was cutting through the water so efficiently in this suit.” Low drag and extra buoyancy in the hips increase distance per stroke in the futuristic-looking V:3. Rotation feels easy and intuitive in this suit. Kickers will like the natural feel in the hips, while seasoned swimmers might notice welcome feedback in the forearms—they feel stiff when pulling water through the catch and mid-stroke.
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The draw: Super buoyancy

This British brand has consistently wowed triathletes since its debut in 2010. The Vanquish is no exception. Male swimmers with larger shoulders will love the suit’s upper-body flexibility. And hip draggers rejoice! Extra paneling makes it feel like you’ve got a built-in pull buoy. The “cool spot” catch panels—oval sections of thin neoprene meant to improve feel for the water—didn’t impress, however, and snug wrists took a few seconds of extra effort during removal. But better body position and an unimpeded stroke will more than make up for a tricky tear-off.

The draw: No-choke neck

Our testers went crazy for the “hot look” of the Orca’s blue and silver striped arms. A “magical” low neck keeps water out without that dreaded choking feeling, while the shoulders feel as soft as those in more expensive suits. With good rotational aid and a fast feel, the Equip is a steal. A few caveats: Curvier women may find the cut too straight. And escaping from the tighter feet openings may require a little extra effort in T1.
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$680 (sold separately),
The draw: Custom fit

Not all triathletes have top-to-bottom proportions easily accommodated by full wetsuits. Enter De Soto’s First Wave. With 49 possible top-bottom combos, you’re sure to find your ideal match. Once you’re suited up, you’ll appreciate the First Wave’s buoyancy, enhanced distance per stroke, and the natural feel of the disconnected top and bottom. Some swimmers may find the arms too inflexible, though. Just practice taking it off before races—pull down on the top with one hand as you pull up on the zipper for a quick exit.

The draw: A quick getaway

Neo Sport nails the tough part about designing sleeveless suits: keeping water out of the neck and shoulders. The downside to that tight fit: Swimmers with large lats might feel a pinch. The mid-calf cut-off makes for a lightning fast transition, but feet draggers might want the extra buoyancy of a full leg. The NRG’s thick 5mm front and 3mm back will give you the maximum allowable buoyancy without making you overheat in warmer swims. A subtle sparkle takes this suit a step beyond basic black.

The draw: Strong catch

It’s tough to feel if a wetsuit’s catch panels are doing anything, but the Cat 5 is different. Plastic cutouts feel stiff when catching water, making it obvious when arm position is optimized. Good swimmers will appreciate the suit’s neutral position. Others might want something more buoyant—and less pricey. You’ll need to pack some extra lube to get this suit on, but it’ll come off like a breeze.