Creating a wetsuit for every type of triathlete was Orca’s goal when designing their 2015 collection. With several new suits at the top of the collection that feature a material never before used in a wetsuit as well as an entry-level suit that will appeal to anyone, Orca appears to have succeeded in creating something for everyone.
The range-topping predator is actually $100 cheaper than the previous iteration and features a new material on the arms and top of the shoulder called 0.88 Free, which is the thinnest neoprene ever used on a triathlon wetsuit. The existing industry standard for arm and shoulder panels was 1.5mm, which is found on most high-end wetsuits. Orca partnered with Yamamoto to create a new standard and went to great lengths to achieve their goal of creating the most flexible material possible.
Neoprene panels are traditionally cut from large chunks, but the machinery used for this construction process has a hard time slicing anything slimmer than 1.5mm. To overcome this hurdle, the neoprene is cut and then compressed. It feels crinkly to the touch, almost paper-like, but it offers a level of flexibility that was previously unobtainable. Orca’s tests found 0.88 Free to be nearly three times as stretchy as Yamamoto 44 cell, which was the previous industry standard. That extra elongation results in about a 3% increase in a swimmer’s range of motion, which can save precious energy, especially over the course of a 2.4-mile swim. The material is so thin, Orca incorporated a titanium lining to help your body retain heat in cold water.
The Predator is built to assist swimmers who need help with core stabilization and want extra buoyancy through the lower body and torso. To accomplish this, Orca placed thicker panels of neoprene called Core Lateral Stabilizers on the sides of the suit that streamline the swimmer along with a front panel Orca calls Exo-Lift that lacks a jersey lining so it doesn’t absorb as much water, making the suit more buoyant when it gets wet. Swimming in this wetsuit is a profound experience because it offers outstanding lower body lift and upper body flexibility. The Core Lateral Stabilizers aren’t just some gimmicky feature made up by the marketing department–it feels like your lower body is on a surfboard in the sense that it keeps you streamlined, yet you’re free to roll during the glide phase of your stroke.
The Alpha is the most flexible suit Orca makes and is intended for triathletes with swimming backgrounds who would rather swim in a sleeveless wetsuit, or better yet, no wetsuit at all. The 0.88 Free neoprene covers more of the suit compared to the Predator, extending under the armpits to increase the suit’s flexibility. The result is a suit that feels totally unrestrictive. While the Predator aims to correct inefficient body position, the Alpha feels totally unencumbered.
Both the Alpha and Predator have a redesigned beveled collar that’s tapered so there’s not as much pressure toward the top at the neck. This feature is immediately noticeable in the water. The collar feels so supple against the skin, chafing seems like a highly unlikely occurrence. The Alpha has patches of a material called Exo-Cell on the lower back that does provide some extra lift to the lower body, but the overall theme for this suit is flexibility.
While 0.88 Free offers unparalleled performance advantages, it requires a higher level of care, especially when putting the suit on. Orca provides soft gloves and booties with every suit, which are a bit of a hassle to use, but in order to get the most out of these suits and prevent a snag, using the gloves and booties is strongly encouraged.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the new Openwater wetsuit. Aptly named, this suit has bright orange arms to increase visibility. The orange appears so bright because a layer of white neoprene sits under the top layer to make the color pop, even when it gets wet. The price will make it enticing to entry-level triathletes, but Orca envisions this suit appealing to anyone looking for a quality training wetsuit in order to preserve the longevity of their race wetsuit. The thickness of the Yamamoto 39 cell neoprene ranges from 1.5mm in the arms to 2.5mm through the torso and legs so it lacks some warmth and buoyancy compared to more expensive suits, but at less than $200, it’s an amazing value. This suit is also available in junior sizes and a matching high-visibility neoprene swim cap will also be available.
RS1 Dream Kona Trisuit
Worn to victory by Sebastian Kienle during the 2014 Ironman World Championship in Kona, this is the sleeved version of Orca’s existing Dream Kona trisuit. Every seam on this suit is bonded, not stitched, to eliminate the possibility of irritation caused by an out of place seam. Optimized in the wind tunnel and designed with feedback from Kienle and Andrew Starykowicz, this suit uses Coldblack fabric that reflects heat to make black fabric as cool as white. The chamois is made of segmented foam pieces to create a flexible pad that’s also discreet on the run.
Aero Shoe Cover
While scrutinizing every piece of apparel, Orca set out to create an aero shoe cover that would save time while on the bike, but it had to be transition friendly. Worn by Kienle at the Ironman European Championship, the design makes them simple to slip on over your shoes while riding. According to Orca’s tests, these shoe covers provide high value in terms of watt savings per dollar spent.