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How To Swim In A Wetsuit

   February 12th, 2020   Posted In: How-To   Tags:

How To Swim In A Wetsuit

Getting into the water for the first time while wearing a wetsuit might feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The wetsuit will feel tight and you may not feel like you can move the way you normally would. Thankfully, there are a few ways to make your experience easy and comfortable. If you’re new to swimming in a wetsuit or have just had a rough experience in the past, our goal is to equip you with the tools and knowledge to give you the confidence you need in the water.

Learning how to swim in a wetsuit is pretty easy, especially once you get the hang of it!

Preparation is Key

Swimming in a wetsuit requires a little more preparation, but it’s worth it!

Putting your suit on the right way may be the most crucial part of swimming in a wetsuit. If it isn’t on correctly, you might experience uncomfortable tightness that will inhibit your range of motion. Here are a few tips:

  • Place a plastic grocery bag over your feet (this helps the wetsuit slide over your feet easily without damaging the suit) and slide the wetsuit over your leg until it is about 3-4 inches above your ankle.
    • You could also wear a pair of WETSOX socks to help you slide right into your wetsuit if you don’t want to use a plastic bag.
  • Gently pull the legs of the wetsuit up until it is snug in your groin area (will help with range of motion and will help keep air out of your wetsuit).
  • Put the sleeves on your arms and pull the wetsuit until it is about 3-4 inches past the heel of your hand (if your wetsuit is sleeveless or quarter sleeve, this doesn’t apply). Pulling the sleeves 3-4 inches past the heel of your hand will leave enough material to keep the shoulders from becoming too tight.
    • It’s important to note that pulling your wetsuit may sometimes cause fingernail tears in the neoprene or in the smooth skin of the wetsuit. We recommend wearing thin gloves when putting your wetsuit on.
  • Pull the wetsuit over your shoulders and zip it up in the back.
  • Once your suit is on, use Body Glide on the back of your neck where the Velcro covering the zipper will sit. This will help with any friction or discomfort.

If you’ve followed these steps, your suit should be snug everywhere, and you should have a full range of motion, especially in your shoulders.

Time to Get In!

Now it’s time to get in the water. Wearing a wetsuit in the water for the first time may take some getting used to. The first time you swim in your wetsuit, you might find yourself struggling to get the hang of it; some people might even begin to panic. Because a wetsuit is supposed to be snug, it could feel harder to breathe (there is compression against your chest) and harder to move (your limbs aren’t as free as they are without a wetsuit). This is all normal and will be beneficial once you are accustomed to it.  The best way to become comfortable swimming in your wetsuit is to practice in a lake, pool, or ocean well before you are at the starting line of your race. Getting in the water is also a great way to make sure your wetsuit fits exactly the way it is supposed to.

Swimming Technique

how to swim in a wetsuit

Wearing a triathlon wetsuit will help reduce drag in the water while still giving your arms range of motion for swimming.

Most often, people who are open water swimming typically need or use a wetsuit for warmth, buoyancy, and to aide in compression.

Let your body acclimate to the water:

Allow your body to adjust to the water temperature and the way it feels to wear a wetsuit. When you first get in, you may feel a slight shock from the cold and your wetsuit will still feel a little tight (the way it does when it’s dry). However, after a minute or so, it will fill with a small amount of water that will help the wetsuit feel looser and will create an insulating layer to add warmth.

Use the buoyancy to your advantage:

Many people find that they move more quickly through the water when they wear a wetsuit. This is because of all that extra buoyancy. Triathlon/open water swimming wetsuits offer levels of buoyancy and the result is that your body will sit slightly higher in the water, reducing drag.

Being higher in the water means you can kick a little lighter and still achieve the same efficiency; if you kick too hard, instead of moving more water, you’ll just make a larger splash on the surface which could result in greater expended energy and a higher heart rate. But don’t let your legs drag behind you, either. You need the body rotation kicking provides to aide in keeping your rhythm and cadence.

Buoyancy also allows you to use a slower stroke rate. Without a wetsuit, if you try to slow down your stroke rate, you’ll begin to sink in between each stroke, forcing you to move more quickly and use more energy. If you’re swimming a long distance, being able to reduce your stroke rate and still keep momentum could be the difference between a good race and a great race.

Incorporate more body roll and use a straighter arm recovery:

When swimming in a wetsuit, specifically a long sleeve wetsuit, it is important to have a more exaggerated body roll, shifting back and forth from one hip to the other. This movement will help lift your arm out of the water and keep it a little straighter. If you’re using a more traditional recovery, your shoulders could become tired more quickly, forcing you to work harder than you need to.  Swimming is all about creating the most efficient movement to propel you through the water.

Now that you know how to swim in a wetsuit, it’s time to suit up with that open water swimming wetsuit!

Garrett Durham

Garrett Durham

Garrett grew up on the Chain of Lakes in Central Florida, spending afternoons and summer days wakeboarding, jet skiing and enjoying time in the sun and on the water with friends and family.Now, he likes to spend time traveling, learning new cultures by experiencing them as a local, and of course, getting pulled behind a boat whenever possible.
Garrett Durham

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