Is It Easier to Swim in a Wetsuit?
Is It Easier to Swim in a Wetsuit?
Summer is upon us and, even through the COVID pandemic, water activity lovers are getting their water workouts in as often as possible. Some of us are swimming laps, while others are popping up on the surfboard or being towed behind a boat on a wakeboard or skis. However you choose to get in the water, now is as good a time as any, and there are plenty of reasons to get wet.
Inevitably, you’ve seen some swimmers wearing wetsuits and wondered why. Or, you may have considered wearing one yourself and had a few questions before putting one on. Is it easier to swim in a wetsuit? Will it help, or hurt my performance? What are some of the benefits of wearing a wetsuit? I’ve spent time swimming with, and without, wetsuits and will help answer the question of whether it is easier to swim in a wetsuit.
Why You Might Want to Swim in a Wetsuit
Before we get into if a wetsuit makes swimming easier, let’s talk first about when you might consider wearing a wetsuit. Truth is, not every time you’re going swimming means you need to break out the wetsuit, but there are plenty of times when wearing a wetsuit is beneficial and encouraged. Wetsuits add a layer of protection, warmth, and buoyancy that can give you a leg up in some activities.
Commonly, you might see people wearing wetsuits is when they are surfing, wakeboarding, competing in a triathlon, or swimming in cold water. In each of these activities, wearing a wetsuit can bring a competitive advantage. In cold water, a wetsuit offers warmth and allows you to extend the season by making the water comfortable even when the temperatures are lower. When surfing, a wetsuit can protect your skin from the sun, your board, and underwater objects. If you wear a wetsuit while competing in a triathlon, you’ll benefit from the added buoyancy the neoprene gives you.
Is Easier to Swim in a Wetsuit?
Wetsuits have a few characteristics that will make it easier to swim once you are used to the feeling of having one on. Sometimes, the first few times you wear a wetsuit it can be uncomfortable because of the new sensation of having tight fabric against your body. Once you get used to swimming in a wetsuit (there’s plenty of helpful guides on our blog), you can use the wetsuit as a tool to help make swimming easier.
Wetsuits are made from neoprene, a flexible synthetic rubber material that comes in various thicknesses and is used for several applications. When you put it on, the wetsuit maintains its shape well and is meant to be tight against the skin. As you get in the water, the wetsuit fills and a thin layer of water surrounds your body and becomes like insulation. In colder water, this insulation can help keep you comfortable and allow you to go in the water you would otherwise not want to go in. In cold water, a wetsuit makes it easier to swim by keeping you warm.
Depending on the time of year, triathlons allow the use of wetsuits to help with cold water; check with your specific race before planning on wearing one as not every race allows wetsuits. Since wetsuits come with a range of neoprene thicknesses, it’s possible to be comfortable in water as cold as 41° F.
Triathlon-specific wetsuits can also help you swim faster and help you swim more efficiently. When you swim without a wetsuit, it is just you and the water. The amount you float will be minimal so as you move forward, you’ll also be working to keep your body high in the water. The lower your body is in the water the more drag is created and the more energy you’ll expend. The neoprene triathlon wetsuits are made of is a naturally buoyant material, helping to keep your body high in the water with less work on your part. While a thinner wetsuit will be less buoyant than a thicker wetsuit, either will help you float while expending less energy.
When you swim in a wetsuit you can focus more on moving forward and less on keeping your body towards the top of the water, reducing your drag and making each stroke more meaningful. In addition to the buoyancy, swimming in a wetsuit allows your body to roll from side-to-side in the water more and helps you lift your arms higher out of the water for a longer reach with each stroke. When swimming in a wetsuit, you are working with less drag, more body roll, and a longer reach. Just by putting on a wetsuit, you can improve the efficiency of your swim.
Is Swimming in a Wetsuit Right for Me?
Whether you swim in a wetsuit or not comes down to personal preference and need. Wearing a wetsuit in cold water can make your swim more enjoyable and swimming in a wetsuit can help make you a more efficient swimmer. The insulation, drag reduction, and buoyancy in wetsuits work together to give you more from your swim. If you’ve thought about swimming in a wetsuit, give it a try. You might be surprised at how much easier it is.