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A Beginners Guide to Triathlon Wetsuits

From bikes and running shoes to cycle clothing and accessories, if you’re new to the world of triathlon then the long list of kit available can seem quite daunting - but it doesn’t have to be.


As a multi-discipline sport, triathlon encompasses three elements: swimming, cycling and running. All aspects are just as important as the other, but in this beginners guide, we’re going to be focusing on swimming and exploring everything you need to know about triathlon wetsuits.


So, here’s what you need to know…


What is a wetsuit? 

To put it simply, a wetsuit is an item of clothing designed to provide thermal insulation, protection and even buoyancy to anyone taking part in water sports or activities. These handy garments really can make all the difference, particularly in an open water triathlon.


There are a variety of different wetsuit types that are ideally suited for different temperatures and activities. Choose from thin suits that have a thickness of 2mm (or less!) or fuller suits with a thickness of 8mm.


Depending on what you need your wetsuit for you should consider if you need a “shortie” or semi-dry wetsuit. The former only covers the torso and exposes arms and legs while a semi-dry wetsuit will cover most of the body and typically comes with boots, gloves and a hood to keep you "semi-dry".


Do I need a wetsuit for a triathlon?

The swimming stage of any triathlon can take part in open water or a swimming pool and, while wetsuits can be worn in both cases, they are only really recommended for open water swimming and are not permitted when water temperatures are above 24°c. On the other hand, if water temperatures are below 17°c, then wetsuits are usually required to be worn.


Whether you’re swimming in a pool or open water you will be required to wear goggles and a swim cap. You may also want to consider TRI UK’s Castelli Free Tri Short for instances where wetsuits aren’t needed. Not only are they ideal for swimming, but they can also be used for cycling.

Surfing wetsuits vs triathlon

When wetsuits were first developed they were designed to achieve a way to maintain warmth in the water. This explains why traditional wetsuits, also known as surfing wetsuits, are generally thicker - the thicker a suit the more insulation it provides. However, this can be restrictive and difficult to remove - two things that triathletes want to absolutely avoid when competing.


While you could, in some cases, wear a surfing wetsuit to compete you would almost certainly find it significantly harder. Here’s why…



Regardless of whether you’re a surfer or a triathlete, one thing is for certain - open waters in the UK are cold. With that in mind, the amount of warmth provided by a suit is important.


However, overheating can be a real problem when competing and as traditional wetsuits are typically thicker, this could cause an issue. That’s why most competitive triathlons only allow individuals to compete if their wetsuit is no thicker than 5mm. 




We already know that the thickness of traditional wetsuits makes them more restrictive which is one of the reasons they aren’t fully suitable for competing. Wetsuits designed for triathlon offer flexibility, hydrodynamic resistance and just the right amount of buoyancy to ensure athletes can move through the water as economically as possible, with the least resistance.


No triathlete wants to be fighting against their wetsuit - it should be working with them.



Ease of removal

One of the major differences between these wetsuits is the ease of removal - an incredibly important aspect for all triathletes. We all know how difficult it can be to remove a traditional wetsuit and that’s due to the thicker neoprene which clings to the body.


Every competitor knows that transition between getting out of the water and onto your bike quickly can mean the difference between winning or losing, so the last thing you need is to be desperately trying to remove your body from a wetsuit that just doesn’t seem to want to let go.


What are the best triathlon wetsuits?

There are so many wetsuit brands to choose from, each varying in quality, features, price and design. How do you choose which is best for you? We’ve outlined some of our favourite brands and wetsuits here.



2XU Wetsuits

After 12 years of relentless testing, 2XU's high-tech wetsuits can offer something for everyone. The 2XU P:1 Propel Wetsuit is a perfect example of this. Offering an all-around wetsuit, this product is ideal for a beginner while also delivering many of the key technical benefits offered by the elite range, including:

  • Rollbar
  • Floating zip
  • SCS coating and
  • 39 cell buoyancy panelling


This range also features other impressive wetsuits like the 2XU P:2 Propel Wetsuit which was the winner of the 2018 Triathlete Magazine Buyer’s Guide ‘Best In Class’ as well as the elite 2XU Propel Pro Wetsuit, which is certainly one to consider further down the line for more experienced triathletes.  



Designed and manufactured using the latest technology, it's no wonder Dare2Tri offer some of the best products on the market. The Dare2Tri MACH2SCS Wetsuit is an entry level suit not to be overlooked thanks to its high-quality neoprene and specially constructed high stretch shoulders, underarms and arms panels that offer flexibility when it counts.


If you’re looking for something more advanced then the Dare2Tri MACH3S.7 Wetsuit is one of our most popular wetsuits - and for good reason. Utilising advanced features like Glideskin™ Technology and AquaGrip™, this is a fantastic choice for the serious athlete.



Flexible, buoyant, comfortable, affordable - Foor Wetsuits offer it all. Take the Foor Classic wetsuit, for example. incredible value for money whilst also boasting features such as:

  • Sheico SuperGlide Skin (Front, Legs, Shoulders, Arms)
  • Low cut anti-rub neckline-with Flexi Panel
  • Lower back Flexi Panel
  • Extended internal taped seams – allowing individual arm/leg length adjustment


Other wetsuits in this range include the Foor Quantum 1 Wetsuit which, despite having an entry-level price, is loaded with more than just ‘entry level’ features and is perfect for a beginner wanting to dip their toes in the water.


Foor wetsuits are available for seasoned triathletes too with both the Foor Quantum 2.4 Wetsuit and Foor Synflex Wetsuit offering affordable prices and enviable features.  


How should a wetsuit fit?

When it comes down to it, the fit of your tri wetsuit needs to be right. Without the right fit, you’ll be uncomfortable which will lead to underperformance. To check whether your wetsuit fits properly, consider these things:

  • The wetsuit shouldn’t be tight - a cosy fit is just fine
  • Ensure there are no folds
  • Ensure there is a full range of motion through the shoulders
  • Is the neckline comfortable? It shouldn’t be suffocating
  • Is it snug around the arms and legs? This ensures no water gets through


Here at TRI UK, we have a variety of sizes ranging from 3x extra large through to extra small. This is to ensure no matter your height or size, you can get the right fit for you. Check the sizing guide on our product pages to ensure you get the best size for you.


Wetsuits: Hiring vs Buying

So, you’ve decided you want to take part in a triathlon and you need to get yourself a wetsuit - but should you hire or buy?


Wetsuit hire is an excellent option for beginners. Many wetsuit and triathlon stores will allow you to hire a wetsuit for a whole triathlon season which is ideal for anyone who doesn’t plan on using one any other time. With that in mind, it’s can be a very cost-effective option.


On the other hand, if you’re dedicated and plan on becoming a long-term triathlete then buying a wetsuit to keep is perhaps a better option. In some cases, depending on the wetsuit in question, it can be only slightly more expensive to buy a suit outright and then it’s yours to keep and use in and out of season however you please.


The decision is a personal one, but if you require assistance then the friendly TRI UK team is more than happy to provide the help and advice you need.


Where to try on triathlon wetsuits?

With so many sizes available it’s almost essential to “tri” before you buy. While ordering online is at an all-time high, you should consider coming in-store to test out which wetsuit feels the most comfortable.


TRI UK has two stores around the UK, one in the Midlands and one in Yeovil. Here you’ll find experienced experts who can give you support and advice when needed. When you visit our stores you can truly test out your chosen wetsuit using our renowned in-store endless pools that allow you to experience how a suit will react and feel in the water.

Are you looking to dip your foot in the water? Order a triathlon wetsuit today or visit us to test it out in our endless pool.


Joe Whitnall

Assistant Yeovil Store Manager & Race Team Manager.