How to Choose a Wetsuit for Open Water Swimming

We at Stockholm International Swimming Club like swimming in the open water! We provide open water lessons for our students. Every summer we organize Open Water Safety Camps where we teach our students how to swim in the open water in a safe way. We also have individual sessions in the open water. The water in Sweden is not so warm and students should have their own wetsuits. This article is for those who are going to buy their first wetsuits for training. Here you can read about different aspects that are important to consider before buying a wetsuit.

What is the Difference Between Different Wetsuits?

It is important to have the right type of wetsuit for your open water training. Different wetsuits have different levels of buoyancy, stretch, and compression. These are several questions you should ask yourself. The most important is: what swimming stroke do you use?

Wetsuits for Crawl

A wetsuit for crawl swimming gives a swimmer maximum buoyancy. Usually, this kind of wetsuit has panels with different levels of thicknesses. For example, the panels can be up to 5mm thick on the front of the suit which provides high buoyancy. The wetsuit can be 1mm thin around the shoulders and arms to provide maximum mobility. Often, the crawl costumes are in a higher price range as they are made of more flexible neoprene, which is necessary to not restrict your shoulder mobility or shoulder/arm reach.

Wetsuits for Breaststroke

If you are swimming in the breaststroke technique, you don’t need the same buoyancy as you would need if you were swimming crawl. Your legs should be placed slightly deeper to get a good grip in the water. A wetsuit for breaststroke is often around 2-3 mm thick over the entire suit and is nylon covered both inside and outside. That makes the wetsuit durable. This type of wetsuits is excellent for use in other water sports besides swimming.

Wetsuits for Swimrun

This type of wetsuits is adapted for those who practice both swimming and running during training. The suit often has pockets to carry all the accessories needed for swimrunners. There is a zipper on the front of the suit that can be easily opened for ventilation during the runs. The flow panels are designed and seated slightly differently to minimize the impact on the running stage and the suit has been reinforced in various ways to counteract the wear that would otherwise easily occur when running in a wetsuit.

Choose the Right Size of a Suit

Be sure to swim in a wetsuit that has a perfect size you. The suit should sit tight so that not too much water gets in during swimming. It is a common situation when a person feels cramped when first “dry testing” on land, this is absolutely normal. The feeling becomes different when a person gets in the water and the suit “sits in place”. Be careful when putting on your wetsuit. Be sure to pull the neoprene tightly into the crotch and under the arms. Be careful and take your time, neoprene is delicate!

How Much Should I Spend on the Wetsuit?

If you are an advanced swimmer or want to become an advanced swimmer, if you want to do a triathlon in the future, it is better to choose a more expensive wetsuit from the beginning. It will serve for many years and will be suitable for different kinds of sports.

If you are a beginner and just starting your path in the open water swimming, if you don’t have huge plans for open water sports, it is better to choose a more simple wetsuit. Some of our students ask for advice — which wetsuit to choose, what model is better for a beginner. We have selected several options with links and prices up to 1500 SEK.

Our Suggestions for Beginner Swimmers

Surf suits. This option is great for warm weather and relatively warm water. The neoprene is around 2-3 mm thick.

Wetsuits for open water swimming (Nabaji, Speedo etc). These wetsuits can be with different neoprene thicknesses (up to 5 mm), with or without sleeves — there are a lot of options.

What Wetsuit Thickness Do I Need?

Here is a small scheme for water temperature and wetsuit thickness recommended.

  • 25С and more — you don’t need a wetsuit.
  • 22-25C — if the weather is warm, you still don’t need a wetsuit. If it feels cold outside (morning, evening, or windy weather), shorty wetsuit can be the option.
  • 20-22Cshorty wetsuit for warm weather, 3/2 mm full wetsuit for days without sun, or if it gets windy.
  • 18-20Cfull wetsuit 3/2 mm can be enough, but if you are thin-blooded, 4/3 mm wetsuit would be better.
  • 15-18Cfull 4/3 mm wetsuit.

Hope this article was useful for you! See you at our lessons in the open water!

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