Can You Swim in a Wetsuit?

When many people think of wetsuits, they think of scuba divers wearing the thickest, stiffest, most restrictive wetsuits while bogged down by an additional 50 pounds of gear; no wonder they have trouble swimming! If this is you and you’ve ever wondered whether you can swim in a wetsuit, the answer is yes!

You can swim in a wetsuit and it can help you swim faster. Wetsuits are designed not only to keep you warm in colder water but also to provide buoyancy and reduce drag. Many open water swimmers, triathletes, and water sports enthusiasts wear wetsuits to stay safe and swim at their fastest.

can you swim in a wetsuit open water

In this article, we will discuss the various benefits wetsuits provide for swimming, how to select the right wetsuit for swimming, and how to swim in a wetsuit.

Benefits of Swimming in a Wetsuit

Buoyancy and Stability

Wetsuits are made of neoprene, which have tiny air bubbles trapped inside it that are very effective at insulating heat. A side benefit of these air bubbles is that it also makes a wetsuit buoyant.

The added buoyancy helps you stay afloat easier and swim more efficiently by reducing the effort required to maintain proper body position. Additionally, wetsuits can help you maintain stability in the water, especially when swimming in choppy open water conditions, simplifying your strokes and allowing you to focus on your technique.

Temperature Regulation and Comfort

Swimming in cold water without proper thermal protection can lead to hypothermia and discomfort.

As mentioned above, wetsuits are made of neoprene, which is an excellent insulator, trapping your body heat to keep you warm even in water temperatures as low as 41°F.

They come in various thicknesses, allowing you to customize your level of warmth and comfort based on the water conditions. Thicker wetsuits offer more insulation in colder water (and more buoyancy), while thinner options are suitable for warmer environments.

Enhanced Speed

Triathlon-specific wetsuits are specially designed to help you swim faster and more efficiently, thanks to their slick outer surface and strategically placed buoyancy panels. These features reduce drag and provide an optimal body position, making it easier to glide through the water with minimal effort.

Now that you understand the functionality and benefits of swimming in a wetsuit, let’s dive into the factors to consider when selecting the perfect wetsuit for your needs.

Selecting the Right Wetsuit for Swimming

Understanding Your Needs

First, think about the season and water temperature you will be swimming in.

Wetsuits are available in various thicknesses, and the one you choose will depend on whether you’ll be swimming in cold or warm water. For colder conditions, opt for a thicker wetsuit, while a thinner one will suffice for warmer waters.

Next, consider the type of water in which you’ll be swimming – saltwater, freshwater, or a chlorinated pool. Some wetsuits are better suited for specific environments and offer additional durability or features, but generally wetsuits can be worn in all environments.

Finally, personal comfort and fit should be of utmost priority. You’ll feel more confident in the water if you’re comfortable in your wetsuit.

Wetsuit Fit and Size

The importance of a proper-fitting wetsuit cannot be overstated. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Choose a wetsuit with ample stretch around the shoulders and arms, as this will allow for greater freedom of movement while swimming.
  • Check the fit at the neck and wrists to prevent water from entering the suit.
  • Make sure you have a snug, but not too tight, fit around your torso and legs to help with buoyancy and insulation.

If you’re buying online, consult the manufacturer’s size chart and measure your body dimensions accurately.

Remember that different brands may have different size specifications, so a medium in one brand might be small in another, so double-check the measurements just to be safe.

When trying on a wetsuit, ensure it fits snugly but does not restrict your breathing or movements. A wetsuit should not be so loose that there is excess material that could cause drag. A wetsuit can be slightly tight at first because it will stretch out as you break it in.

Key Features for Swimming Wetsuits

Some features to look for in a swimming wetsuit include:

  1. Flexibility and Mobility Factors: Find a wetsuit that offers flexibility in key areas, such as the shoulders and arms, to maximize your range of motion while swimming.
  2. Zipper Types and Locations: Zippers can be located in the front, back, or side of your wetsuit. Choose one that provides easy access and functionality based on your preferences.
  3. Seams and Stitching Varieties: Wetsuits can have various seam types, including flatlock, glued and blindstitched, or sealed and taped seams. Each type has its unique benefits and suitability for different conditions.

With these considerations in mind, you will be able to find a good wetsuit for your swimming needs. The next question is, what are the differences between swimming in a wetsuit vs. without?

How to Swim in a Wetsuit

Pre-Swim Preparations

Properly Putting on a Wetsuit: To put on your wetsuit correctly, try using a plastic grocery bag over your feet to help the wetsuit slide more easily over your feet without damaging the suit. Make sure the wetsuit is dry when putting it on.

Pre-Swim Warmups and Stretches: Before jumping in the water, take a few minutes to warm up your muscles and stretch, especially focusing on your shoulders, arms, and hips. This helps you reduce the risk of injuries and improve your swimming technique in a wetsuit.

Adapting Your Swimming Technique

Dealing with Additional Buoyancy: Wearing a wetsuit changes your buoyancy in the water. To adjust, focus on maintaining a streamlined position throughout your stroke, with minimal resistance. Balance your body and relax your upper body to allow efficient and smooth strokes.

Stroke Adjustments for Wetsuits: To maximize your swimming efficiency in a wetsuit, maintain a rhythmic kick and use your arms to propel forward. Adjust to the increased buoyancy by extending your arms fully and keeping your hand entry close to the surface while minimizing excessive rotation.

Overcoming Initial Discomforts: It’s normal to experience some initial tightness or discomfort when first swimming in a wetsuit. Focus on your breathing, stretching the suit across your chest, and practicing good technique to adapt and become more comfortable in the water.

Training Tips for Wetsuit Swimming

  1. Gradual Adaptation Approach: Start with shorter swims to gradually adapt to the wetsuit and build up to longer distances and open water training as you become more comfortable.
  2. Pool Practice vs. Open Water Practice: Balance your training between pool and open water sessions, focusing on adapting your technique and maintaining efficient swim mechanics.
  3. Key Exercises and Drills: Lastly, incorporating swimming-specific drills and exercises can help improve your wetsuit swimming performance, such as practicing kicking, arm strokes, and body rotation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much easier is it to swim with a wetsuit?

Swimming with a wetsuit can be much easier because it provides additional buoyancy and insulation as well as reduces drag. This means you’ll float higher in the water, allowing for more efficient swimming. You might also experience less fatigue due to the reduced need for constant kicking to stay afloat. Lastly, the smooth surface of the wetsuit will help you glide through the water, increasing speed slightly.

Is it OK to wear a wetsuit in the pool?

Although wearing a wetsuit in the pool is not common, it can be beneficial for practicing open water swimming or getting used to a new wetsuit. Be aware, though, that some pools might have rules against wetsuits. Double-check with the facility before wearing a wetsuit in a public pool. Also, keep in mind that wetsuits are designed for cold water, so you might feel warmer than usual when swimming in a heated pool.

What are some activities you can swim in a wetsuit for?

Wetsuits are versatile and can be used for various water activities. Here are a few examples:

  1. Open water swimming: Wetsuits provide buoyancy, warmth, and protection from the elements, making them ideal for long swims in cold, open water.
  2. Triathlons: Many triathletes wear wetsuits for the swim portion of the race to enhance their swimming efficiency and stay warm in cold water.
  3. Surfing: Wetsuits protect surfers from cold water temperatures and help them stay in the water longer.
  4. Snorkeling and scuba diving: Wetsuits keep divers warm and protected throughout their underwater adventures.