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Best Wetsuit for Open Water Swimming: A Beginner’s Guide

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Welcome to the open water swimming part! As someone experienced in guiding beginners, we understand the excitement and uncertainty that comes with diving into this exhilarating sport. In this guide, we will help you to choose the best wetsuit for open water swimming beginners. Our friendly and accessible advice will boost your confidence and prepare you for your aquatic adventures. Whether you’re navigating through the terminology or seeking tips on finding the perfect fit, consider me your trusted companion as we embark on this journey together. Let’s dive in and discover the best wetsuit for your open water swimming endeavors!

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Fit Comes First

The best swimrun wetsuits that fit you perfectly can enhance your comfort and significantly impact your performance in the water.

Tips for Ensuring the Right Fit

  1. Try Before You Buy: Before making a purchase, it’s advisable to try on different wetsuits to see how they feel on your body. Walk around, stretch, and simulate swimming movements to assess comfort and flexibility.
  2. Check Range of Motion: Ensure that you have a full range of motion in your arms and legs while wearing the wetsuit. Your movements should not feel restricted or impeded in any way.
  3. Seal Check: Pay attention to seals around the neck, wrists, and ankles. These areas should create a snug seal without causing discomfort or constriction.
  4. Seek Professional Advice: If you’re unsure about sizing or fit, don’t hesitate to seek advice from experts at swim shops or sports stores specializing in aquatic gear.

Why a Perfect Fit is Non-Negotiable

An ill-fitting wetsuit can lead to restricted movements and discomfort, hindering your ability to swim efficiently. Imagine trying to glide through the water with a suit that is too tight around the shoulders or too loose around the torso—it would be like swimming against a current.

Research has shown that wearing a properly fitted wetsuit can improve your swimming performance by 3-5% compared to wearing an incorrectly sized one. This increase in performance is attributed to the optimal range of motion allowed by a well-fitted suit, enabling you to move more freely and powerfully through the water.

To ensure you get the right fit, consider factors such as your height, weight, and chest measurements when selecting a wetsuit. Many brands provide size charts that offer guidance on choosing the appropriate size based on these measurements. Consulting these charts can help you find a wetsuit that hugs your body snugly without being constricting.

Learn the Coverage You Need

Before selecting the ideal gear for your open-water swimming endeavors, you should learn the different coverage options available in wetsuits. Each type of coverage offers unique benefits tailored to various swimming conditions and personal preferences.


A full-length wetsuit provides extensive coverage from neck to ankles, offering maximum protection against cold water and potential abrasions. As the best wetsuit for swimming in cold water, this style is favored by swimmers looking for enhanced warmth and buoyancy during long swims. Research studies have shown that wearing a full-body wetsuit can lead to significant velocity improvements ranging from 3.2% to 12.9% across various distances and durations, making it a popular choice for competitive swimmers seeking performance gains.


On the other end of the spectrum, a spring/shorty wetsuit features shorter legs and sleeves, providing less coverage while still offering thermal insulation for moderate water temperatures. This type of wetsuit allows for increased freedom of movement compared to full-length suits, making it suitable for swimmers who prioritize agility and flexibility in their strokes. Andy, an expert in open water swimming, emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good range of movement during races, highlighting the value of flexibility in wetsuit design.

Short Sleeveless

For swimmers seeking minimal coverage and maximum mobility, a short sleeveless wetsuit is an excellent choice. This style leaves arms completely free for unrestricted movement while providing core warmth and buoyancy. Studies have shown that wearing sleeveless wetsuits can positively impact biomechanical variables related to swimming performance, enhancing efficiency in the water.


The sleeveless swimsuit stands out as a versatile choice that offers both freedom of movement and essential core warmth for open-water swimming. This style is favored by swimmers who prioritize agility and unrestricted arm motion during their aquatic activities.

Expert Andy, known for his expertise in open water and pool swimming, emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good range of movement and buoyancy, especially during the final stages of races. A sleeveless wetsuit allows swimmers to propel themselves efficiently through the water without any hindrance from sleeves, enabling them to maintain optimal stroke mechanics and speed.

In the same way, studies have shown that wearing sleeveless wetsuits can positively impact biomechanical variables related to swimming performance. By freeing up the arms completely, this style promotes a natural swim stroke and enhances overall efficiency in the water. The ability to move without constraint is crucial for swimmers seeking to improve their times and endurance in open water events.

Wetsuit Material Is Key

When it comes to selecting the best wetsuit for your open water swimming excursions, understanding the materials used in wetsuit construction is crucial. The primary material that serves as the foundation of most wetsuits is neoprene, a synthetic rubber known for its insulating properties and flexibility.

Wetsuit materials are crucial to your gear’s comfort, performance, and durability. The primary material that serves as the foundation of most wetsuits is neoprene, a synthetic rubber known for its insulating properties and flexibility.

Neoprene: The Heart of Your Wetsuit

Neoprene is the cornerstone of modern wetsuits as it provides thermal insulation while remaining flexible in the water. This material traps a thin layer of water between your body and the suit, which is then heated by your body temperature, creating a barrier against the cold water outside. The thickness of the neoprene swimsuit determines its warmth and buoyancy levels, making it a key factor in choosing the right suit for your needs.  This is also the reason why a full-body wetsuit can enhance swimming performance by 3.2–12.9% across various distances and durations.

Neoprene: Flexibility and Durability

Apart from providing insulation, neoprene plays a vital role in determining the flexibility and durability of a wetsuit. A narrative review about swimming performance and wetsuit effects highlighted that, compared to traditional swimsuits, wearing a wetsuit can enhance swimming performance by 3%–10%. This boost in performance is attributed to neoprene’s flexibility, which aids swimmers in achieving optimal movements during their strokes and enables natural stroke mechanics and efficient propulsion through the water.

Moreover, a swimming neoprene suit withstands the rigors of open-water swimming without compromising its functionality over time. High-quality neoprene resists abrasions and tears while maintaining its shape and integrity through repeated use.

Combine with Swimming Equipment

When gearing up for your open-water swimming escapades, it’s essential to consider how your wetsuit complements other swimming equipment to optimize your performance and comfort in the water.

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Essential Gear for Enhanced Performance

Essential swimming accessories with your wetsuit create a comprehensive ensemble that supports performance enhancement and comfort during open water sessions. Each piece of gear is crucial in optimizing your swimming experience by addressing specific challenges encountered in aquatic environments.

  • Swim Goggles: Swim goggles protect your eyes from irritants and enhance underwater visibility, allowing you to navigate through different conditions with clarity.
  • Swim Cap: A well-fitted swim cap reduces drag, keeps hair out of your face, and provides insulation, promoting streamlined movement and heat retention. A snug-fitting cap ensures streamlined movement through the water and minimizes heat loss from the head, particularly in colder environments.
  • Earplugs and Nose Clips: Earplugs and nose clips prevent water from entering sensitive areas, enhancing comfort and focus during long swims.
  • Hand Paddles: Hand paddles increase resistance, strengthen upper body muscles, and improve stroke mechanics, aiding in propulsion and technique refinement.
  • Fins: Fins provide added propulsion and stability, help develop leg strength and kick efficiency, and maintain proper body alignment in the water.

Match Your Wetsuit with Other Equipment

Compatibility between your wetsuit and additional swimming equipment is key to achieving a seamless aquatic performance. Material compatibility, fit consistency, and ergonomic design are 3 key factors in selecting gear to complement your wetsuit.

For instance, choosing goggles with adjustable straps that fit comfortably over the neoprene material of your wetsuit prevents slippage or discomfort during extended swims. Opting for silicone-based caps that provide a secure grip on the wetsuit surface helps maintain streamlined hydrodynamics without compromising fit or insulation. Look for features like adjustable straps and sizes for hand paddles or fins that accommodate varying thicknesses of neoprene while ensuring optimal performance benefits without hindering mobility or flexibility.

Assess Water Temperature

Water temperature in wetsuit selection is crucial for a comfortable and efficient experience. Different water temperatures necessitate varying levels of insulation and buoyancy to optimize your performance in the aquatic environment.

Choose the Right Wetsuit for Different Temperatures

A suitable wetsuit tailored to the specific water temperature can significantly impact swimming performance by reducing drag, improving buoyancy, and enhancing technique. By aligning your gear with the environmental conditions you will encounter, you set yourself up for success in open-water swimming adventures across various settings.

In colder waters, a thicker long-sleeved neoprene swimsuit provides enhanced insulation to retain body heat and prevent hypothermia. Its additional buoyancy aids in floatation, reducing energy expenditure and improving overall swim efficiency.

Conversely, when facing warmer waters, opting for a thinner wetsuit or one with strategic panel construction allows for better heat dissipation while still offering protection against external elements. The lightweight wetsuit for swimming promotes freedom of movement and prevents overheating, ensuring that you can focus on your strokes without feeling restricted by excessive insulation.

Thickness and Buoyancy Matter

Thickness and buoyancy can enhance your aquatic experience, so you should strike a harmonious balance between warmth retention and freedom of movement when selecting the ideal wetsuit for your aquatic endeavors.

Image Source: Pexels

On one hand, The thickness of a wetsuit significantly influences its buoyant properties, impacting how you move through the water and interact with external forces. On the other hand, buoyancy affects your body position and stroke efficiency in the water, as well as overall hydrodynamics.

Thicker neoprene layers inherently provide greater buoyancy due to their increased density and ability to trap more air within the material. This additional buoyancy helps keep swimmers afloat with minimal effort while promoting proper body alignment for streamlined propulsion. By lifting certain parts of the body higher in the water, thicker wetsuits can assist in reducing drag resistance and optimizing swim speed.

Conversely, thinner wetsuits offer less inherent buoyancy but excel in facilitating natural movements without feeling overly restrictive or cumbersome. Swimmers who prioritize agility over additional floatation often opt for thinner suits to maintain fluid stroke mechanics and swift transitions between different swimming techniques.

Get a buoyant wetsuit, you may achieve performance goals during open-water swimming adventures.

Seam Construction Ensures Durability

The seams of a wetsuit play a crucial role in maintaining its structural integrity and longevity, especially in challenging aquatic environments. By learning a wetsuit with various durable seam constructions, you can ensure that your gear withstands rigorous use without compromising on comfort or functionality.

Types of Seams and Their Benefits

Flatlock Seams

These seams are designed to lie flat against the skin, reducing chafing and irritation during prolonged swims. Flatlock seams are commonly used in thinner wetsuits or those intended for warmer waters where insulation is not the primary concern. While they offer flexibility and comfort, they may be less effective at preventing water entry compared to other seam types.

Glued and Blind Stitched Seams

This seam construction method involves gluing the neoprene panels together before stitching them partially from the inside. The exterior stitching does not penetrate through the entire material, minimizing water penetration and enhancing durability. Typically, it provides excellent insulation and structural reinforcement, making it suitable for colder water conditions.

Taped Seams

In taped seam construction, waterproof tape is applied over the seams to prevent water ingress and reinforce the bond between neoprene panels. This sealing technique enhances the wetsuit’s waterproof properties while increasing its resistance to wear and tear. Taped seams are commonly found in high-performance wetsuits designed for competitive swimming or extreme conditions where maximum durability is essential.

Liquid Seam Sealant

Some advanced wetsuits feature liquid seam sealant applied to the seams for added protection against water infiltration and abrasion. This innovative sealing method creates a watertight barrier that enhances the wetsuit’s overall integrity while maintaining flexibility for unrestricted movement in the water. Wetsuits with liquid seam sealant technology offer superior leak prevention and long-lasting performance benefits.

Why Durability Matters

The durability of your wetsuit directly impacts its performance, longevity, and overall value as an essential piece of swim gear for open water activities. Investing in a durable wetsuit offers several key benefits that enhance your swimming experience:

  • Longevity: Robust seam construction methods can withstand frequent use in various aquatic settings without succumbing to wear or damage easily.
  • Performance Consistency: Wetsuits with reinforced seams maintain their structural integrity even under demanding conditions, allowing you to focus on your swim technique without distractions or discomfort caused by compromised gear.
  • Protection Against Elements: Durable seam constructions such as taped seams or liquid sealants create barriers that prevent cold water from seeping into the suit, keeping you warm and comfortable throughout your swim. Enhanced protection against external elements like wind, waves, and debris ensures that you can fully immerse yourself in your aquatic pursuits without disruptions.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: While durable wetsuits may come at a slightly higher price point initially, their long-term reliability ultimately saves you money by reducing the need for frequent replacements due to premature wear or tear.

Consider the Zipper Type

A zip wetsuit is easy to put on or off, but different zip wetsuits have various functions. A back and a front zip wetsuit are two common types in the market. While both designs offer unique benefits tailored to different needs, assessing your priorities can help determine which type aligns best with your swimming goals:

  • Ease of Use: If you value quick dressing processes and independent gear adjustments, a back zip wetsuit might be more suitable due to its straightforward entry method and broad opening at the back.
  • Security: For swimmers seeking enhanced security against water ingress and optimal comfort without compromising mobility, a front zip wetsuit could offer greater peace of mind with its secure closure system across the chest area.

To further learn these two swimsuits, please read on now!

Back Zip Wetsuits

It features a zipper running along the back of the suit, typically secured with a long pull cord for easy opening and closing without requiring assistance from others. These wetsuits are favored for their simplicity in entry and exit, making them ideal for beginners or those who prefer straightforward dressing processes.


  • Easy to put on
  • Allows for quick removal
  • Minimizes pressure on the chest
  • Less expensive


  • More prone to water ingress through the zipper
  • May cause flushing of water through the back zipper
  • Can cause discomfort or chafing on the back
  • Limited ventilation options

Front Zip Wetsuits

In contrast, front zip wetsuits feature a zipper located across the chest area, allowing for easy entry through the front of the suit. This design offers advantages in terms of minimizing water entry through zippers during active swimming sessions since front zips are less prone to accidental openings or gaps compared to back zips. Swimmers focusing on enhanced security and reduced flushing risks often opt for front zip wetsuits for added peace of mind.


  • Better sealing against water ingress
  • Reduced flushing of water through the zipper
  • More comfortable fit around the neck
  • Easier access to the chest for ventilation


  • Slightly more challenging to put on
  • Limited range of motion when closing the zipper
  • More expensive than back zip wetsuits
  • Zipper placement may interfere with movement

Buy from A Reliable Brand

The brand you choose not only reflects the quality of the wetsuit but also influences factors such as durability, performance, and customer support. Established brands with positive reviews and a history of innovation signify superior craftsmanship and attention to detail. You can look for indicators of quality to trust them:

  • advanced technologies
  • premium materials
  • endorsements from professional athletes or swimming experts

Moreover, reputable brands prioritize sustainability, using eco-friendly materials and ethical production methods to minimize environmental impact. Recycled wetsuit promotes responsible consumption within the aquatic sports industry.

Besides, reliable brands offer comprehensive warranties protecting against manufacturing defects or premature wear under normal usage conditions. Before a purchase, remember the following factors to ensure you can seek assistance or replacements if issues arise during the covered period.

  • warranty duration
  • coverage details
  • any specific care instructions required to maintain validity
  • product exchange policies
  • return procedures
  • sizing guidance
  • general inquiries handling

Also, you can evaluate the responsiveness and professionalism of the brand’s customer service team to gauge the level of support provided.


How to put on your wetsuit?

To put on your neoprene one-piece swimsuit, start by gradually pulling it up over your legs, ensuring a snug fit around the ankles and knees. Then, carefully pull the wetsuit up over your torso, using a gentle pulling motion to avoid stressing the seams. Finally, secure the zipper or closure mechanism according to the wetsuit’s design, ensuring a tight seal against water ingress. Adjust any neoprene panels or cuffs to ensure comfort and freedom of movement before heading into the water.

Should you get wet before putting on a wetsuit?

It is not necessary to get wet before putting on a wetsuit. In fact, most swimmers prefer putting on their wetsuits when dry to ensure a proper fit and seal against the skin. Getting wet beforehand may make it challenging to slide into the suit smoothly and could affect its overall effectiveness in insulating and protecting you during your swim.

Do you wear a bra with a wetsuit?

When wearing a wetsuit for open water swimming, there is no need to wear a bra underneath. Wetsuits are designed to provide support and coverage for both men and women without requiring additional undergarments. The neoprene material of the wetsuit offers compression and security, eliminating the need for extra layers that could impede movement or cause discomfort while swimming.


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