By Lexie Kelly, Open Water Swimmer, Swim Coach & Swim Ambassador @lexiekellyswim
With access to pools quite challenging to non-existent this year and winter months ahead, there’s obviously still the option for open water swimming in many southern parts of the country. There are also a number of us who do triathlons and open water swims regularly, who might be researching the latest wetsuit offerings for their selection.
SwimOutlet asked me to review some of their top full sleeve wetsuits as many of you try to continue swimming, despite the colder temperatures, and give those who train or are thinking about starting to train in open water an first-hand look at the options available in the wetsuit market. I live in Southern California and have access to the bay and oceanfront, where temperatures in the colder months can range from the low 50’s to mid 60’s. I was able to get an insight on each one as far as feel, fit, and other factors that I have experienced as a professional open water swimmer, who has competed in various bodies of water in over 40 countries. Here’s my thoughts on the six suits I tested in chronological order of when I tested them (which was completely random!)
Remember, each person has their own unique body type and their own preferences, so make sure to combine my thoughts with customer reviews, sizing charts, feedback from friends and product information on the web!
@thezogbiphoto / @thezoghbistudio
I tested this particular suit as the first of the bunch in Laguna Beach. It was easy to get on and I really loved the down zip. The Yamamoto Supet Stretch Rubber technology gave a wide variety in neoprene thickness, ranging from 1.5-5mm, with the thickest areas being in the legs, chest, and abdomen.
For a beginner swimmer out in open water, I would suggest this for a swimmer that appreciates assistance with flotation and warmth. I felt very buoyant in this wetsuit. It may have even been a bit buoyant to duck dive under larger surf for a more beginner swimmer. However, for buoyancy, this is definitely one of the best for that! As I am a big fan of pull sets in the pool, I really loved that it gave me similar flotation in my legs.
With the thickness of some of the westsuits,I usually veer away from full sleeve wetsuits with the mindset that it will restrict my shoulders and make me sore if I swim the distances I normally train, however, this suit allows so much range of motion in these areas and I was extremely comfortable the whole time.
The suit was very sleek, black with the feminine touches of turquoise and fuschia colors to pop and make it super fun to wear. It is a higher-end price, but totally worth everything if you are looking for top of the line buoyancy and flexibility.
Once again, I loved the packaging as it came in a very crisp box. I am always excited when I receive a swimming package, so it’s nice when a suit comes displayed in the quality it deserves.
I tested this wetsuit out once again in Laguna Beach on a a mild surf day, with clear conditions and practiced a number of in and outs to get a feel for how it felt swimming through the waves.
This wetsuit ranged in thickness from 1-5mm with the aero dome technology thicker in the legs and side panels. I felt similar to the pull set sensation and the side panels had great hip and body rotation. There was a great amount of support especially from the ribs to knees allowing a lot of buoyancy.
I absolutely loved this suit even more when I found out how it was made of eco-friendly neoprene derived from limestone rather than petroleum. I’m a huge advocate particularly for ocean clean-up and conservation, so just knowing I was swimming in something supportive of the environment made me happy.
The down-zip made it easy to get on and off. It also included pro speed cuffs that made it easy to slide my arms out very quick. The down-zip also made it very efficient to get the torso down efficiently. If you are a sprint or Olympic distance triathlete and concerned with quick transitions, this could be a good choice.
The new “laser cut collar” allowed a tighter fit around the neckline without allowing any water to seep in. The color is subtle but still fun without being over the top if you’re into more modest tones. A good suit for all the open water essentials.
The packaging was once again on point with gloves included to prevent ruining the suit with your nails when pulling it up while putting it on. The simple mesh bag included was nice to have to transport down to the bay on Balboa Island, Newport Beach where I tested this one out.
I needed help getting into the torso with the reverse zip. If you are going to a race alone be ready to ask for assistance from someone! However, I found the reverse zips to be quicker to get out of, particularly when you need a fast transition. So something to think about.
The bio stretch zone allowed a lot of freedom in the under arms and lower back having it be only 1.5 mm thickness. The even thinner 1mm neoprene under the arms, shoulder and collar allowed a great amount of flexibility and range of motion. The ankles had a special “horseshoe cut” that allowed quick release and probably one of the easiest to get out of in the legs and feet of the bunch.
The core area was 5mm which made me feel very stable and buoyant. I would recommend this to someone who really appreciates warmth in particular.
The neckline was made with a feature called Aquaflex collar seal, which gave a neoprene lining inside, as well making it extremely comfortable and virtually eliminate chafing without having to use any additional products.
I really loved the look of this suit and the Aqua Sphere "spot" on the shoulder and chest make it easy for your friends to see you on race day. A great suit for triathletes in particular!
Orca Women's Sonar Fullsleeve Tri Wetsuit
This suit comes with a great mesh bag that was the best of the bunch, in which the wetsuit could be put in the main compartment with side pockets for storage of other swim essentials. I really appreciate the fact that this company took the time to make the most of creating something useful to complement the main product.
The Yamamoto technology of 38-39 made it very easy and stretchy to get on and off. The down zip allowed me to get it on without any assistance.
I tested this on what turned out to be a longer swim in the bay on Balboa Island. As a distance swimmer, it’s always a bit challenging to find a wetsuit that won’t restrict your shoulders, chafe, and allow you to feel like you’re swimming without assistance while staying warm.
Of all the suits, I liked this one best for the pure natural sensation of swimming. I felt so free in this suit. I didn't actually feel like I was getting buoyancy assistance in terms of impacting my swim technique, yet I know I was still getting some lift because of my body positioning.
I really enjoyed swimming in this wetsuit and feel that this suit caters most to open water and endurance swimmers that want to stay warm but still feel their stroke naturally. It will be my go-to for the longer training swims. I highly recommend this one for those of your skeptical about wearing a wetsuit and not having it do all of the floatation for you.
Like the others, the Speedo Photon packaging came in a lovely box including gloves to assist in putting it on without ripping holes with your nails and fingers.
I took this suit out for a sunset swim in Laguna Beach, CA, where the evenings get a little chillier yet I was not phased by temperature even after my main swim, practicing some ins and outs and watching the remainder of the sunset without ever feeling cold.
The suit includes the Yamamoto 40 technology with a range of neoprene thickness allowing both buoyancy and flexibility.
I needed assistance with the reverse zipper, yet I am relatively new to it. However, I found it extremely quick to unzip to cut down transition time for those who do triathlons.
The ‘core stabilizer’ allowed great buoyancy in the torso/core area to help with body positioning and efficiency. I feel this really helped get great hip and body rotation and would almost be automatic, even if the swimmer has not yet developed strong technique in their midline.
The ‘fuse neck’ construction kept all water from entering in while minimizing the ability to chafe. As a long distance swimmer, the repetition of an uncomfortable neckline rubbing over and over can be brutal, so for me this is one of the biggest priorities when looking for the right wetsuit.
The ‘supersealed’ cuffs prevented water from entering entirely in the ankles and wrists yet still quite easy to get out of effectively.
The colors are really unique including a strong and bold purple and coral logos that really popped. This suit really made me feel like a superhero! The price is on the higher end of the market relative to the suits in this test but several of the outstanding features it has makes the added cost worthwhile.