Why Do I Need A Wetsuit?
I asked the same question when I signed up for my first triathlon. I knew I needed one because I would be swimming in the Pacific Ocean in California where the water temperature is usually pretty chilly (averaging about 65 degrees). But other than warmth, why else do most triathletes use them?
Wetsuits are made of foamed neoprene which adds bouyancy while you swim. I was amazed when I swam in mine the first time and felt like I was actually floating on top of the water. It was a very crazy feeling. (*Note: Make sure you wear your wetsuit at least a couple of times during a swim before race day - otherwise you'll be in for a surprise!) Being buoyant on the surface means less drag in the water, which means you swim faster with less effort.
Where To Buy
Like most beginner triathletes, I had no idea how to even begin to choose a wetsuit. I was pointed to Xterra Wetsuits by fellow triathletes and open water swimmers. Xterra has a great and easy to use website to figure out what kind of wetsuit you want to buy. They have an interactive sizing tool that can help you decide which size to purchase, and it was spot on when I purchased mine. List prices for Xterra Wetsuits are high, but if you sign up for their newsletter you'll get lots of alerts when they have sales (which is pretty often).
They have three triathlon wetsuits: Vortex Sleeveless, Vortex Fullsuit Wetsuit, and Vector Pro Fullsuit Wetsuit. I chose the Vortex Full Wetsuit because of the price (versus The Vector Pro Fullsuit Wetsuit) and because I wanted the additional warmth from the sleeves. I didn't want the Vortex Sleeveless Wetsuit because I get cold very fast and I knew I would be too cold in the sleeveless (Amy is swimming our triathlon in the sleeveless because she is hoping for the greater range of arm motion and likes to be cooler in the water). The Vector Pro Fullsuit Wetsuit is geared more towards Ironman and half Ironman races and is designed for optimum speed and flexibility with added arm / shoulder panels to allow greater range of motion of swim strokes (something additional I didn't feel I needed).
Don't Freak Out
When you first get your wetsuit you'll probably take one look at it and think, 'Yeah right, this will not fit me!" But it will! The first time you put it on it will feel tight and awkward and you might need help zipping it up. Do a few wide leg squats (see image) to loosen it up and you will be good to go! Once you get in the water it loosens up even more and you won't feel restricted.
Triathlon, Surfing and Diving Wetsuits - What's The Difference article from wetsuitoutlet.com
What You Need To Know About Wetsuits article from active.com
2014 Triathlete Buyer's Guide: Wetsuits from Triathlete Magazine