Q: Let’s start with the basics, what is the benefit of a wetsuit?
A: A wetsuit first of all, is to keep you warm in cold water. If the water is 60 degrees or under, a good wetsuit will keep you warm. Second of all, it will keep you on top of the water and keep you buoyant, which will give you less drag and make you faster. If you are a triathlete from Florida or warmer parts of the country and don’t plan to do any long races, just sprint triathlons, you might not need a wetsuit. But if you want to be faster and are doing races in colder climates, you will need one.
Q: What types of things do athletes need to consider when buying one?
A: Surprisingly, the price really is not that important; higher-priced wetsuits aren’t always the best, and sellers will often provide discounts. The price of a wetsuit is based on the material it’s made of, which is neoprene; you want a high-quality and flexible neoprene. The best neoprene maker is Yamamoto, a company from Japan that started making wetsuits in 1961. If it’s not Yamamoto, it won’t be as flexible or durable. Specifically, the number 40 neoprene is the most flexible and the most comfortable one, and the second best is number 39.
Obviously, though, it needs to be comfortable. A wetsuit has to fit you like a second skin, snug on your arms and legs. But it can’t be too snug because you won’t be able to breathe and you’ll be uncomfortable. It’s good to get expert advice on fit, because if it fits wrong it won’t work right.
Q: Are wetsuits pretty similar to their original design, or have they evolved over the years?
A: They are more high-tech now. People will try and sell you all of these gadgets and technology, but I don’t recommend relying on a lot of gadgets; it can slow you down and you don’t really need them. A wetsuit just needs to be streamline and buoyant, and that’s it. You want to slide in the water, and other gimmicks are just that – they don’t help you and can slow you down.
Recently, more and more wetsuits are shorter in the arms and legs. Designers realized you don’t need neoprene on the bottoms of your legs and wrists, and the less material there is, the easier it will be to take off after exiting the water.
One thing Aquaman has that nobody else has is a flexible zipper; on the back, the zipper is all wavy. The reason is this: when you look at a regular t-shirt, the back part of the t-shirt is longer because the back needs to go up and move with your arm and back to come off, and the wetsuits need to do the same thing. The back panel needs to be longer and mold with your back, and bring the neoprene forward. The flexible zipper is longer, so you are going to be able to bring the neoprene forward when you take it off.
Q: Pros and cons of long and short sleeve wetsuits?
A: It depends where you swim. If you swim in Alaska where the water is cold, you need long sleeves, but if it’s warmer, short sleeve might be better and easier to take off. On short, sprint swims, you don’t need long sleeve. But longer swims, you will need long sleeve, because you’ll be in the water longer, and it’ll help you float better when you get fatigued. Some people say long sleeve is uncomfortable, but if you get a good quality one, it won’t be.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your website, Aquaman Triathlon (www.aquamantri.com)?
A: Aquaman has been making wetsuits since 1984, and we have learned from our mistakes, and improve wetsuits with experiment. When you wear an Aquaman wetsuit, you know it’ll fit you right.
In fact, it’s getting harder and harder to find places to try on wetsuits. In the past, a lot of bike shops added wetsuits to their stock because they had a lot of triathlete customers. Now, people try wetsuits on in stores, but buy them online because it’s cheaper. So, stores noticed this and stopped selling them. On my website, athletes can ask me questions, and send in their height and weight and I can tell them what size and fit I think would work best for them. It works about 90 percent of the time.
Although it’s predominantly an online business, I do travel to expos and sell them, and answer athlete questions. I’ll be at the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon Expo again this year, and you can find my contact information on my website.
Q: What advice do you give to new triathletes who may be hesitant about open water swimming?
A: First, you definitely need a good, comfortable wetsuit. And, when you get in the water, you never start a race or training by swimming fast. You need to be relaxed and build up your speed gradually. A lot of beginners start really fast, get a rush of adrenaline, and then hyperventilate and they don’t have any more oxygen in their muscles and cannot move. Then they blame it on the wetsuit for making them tired, but it’s not the wetsuit … wetsuits make you faster.