How Should A Wetsuit Fit?


Have you ever seen a swimmer wearing a wetsuit that was too big for them? It’s not a pretty sight. Have you ever tried to swim in a wetsuit that’s too big for you? The people on shore want you to know: it’s not a pretty sight.

It’s pretty much impossible to swim effectively in a too-big wetsuit. So if you’re planning on taking part in a triathlon or getting into open-water swimming, you need to size your wetsuit correctly from the start.

So, how should a wetsuit fit? Like a body glove!

If you aren’t sure exactly what that means, don’t worry! We’ll cover everything you need to know about trying and buying your first wetsuit (or your first properly-fitting wetsuit).

Why Does a Wetsuit Need to Fit Correctly?

First, you can’t just pull your wetsuit up like you can pull your shorts up!

A wetsuit that’s too big is going to be uncomfortable to wear, not to mention it may look kind of weird and floppy on you.

But there are more important reasons that a wetsuit needs to fit correctly:

To Function Properly

A too-large wetsuit not only feels and looks awkward, but it won’t do its job properly, either. A wetsuit should perform two essential functions: keep you warm, and keep you afloat.

Keep You Warm In Cold Water

If your wetsuit is too big, there’s space between the suit and your skin for cool air, cold water, and sneaky breezes to get in.

If you’re cold, your limbs will stiffen up and perhaps even go numb, which really isn’t helpful when you’re in the water, whether you’re competing or not!

A properly-fitting wetsuit lies right against your skin, insulating you from both wind and water.

Add Buoyancy

Wetsuits are made of materials that float. That means that when you’re wearing one, even though you’re heavier than the water, the wetsuit keeps you closer to the surface of the water.

This helps you to move faster and more effortlessly because you’re expending less energy to stay afloat. This allows you to spend more energy moving forward.

To Save You Money

Wetsuits can get expensive! Buying the right size from the start will save you having to buy another for a reason you could have avoided in the beginning.

Before Trying on a Wetsuit

There are a few tricks to trying on a wetsuit that can make it much easier. They may sound strange, but trust me, don’t forget them when you go wetsuit shopping!

Make Sure Your Fingernails Are Trimmed

You may be surprised at how quickly the seemingly thick material of a wetsuit can tear! So make sure your fingernails are trimmed before you head off to try them on.

Make Sure You’re Dry

Although wetsuits are made for the water, getting into one can be a nightmare if you’re wet. It’s not exactly easy to squeeze into one if you’re dry, either, but slightly easier than being wet! Make sure you’re completely dry everywhere before trying to pull the wetsuit on.

Put It On The Right Way

This might sound silly, but it can be hard to figure out which is inside and which is outside when buying a wetsuit for the first time.

Easiest way: the shiny side goes on the outside!

Tips to Find the Perfect Wetsuit Fit

When trying on a wetsuit, keep the following tips and tricks in mind to increase your chances of finding the perfect fit.

Tip #1: The Wetsuit Should be Snug but Not Restricting

If you’ve ever worn compression gear before, you know the feeling it needs to give you. It should be snug and provide a feeling of tightness, but not cause pain or discomfort.

Tip #2: Pull It Up Slowly

Slow is the way to go! Trying to pull the wetsuit up too fast will only frustrate you because it just isn’t meant to be a speedy affair.

Pull the material up in small sections, bit by bit. If you struggle with this when trying your wetsuit on, don’t worry. You’ll be putting your wetsuit on before the start of the triathlon. You have time. It’s taking the suit off quickly that is a key race skill.

Put it on one leg at a time, up to the knees. From there, pull each leg up to mid-thigh, and then to the waist, and put your arms through the sleeves. If you think you may need help with the zipper at the back, take someone with you when trying it on.

Make sure it’s not too roomy in the crotch! Pull it up to make a tight, but not uncomfortable, fit.

Tip #3: Don’t Worry About Arm and Leg Length

The most important thing is that the wetsuit fits your torso. If it’s tight but not painful, and you can breathe easily, then it’s good to go.

Don’t worry if the arms and legs are too long. They can easily be trimmed to fit! If you’re planning on only racing in summer and starting with shorter races, think about going for a wetsuit without sleeves.

Tip #4: Collar Fit is Important

A tight collar may restrict your breathing and movement, or just make you uncomfortable. Choose a wetsuit with a slightly wider collar to give you some breathing space.

If you’re happy with a tighter collar, that’s okay too! It all comes down to what you feel comfortable with.

Tip #5: Lower Back Fit

Next to the torso, the lower back is the next most important place to get the fit right. If it’s too loose, it can slowly fill up with water, making you cold and weighing you down. It should also be snug.

Tip #6: Consider Different Body Types

If you happen to have a wider or bulkier build, don’t be afraid to go a size up. Remember, it’s the torso fit that counts most!

In the same vein, if you have a thin frame, try a size down if your regular size doesn’t quite hug you tightly enough.

Different brands may also have a slight difference in size and snugness. If one wetsuit doesn’t feel quite right to you, but you don’t want to go a size up or down just yet, try your size in a different brand.

Tip #7: Don’t Skimp on a Good Wetsuit

Like anything, there are wetsuits, and then there are cheap wetsuits. It can be super tempting to go for a cheap one, especially if you’re on a budget, but wait! It’s worth holding out for a high-quality one, even if you have to save for a few months first.

Cheap wetsuits are usually meant for snorkeling and surfing. These activities don’t quite require the same range of motion as a swimming does!

They may still do a good job of keeping you warm and floating, but in the end, if you don’t have an easy range of motion, you’re not going to get the triathlon results you want.

Tip #8: Thickness

Wetsuit thickness varies. The thickness you choose will depend partly on personal preference, but also on what you need your wetsuit to do for you.

The thicker the material, the more insulating and buoyant the wetsuit will be. But, it will also be less flexible and may restrict your range of movement slightly.

It’s your choice what thickness you go for, but it may be a good idea to try a few different thicknesses to see what feels most comfortable.

When Do I Know If It is Too Big or Too Small?

So how do you know if the wetsuit you’re trying on is too big or too small? It may sound silly, but it can be hard to tell!

If your wetsuit pulls down on your shoulders once it’s zipped up, it’s too small. If it hangs loose in the crotch area, it’s too big.

When you try a wetsuit on, if the torso fits perfectly but the shoulders pull down, you’ll still need to go a size up. Similarly, if the torso is a good fit but the crotch is loose, try going a size smaller.

If you can’t find a perfect fit, try a different brand. Every brand has slight differences from others, and one may feel awkward while another fits like a glove!

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Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.