With summer fast approaching and a new season of Ocean, Lake and Triathlon swims to get ready for you may be asking yourself what type of wetsuit do you need. This is especially important for those new to open water swimming. There is a vast number of wetsuits on the market and what works for one person doesn't always work for someone else.
Females generally differ to men in body composition so therefore the wetsuit a female will choose will be different to that of a male and yes, they do have gender specific wetsuits. Females generally, but not in all cases, have a more natural body position in the water so they don't need to add extra buoyancy in the hips and legs that males do. Adding too much buoyancy to the hips and legs compared to the upper body can actually raise the back end too high in the water which ends up slowing you down. You can have the most expensive wetsuit on the market but if it doesn't suit your body position while swimming then it's just keeping you warm while you are swimming.
One method, in the pool, to check this is to swim a specific distance with a pull buoy or alternatively, if you can get hold of a pair, wetsuit pants to see how it affects your speed compared to swimming the same distance without. The advantage of the wetsuit pants is that they don't affect your rotation or kick the same as a pull buoy does. If you are slower with the pull buoy or wetsuit pants, then you will want to go with a wetsuit that is neutral e.g. similar thickness neoprene (no more than 1mm difference and preferably 0mm) through the body and hips/legs. If you are quicker with the added buoyancy of the pull buoy or wetsuit pants, then you should be looking at a wetsuit with more buoyancy in the hips and legs compared to the upper body. How much extra buoyancy depends on how low your hips/legs are compared to the upper body while swimming. More efficient swimmers are likely to have a good body position in the water so won't need too much extra buoyancy in the hips/legs but swimmers with low hips/legs in the water will generally benefit from the maximum amount of extra buoyancy they can go for.