In late 2009 after a phenomenal meet in Rome in which 43 world records were shattered with all athletes in attendance wearing body suits, FINA the world governing body of swimming, decided to slow down the evolution of the sports. You know the story. Thus completely changing the suit guidelines and allowances and leaving everyone standing in the dark asking one question: “What can I wear?”
Seemingly overnight new suits began streaming out from the manufacturers and most swimmers adapted and selected new suits. Age group swimmers and coaches spent countless hours online looking at all the facts trying to figure out which was the fastest suit available.
Then there’s you. Maybe you are a Masters swimmer who swims at your local YMCA a couple days a week and may compete in one meet a year. Maybe you are not part of the group of 2,000 or so who travel to the national level meets and have full exposure to all the vendors who partner with U.S. Masters Swimming and educate you on the suits. Maybe you have no idea what is going on. You know that some kind of ruling was passed and now there are all kinds of new suits. But now the big question is, what suit is right for you?
Recently I was at a Masters meet in Auburn and a gentleman came up to the table holding a blueseventy Swimskin. After talking with him for a few minutes I realized he had no idea about the rule change. This is the first meet he has had a chance to attend since the ruling. Then comes the inevitable question “What is the best suit?”
In order to answer this question, you first have to look at three main differences in the suits. What kind of fabric is the suit made of, what kind of seams does it have, and what does this do for me?
First, the fabric. All suit manufacturers had to submit their fabric and suit prototypes to FINA to get approval. Once the suit is approved it is given a bar code that has to be printed as a tag on the back of the suit. This bar code is functional and will be used to verify suit legality at higher-level meets. The majority of the suits now use the a paper-like fabric. Most swimmers call it this because it feels like the old time “paper suits” from the 80s.
Suits such as the Nike HD3 and EV3, TYR Tracer Light, B Series, and C Series, blueseventy Nero TX, Arena Powerskin REVO and XP and the Speedo LZR Elite and Pro are all made of this type of fabric. The other fabric out is called Yamamoto. It is used in the Q-Tech and is more similar in feel to the fabric that was used in the body suits. These suits are all dipped in a coating that helps to repel the water. They are also designed to compress the muscles and greatly reduce drag. The idea is that if the suit compresses and repels the water it will allow you to go thru the water with less drag and more streamline.
Second thing to look at on suits are the seams. Suits such as the Arena Powerskin REVO, Speedo LZR Elite, TYR Tracer B Series, and the blueseventy Nero TX are bonded or welded together at a high pressure to create a suit with no thread holding it together. The thought is that if the suit has no seams it will have less drag. The other suits Nike HD3 and EV3, TYR Tracer Light and C Series, Arena Powerskin XP, Speedo LZR Pro and the Q Tech are sewn together with traditional stitching. The big difference in the two is price. Bonded seams greatly increase the labor, which makes a big difference in end cost.
There are some unique features on some of the suits that should be pointed out. The Nike EV3 is constructed of two different types of fabric, the paper fabric is used on the sides and in the center there is a stretchier polyester technical fabric designed to allow the swimmer to breathe and move easier while still getting the technical aspects of the paper fabric down the sides. The TYR C Series is designed with a mesh compression fabric to give added compression to the torso and, in some cases, the bulge. These different features and many more are designed to accommodate different bodies and achieve different goals.
The most important thing to look for in a suit is fit. If a suit does not fit you well and you are not comfortable it doesn’t matter if you pay $30 or $375, it is not going to help you. All bodies are created differently. Manufacturers all create different fits. Therefore some of the suits may not accommodate your physical characteristics, such as larger or smaller hips, chest, longer legs, longer torso etc. In order to find the suit that is right for you, you need to try on suits and speak with someone who is trained to help you find the perfect fit. If you are interested in finding the perfect suit for you or simply have some more questions about the suits, we at All American Swim would love to talk with you about the differences and help you find the perfect suit for that upco