The Sailfish Vibrant is stylish and designed to be reliable for beginner swimmers. It’s made of thick Longlife Cell Neoprene, which performs well at chilly temperatures, and it provides excellent buoyancy throughout. It has a hardened neoprene panel on the hips to stabilise your body position in the water, is flexible around the upper and has little shoulder restriction. The decent-sized zip and fit ensures it’s quick to get on and off, but we found the generous sizing allowed for water ingress. Overall, with the right size, it’s a decent performer with the extra buoyancy, but it’s on the expensive side for an entry-level wetsuit. sailfish.com
Verdict: a decent performer with added buoyancy 75%
Buy from www.swiminn.com
This is classic Blueseventy, with a great minimalistic style, good shoulder flexibility and a drag-free feeling in the water. But the most noticeable post-swim area was the tight neckline that claimed a layer of skin, so check the sizing. With an easy zip, and Aqua-seal cuffs at the ankles and wrists, it’s quick to get on and off and doesn’t let water in. The buoyancy patterns are spot on, with 1.5mm in the arms and upper, merging into 5mm in core and lower and 4mm at the feet to promote a smoother swimming style. It has SCS coating to prevent damage, but we just found that you can get more for your money elsewhere. blueseventy.com
Verdict: does the job, but check the neck sizing 75%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
For a budget suit designed for first timers, the Hydron performs as expected. There’s restriction in the shoulders, which doesn’t allow natural movement in the water, and the flush guards are uncomfortably tight at the wrists. Yet there are quick-release stretch panels in the lower leg, and it’s easy to remove. The neoprene is soft and supple, and the low neckline keeps water out effectively. Although it has 3mm smoothskin panels over the chest, which raise body position slightly, the buoyancy in the lower is poor. Overall, the Hydron has a good price and features, but it’s let down by a lack of flexibility where it’s needed most. wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: attractive price, but lacking in flexibility 67%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Orca have made some serious upgrades for the 2018 Sonar. It has Yamamoto 39 neoprene, which is flexible, durable and non-absorbing. But what makes it so comfy is the super-soft infinity skin on the inside, which also makes it very quick to remove. It’s a fast piece of kit in the water and glides like a swim skin with absolutely no restriction, and it provides greater buoyancy to keep legs afloat with Aerodome2 technology in the lower. The upgraded tech has upped the price, but it’s an attractive performer and worth the investment for athletes looking for performance kit. It does size up a little large, so check before you buy. orca.com
Verdict: impressive upgrades make this a top racing contender 92%
Buy from www.simplyswim.com
The final verdict
In our personal experience, the tighter a wetsuit feels on land, the smoother it performs in the water. The Roka did just that. On the beach it felt tight on every limb but, once in the water, the pressure was removed and the tech revealed itself. This is a seriously fast suit... if it fits your body shape. The £287 price here is buying the suit direct from Roka in the US, which is oddly £70 cheaper (including postage) than buying in the UK.
The Aqua Sphere warrants serious consideration when picking your next suit, and would’ve scored even higher if it produced an easier T1. The Orca, meanwhile, has a healthy claim to be the best performing suit on test. The material holds the spotlight and it’s the thinnest and most flexible on test. But if you’re between sizes we’d suggest sizing down.
While still being flexible, the Zone3 stays true to its size. It’s also the greatest bargain to be found here and is the swiftest to remove, making it yet another Best on Test wetsuit accolade for the Brit brand.