With a blazing hot European summer, more British triathletes than ever before have been forced to hurriedly invest in a swimskin. Major races like Ironman Frankfurt and Ironman Austria were unusually non-wetsuit this year after water temperatures rose above 24.5°C, while Challenge Roth, which has never had to outlaw neoprene for age-groupers in its long history, was within a whisker of having to do so.
As destination races in far flung places with tropical climates also become increasingly commonplace for Britain’s travelling triathletes, the swimskin is now close to an essential item for more than just the pros. As you’ll witness at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
While the majority of triathletes will find the extra buoyancy offered by a wetsuit helps contribute to faster swim times, a good swimskin should help bridge the gap if the water is too warm for neoprene.
A tight fit and smooth flowing surfaces, developed with cutting-edge hydrodynamic technology, allow it to cut through the water better than a regular tri-suit, or even bare skin, and can help to maintain a better body position. Simply panic buying in the pre-race expo is a recipe for disaster, so we hit the water to try out three of the best on the market.
There’s lots to like about Blueseventy’s short-sleeved version of their successful PZ4 swimskin, but it’s not without its flaws. A longer length in both the arms and the legs gives great coverage of exposed skin and the potential of excellent tri-suit coverage. It offers a comfortable swim, not holding you tight but allowing freedom to move, which will be particularly useful for more competent swimmers who can maintain an efficient body position in the water. The Italian fabric feels a little cardboardy but in the water it’s noticeably low drag. The neckline is spot on yet the presence of a zip without a pull cord means you have to find somebody to do you up. That said, the locking zip is very easy to open simply by pulling either side of the shoulders and it slips off fast, making for a quick T1 and no cord dangling around your neck during the swim. blueseventy.co.uk
Verdict: The fabric is a little rigid, but there’s plenty of appeal for stronger swimmers 79%
Buy from blueseventy.co.uk
Huub provide a swimskin experience that’s initially troubling but then delivers. It’s such a tight squeeze that even when comfortably within the sizing guidelines you fear it might tear when you’re getting it on. But therein lies part of its beauty, for when you get this into the water it’s quite remarkable. The swimskin offers a high level of compression that helps to hold a solid body position. It cuts thorough the water with ease and efficiency; it’s about as close to the feeling of wearing a wetsuit as you can get without neoprene. Similar to the Blueseventy, it has a zip without a cord so, as long as you have somebody to help you, it isn’t an issue. One downside on testing was rubbing. This Huub is sleeveless and we’d chafing on the collarbone, so you may want to wear it over something that covers those areas rather than exposing skin underneath.
Verdict: Fast, compressive and efficient once in the water, a little tight when on land 88%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
Without a doubt, the Kona Target is the most comfortable and stylish swimskin on test. Zone3 have gone all out with their Kona Target short sleeve, with the print and name a nod towards Hawaii’s Ironman World Champs, which are non-wetsuit. The luscious material makes it feel more like something you could slip into for a night out than merely hitting the water, and the care that has gone into the seams and anything that could potentially rub is clearly painstaking, giving a wonderful feel. In the water it’s smooth thanks to its hydrophobic fabric, but it isn’t overly tight, and a slight lack of length in the torso leads to a lower neckline and the smallest amount of water seepage. The zip with pull cord makes it simple to get on and off in a hurry, and having sleeves to offer protection in sunny conditions is another bonus of this superb swimskin.
Verdict: Stylish, smooth and swift in both the water and T1. a winner 92%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk