The all-conquering Yamamoto neoprene comes in different levels of flexibility, with 38, 39 and 40 cell the most commonly used. The #40 cell is the most flexible and often appears around the shoulders in high-end suits, with 39 cell placed elsewhere. Entry to mid-level suits are more likely to spec a mix of 38 and 39 cell, with the latter being a significant upgrade to the former. The 40 cell is more stretchy and will offer minor advantages to fast swimmers, but if you’re on any type of budget then 39 cell will suffice.
Those with a swim background may want to choose suits that support their technique, so if you have a six-beat kick then there’s little need to use a very high buoyancy suit. Orca’s Alpha, the Sailfish G-Range and Huub’s 4:4 (balanced buoyancy) options are examples of suits made for swimmers who aren’t prone to sinky legs. Many brands will use technology such as Aerodome, a sandwiching of two layers of neoprene with air pockets in the middle, to provide extra lift. If you’re after high levels of buoyancy to support a weak-to-improving leg kick and body position, look out for tech such as Aerodome.
While you may get the best deals online, taking a suit out for a test swim before buying could pay you back in dividends. Size guides vary from brand to brand, and although minor fitting differences might not affect the performance too much (unless it’s way too big for you and water is leaking in), it could make a big difference in comfort. A chafing neck from the outset is the last thing you want in a 3.8km Iron-distance swim, so it’s imperative to make sure you’re well accustomed with your suit before racing in it.