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Getting The Most Out Of Your Wetsuit

Fit and Putting It On

Triathlon wetsuits are designed for surface swimming, and fit like a second skin, which is probably different from any other type of wetsuit you may have worn. They are also made of lightweight materials with fabric inside, smoothskin rubber outside. This rubber is not as abrasion or tear-resistant as neoprene with fabric on both sides, which is what is used in surf, dive, and water ski suits.

Getting the suit on is easier if both you and your suit are dry and cool. A small amount of baby powder on your legs and arms works wonders. PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS OVER THE FEET AND CALVES ALLOW THE SUIT TO SLIDE UP VERY EASILY. Use fingers and finger tips to pull on suit, NEVER DIG YOUR NAILS INTO THE SUIT TO GET A BETTER GRIP. Use steady and firm force, no pinching, yanking, or excessive stretching.

  1. Smoothskin outside, zipper in back. DON’T RUSH You’ll get hot, bothered, and sweaty, and not in a good way.
  2. Don’t forget the plastic bags over the feet.
  3. Pull the suit over feet and ankles to 1-3” above ankle bones. Work legs up gradually over thighs and hips front and back, paying close attention behind knees and hamstrings.
  4. Get suit as high as possible into crotch without voice change. Torso, sleeves, and collar will feel restrictive if crotch is too low.
  5. Fold sleeve cuff back 3”, pull sleeve up to 3” above wrist bump. Put on body, work arms into sleeves one at a time. Adjust sleeves so that suit is high into armpits, eliminating large air pockets. Flip cuff down into position.
  6. Pull suit body up front and back. Adjust sleeves and torso, eliminating large folds in stomach, low back, elbows, and crotch.
  7. Position internal zipper flap flat against your back, zip up suit while pulling your shoulder blades together, check that internal flap is not folded.
  8. Stretch flap and fastener closed, being sure the hook and loop doesn’t rub your neck. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help. Shop employees, friends, race volunteers, fellow athletes, and even spectators will no doubt be thrilled to help with your suit.
  9. Recheck legs, torso, collar, and sleeves, position zipper pull cord for easy transition, and go swim fast!! Best to remove the grocery bags from your feet now.
  10. IS THIS THE RIGHT SIZE? Suit will be snug but not restrictive. If suit feels loose or leisure-suiit- comfortable out of water, choose a smaller size. Suit should feel just right when in swimming position in the water, out of the water it’ll feel too tight and uncomfortable.


Here are some guidelines to help prolong the life of your suit.

Good Stuff:

  1. Use caution and take your time putting on your suit. Tip: Put plastic grocery bags over your feet and ankles, it’ll help the suit slide up. Then you just pull them off over your feet. Pull the legs up a little at a time, and make certain that the legs are all the way up front and back.
  2. Use Bodyglide around your neck if you are concerned about chafing. Rinse your suit with cool, fresh water after each usage and make sure all salt and dirt has been washed out of the zipper. To clean your suit, use specially formulated Wetsuit Shampoo; follow package directions for best results.
  3. Hang inside out to dry on a thick plastic, not wire hanger.
  4. Store in a cool, dry place inside out, lying flat, folded once across the waist.
  5. For travel:
    • Lay suit flat, zipper side down
    • Fold legs up over chest
    • Cross arms in X over chest
    • Fold up in half at knees
  6. Your wetsuit is an expensive and technical piece of training and racing equipment, and a little common sense will go a long way.

Bad Stuff:

  1. DON’T use petroleum jelly, cooking spray, tanning oil, or any kind of grease, oil, or solvents on your suit. They will cause irreparable damage. We have read lots of comments on websites, forums, and newsgroups advising the use of these substances. DON’T DO IT! The stuff ruins the suits, rots the glue, and makes it impossible to re-glue.
  2. DON’T use your wetsuit for any sport or recreation other than swimming.
  3. DON’T hang a wetsuit for more than a week. The thinner rubber in the shoulders will stretch and crack. For storage tip, see #5 of “Good Stuff.”
  4. DON’T expose your suit to heat or direct sunlight. Both deteriorate the neoprene and glue.
  5. DON’T toss your suit in washing machine or dryer, and do not dry clean or iron.
  6. DON’T yank or pinch your suit when putting it on. Fingernails, sharp objects, and friction are the enemies of neoprene. Also, don’t let it drag on the ground or get caught in your bike wheel While you’re riding to the race. For small repairs, see “How to Repair Your Suit” in the next section.
  7. DON’T sit, kneel, or squat in your suit for more than 5 minutes. Wetsuit neoprene is very flexible, but sitting and kneeling put extra stress on the seams and rubber.
  8. DON’T try to shorten or alter your suit yourself. What seems like a good idea usually isn’t after you see the results.
  9. DON’T leave your wetsuit crumpled wet in a bag or car trunk, it will mold and/or mildew. If your suit starts to smell bad, try “Mirazyme” mentioned in “Extra Products” at the end of this section.
  10. DON”T try to squeeze yourself into a borrowed wetsuit or one that fit 25 lbs ago. Wetsuits don’t shrink, and are sometimes tighter after the off season.

AUGH! I have a small tear in my suit and a race tomorrow morning!

1. For tear through rubber but not through fabric backing. You will need:

  • Wetsuit glue (available at surf shops, dive shops, and tri/bike shops that sell wetsuit repair supplies.)
  • Toothpick or coffee stir stick
  • Optional: Cellophane tape (Like you have on your desk or use for gift-wrapping,) Alcohol wipe.


  • Open up the small tear and brush out dust, dirt, and sand. Use alcohol wipe to remove all greasy residue (fingerprints or sun block.)
  • Using a toothpick or coffee stir stick, apply a thin layer of glue to both sides. Let dry, then apply a second thin coat.
  • Let dry until sticky, then press both sides together, and pinch the edges.
  • At this point, you can put a small piece of the tape over the repaired area to keep it stable; otherwise just allow suit to lie flat in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from direct heat sources for 2-3 hours or overnight.

2. For small (1” or less,) tear through rubber and fabric, you will need the above plus an iron, 4 sheets of white paper (newspaper is OK in a pinch,) and a patch or strip of “Melco heat tape,” (available from dive shops and tri shops that sell wetsuit repair supplies.)


  • Cut a patch or strip of tape the size of the tear plus ¼” extra on all sides. If all you have are strips of tape, you can overlap.
  • Place paper around patched area to protect the suit from the heat of the iron.
  • Follow directions for the heat tape. If there are no directions, set your iron to the “Wool” setting, no steam necessary.
  • Use the pointed tip of the iron, with moderate pressure, and move the iron over the tape. Don’t leave the iron in one place longer than 1-2 seconds, or you will scorch the fabric and weaken the neoprene.


Great Wetsuit accessories and where to get them:

  1. Wetsuit Shampoo, glue, and Hanger, by McNett: Tri-, Surf, or Scuba Shop.
  2. UV Tech conditioner and Mirazyme by McNett.
  3. BodyGlide: Use around your neck, armpits, and inside your biceps (sleeveless suits.) Purchase at your tri, run, or swim shop.
  4. Suit Juice: Spray-on liquid makes suit easier to put on and take off.
  5. Tear-Aid: Very sticky plastic patches for wetsuits. Good for emergencies and big tears: Warning: These don’t come off!
  6. Sharpie Metallic Marker: for putting your name on the suit: Staples or other office supply store.