New technical materials, increased range of motion and dynamic flexibility: Simon Griffiths reviews the fastest wetsuits on the market.
Orca Zeal Perform | £299 *BEST VALUE IN TEST*
They say: Designed and intended for experienced swimmers, this wetsuit provides maximum elasticity and minimum buoyancy to minimise interference with your swimming. Neoprene of different thicknesses is distributed through the suit to achieve neutral buoyancy so swimmers maintain their natural position in the water. FINA approved.
We say: Price wise, this suit falls into mid-range rather than top end, but we included it as it’s Orca’s first wetsuit to be FINA approved. We liked the uncomplicated, unflashy design. It was comfortable around the neck and across the shoulders and felt as flexible as the more expensive suits we tried. Body position in the water was natural, as advertised, and it felt quick through the water. Our tester experienced a small amount of water pooling around the hips and thighs, but this didn’t affect performance.
Orca Apex Flex | £589
They say: The new Orca Apex Flex triathlon wetsuit is the most flexible wetsuit in the entire Orca range and is the new iteration of their popular Orca Alpha. It is designed for the most technical swimmers who benefit from more flexibility and do not need extra buoyancy. The construction of the short, inverted zipper allows for a more elastic design. This, in combination with the most flexible materials on the market with the most hydrodynamic properties, make it the fastest wetsuit for the best open water swimmers.
We say: This was the closest fitting wetsuit we tested and needed assistance from two people to do up the reverse zip on first use but once on it fit like a second skin with minimal water ingress or pooling. It’s as flexible and fast as promised, and comfortable too, despite the initial tightness. The material around the arms is also close fitting, which prevents any water entering at the cuffs or pooling around the upper arms, but care is needed while putting this suit on to gently ease any rolls up towards the shoulders. For triathletes, despite the close fit, it comes off quickly and easily. The understated design belies a serious piece of high-performance kit.
Zone 3 Vanquish X | £699
They say: The world’s fastest and most technologically advanced wetsuit, the Vanquish X introduces two new materials. Bio-Rubber on the thighs improves blood flow and Alpha Titanium lining on the upper body improves warmth and circulation. Other features include “B.R.E. body rotation enhancement” to improve distance per stroke and maximum buoyancy Aerodome and NBR panels. Includes a free drybag for storage.
We say: The design of this suit, with its bright cuffs and sharp orange lines, makes a statement of intent. It looks serious and fast – and it is. The panels are notably thicker on the thighs and torso, making it buoyant yet balanced while swimming, and supporting good body rotation. The suit gripped gently around the hips adding to the feeling of power through the water. Thinner panels on the sides and arms made swimming comfortable and flexible. This suit looked quick, felt quick and was quick.
Aquasphere Phantom V3 | £792 *MOST COMFORTABLE IN TEST*
They say: The Phantom wetsuit provides an increased range of motion with strategically placed 1.5mm Yamamoto 40 panels and reinforced waist panels for posture support. The Phantom provides warmth, flexibility, comfort and speed. This is our most technologically advanced wetsuit for the most elite athletes. Extra support on the waist improves posture and enhances hip rotation and “Thermo-Guard” technology on chest, shoulders and legs helps retain body heat. FINA approved.
We say: The stand-out feature of this suit is the double layer collar, which feels smooth around the neck, close fitting but not constricting – and it does a good job of keeping the water out too. Overall, this suit is soft and supple, making it comfortable to wear, while the core support around the lower back adds noticeable rigidity in a key place and made it feel stable in the water. We needed assistance with the reverse zip but once on, it’s snug and secure. Plus, it’s as flexible and fast as you’d expect at this price point.
Huub Lurz Open Water Wetsuit | £649.99
They say: This wetsuit was created in partnership with elite German open water swimmer Thomas Lurz, multiple-times world champion and Olympic bronze and silver medallist. As a suit designed purely for open water swimming it has subtle differences to a triathlon suit; a triathlon wetsuit is designed for speed and easy removal whereas a pure open water suit is designed to maximise every stroke and deliver the quickest time through the water. It also features design elements that can be built in because suit removal is not essential when the clock is ticking. FINA approved.
We say: Something about this suit made our tester want to sprint. Like riding a racing bike with a tailwind, those sprint efforts resulted in an immediate and thrilling change of speed. This is a thoroughbred open water racing suit. Our only slight complaint was that the neckline seems higher than other suits, which some swimmers may find annoying, although it didn’t cause our tester any issues. The short reverse zip is a design feature of this suit and improves flexibility and comfort while swimming (no unpleasant cold water ingress at the base of the spine for example) but gives you less room than usual to manoeuvre your arms and shoulders in while putting it on – having flexible swimmer’s shoulders will help.
Yonda Ghost 3 | £589
They say: The Ghost 3 is designed to deliver dynamic flexibility and in water ‘feel’ that will give you the ultimate swim experience. Handcrafted tailoring for quality, comfort, durability, and strength with lightning-fast transitions thanks to our unique easy off “slippy” lining. Yonda have designed the ultimate performance wetsuit that optimises your body position and works with you (not against you) delivering an unparalleled feeling as you cut through the water. Now with new front panel air cell technology for ultimate buoyancy. Known for its unrivalled flexibility the Ghost 3 improves power transfer from hips to shoulders and enhances each stroke propulsive force reducing surface friction.
We say: The Yonda Ghost 2 was a favourite of ours for long distance swims and racing, so we were excited to try the next iteration. The Ghost 3 retains the best features of its predecessor such as the lightweight fabric forearm panels and styling, while overall the new suit feels more flexible and supple (and flexibility in the Ghost 2 was already excellent). Swimming feels natural and fast, as it was in the Ghost 2. Our only warning with this suit is the forearm panels: while we like them and recognise their benefit, the minimal protection is noticeable in very cold water. Overall, the Ghost 2 was a tough wetsuit to improve on, but Yonda has done it with the Ghost 3.To see all the online content from the May 2023 issue of Outdoor Swimmer, visit the 'Spring(s)' page.