New rules on wetsuits

FINA has announced that it is changing its open water swimwear equipment rules – but not until after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Starting September 2016, wetsuits will be allowed under certain conditions.

The following rules will now apply to all open water events from September this year, including FINA World Cup and Grand Prix races:

  • Between 16°C and 18°C, wetsuits + bathing cap are mandatory
  • Between 18°C and 20°C, wetsuits are optional
  • Over 20°C, wetsuits are not allowed.

Although the new rules are being implemented to protect athletes from the cold and the dangers associated with exposure to extremes of temperature, the ruling has already drawn opposing views.
“It’s a sensible approach for mass participation swimmers, but not really for elite swimmers. I would be happy going down to 16 degrees for elites, and then wetsuits below that. Although it still leaves the question should elites ever be wearing wetsuits?” comments Jeremy Laming, co-founder of Henley Swim.

Highlighting the fact that this is a subjective issue that will divide opinion, Tom Kean, also a co-founder of Henley Swim, argues that “The suggested temperature ranges seem sensible. It’s never going to suit everyone; it’s a good compromise with the obvious desire to keep everyone safe, which is the overarching aim for all of us involved in the sport.” However, he also states that “For some, 16 degrees in a wetsuit is going to be far too hot, but at least they now have time to prepare themselves for future events with these new parameters and work on their strategies.”

But professional marathon swimmer Alexander Studzinski commented: “I like it since I don’t like freezing to death for 7h in 16ºC water.”

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.