There are two primary reasons to don a wetsuit. One is that you enjoy the water but don’t enjoy the cold; wetsuits provide thermal insulation. Another is that you are looking for a teeny bit of help with buoyancy; wetsuits are made from neoprene which contains little bubbles of gas that have a buoyant effect. Both of these things are about comfort and safety – if you are comfortable in the water, you are safer in the water. Of course, wetsuits offer safety in other ways too, protecting your skin from abrasion, ultraviolet exposure and stings from unhappy marine life.
Swimming through Durdle Door.
When I joined Wilderness Weekends for their wild swimming weekend I decided the time was right to get myself a new wetsuit to help me make the most of the experience. I’ve had wetsuits before, but that was years ago, and I have grand plans to spend a lot more time in the water – this was just the beginning.
But a good wetsuit is expensive. They are full of technology that makes them work well and fit well. I was very much looking for an entry level suit, one that would be good in a variety of seasons and for a mixture of sports, that would allow me freedom of movement and not make me feel restricted. I also wanted a women’s fit, because then I would have the right amount of material for my thighs, hips and chest. It was also important that my new suit would not need replacing due to losing its shape or wearing out in just a few wears – both an economical waste and, bearing in mind that neoprene is a manmade fabric, an environmental one. So, I didn’t just head to the local discount supermarket and buy a super cheap one from the centre aisle – those things are really great for the beach or if you are still growing, but I wanted something a bit more serious than that.
Wearing my Huub Axiom wetsuit at Winspit. Don’t judge the model!
Simply Swim to the rescue (the sister site of Simply Hike, where I shop quite a lot!), who have a whole load of triathlon and swimming gear on their site, I chose the Huub Axiom, which is an entry level suit from this very well regarded wetsuit manufacturer – designed with exactly my requirements in mind. Coming in at under £200 (and actually on sale at the time of writing), it is designed for open water swimming, and has smooth skin neoprene to help increase water speed and keep your body flat on the surface of the water. It has a super flexible underarm panel to keep things moving easily, and a low neckline to help with breathing comfort.
Still not cheap in the grand scheme of things, but this wetsuit will be my only one for all the water sports I need one for in the foreseeable future. I ordered my suit online after referring to the size chart and measuring myself a gazillion times, and prayed to the wetsuit gods that it would fit okay. Thankfully with a little wriggle and squeeze the suit did indeed fit, and I was off.
So back to Dorset and my sea swimming experience with Wilderness Weekends. As the first opportunity I had to use my new wetsuit, I was a little nervous. I mean, wetsuits are notoriously difficult to put on and take off, and I was about to do this in a group of strangers. But all was well; I donned my new Huub Axiom wetsuit down at Worbarrow Bay, and followed the team into the water. My swim instructors were just in their swimmers, but as someone who feels the cold and is not used to sea swimming, I knew that wearing a wetsuit was a wise move. Being the middle of September after a very hot summer, the water wasn’t too cold, but I was very quickly grateful for that 3mm of neoprene between me and the salty sea. After my first swim I sat on the beach drinking hot chocolate and eating flapjack, very happy with my new suit.
The best flapjack I’ve ever tasted…
I did three more sea swims in my Huub Axiom suit that weekend (and one without), each time doing my little wriggle to get into the suit (unusually for me it was not the legs or tummy that needed the help, but rather the shoulders). I found the suit very comfortable, and was very grateful for the warmth and buoyancy it provided, as I know that by having it I was able to spend longer in the water than I would have done otherwise. The added buoyancy is a bit of an annoyance for strong and race swimmers, but for beginners and leisure swimmers like me, it just helps the fitness levels a little and makes swimming that little bit easier.
If anything, the low neck could be a little bit lower still for me. It is significantly lower than a lot of suits you see on the market, and they’ve done this to give you a bit more freedom of movement. But I still found it rubbed a bit at the front and would have liked another half centimetre less material to make it an even better fit.
Next time I’ll take flip flops!
I think you can tell I’m happy with my Huub Axiom wetsuit. It made and will make my open water swimming experiences this year even better than they would have been. And will mean I never have to wear a hired or borrowed suit again!
Now I just need to find more opportunities to use it… where are your favourite swim spots in the UK?
I received my Huub Axiom wetsuit as a gift from Simply Swim to help me make the most of my open water swimming experience and to keep me in the water much more in the coming year. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.