The main difference between surfing with a triathlon wetsuit and a wetsuit is that tri suits are specifically designed for reducing drag when swimming which is suitable for snappy entries and exits. In contrast, surf suits are designed for durability, flexibility, and warmth. That said, what makes the two different? Why would you choose one over the other? Read on to find out!


Key differences



As you may know, wetsuits are mainly crafted for swimming and surfing, including riding in a prone or upright position on a surfboard. Tri suits, on the other hand, are specially formulated for all three phases of a Triathlon. The multisport usually involves running, biking and swimming, and requires swimming through water as quickly and efficiently as possible.


The features of each of the suits differ significantly. Most wetsuits resemble a wet/warm pair of pajamas. It is designed to keep users comfortable and warm as they move up and down in the water, paddle around, ride waves or chat with friends. Triathlon wetsuits, however, are crafted to fit like outer skin. They help users advance in water with every swimming stroke mimicking fish-like moves as they move through the water.



Though the architecture difference is also significant between the two suits, they are made of a synthetic rubber known as neoprene. The material has been used as the primary material for the construction of wetsuits for a while. Wetsuits are designed with a wide array of situations and positions in mind. As such, it features things like zippers on the front and back, chest panels, and extra padding to help you stick to the surfboard. Some even come with car storage sections.


Triathlon suits, on the other hand, are designed to help you swim faster. Additional construction features include zippers at the back, long zipper tethers (easy removal), smooth/ seamless outer shell, and thinned-out neck collars.



While the two suits are designed to offer extra buoyancy, the degree is not at the same level. Each suit provides it in various ways. Wetsuits are designed with a uniform neoprene across the suit resulting in a minimal difference between the neoprene in the torso and the one in the arms to maintain warmth.


On the other hand, Triathlon suits have a thicker and more significant neoprene material difference across the suit to support different swimming positions with flexibility in the shoulders and arms. They are essentially more comprehensive at the thighs and torso and a bit thinner at the arms. This is to help you maintain a flat and horizontal position when swimming.



There are several types of swimming/surfing wetsuits. Actually, it is almost impossible to list all of them. They include; hooded shirt, hooded vest, vest, full suit, long jane/john wetsuit (full legs/no arms), shorty wetsuits, etc.


In complete contrast, there are very few triathlon wetsuits. And this is for a good reason: They cover 90% of the body with thin and slippery outer skin to minimize drag. This is why most fast swimming triathlons are full suits. Perhaps the only style you can choose from is whether you are looking for a no-arms or a long arms suit. Nonetheless, the full suit is usually faster and warmer in water. The no arms option is less restrictive, slightly slower, and calmer.


Which one is ideal for a triathlon?


Triathlon suit review

A tri suit is a multipurpose garment you can use throughout the whole race. They come in two main styles; a two-piece and a one-piece option. In each case, the suit is made of breathable and thin material. The top is normally sleeveless. The lower part resembles cycling short, with a lightweight pad and jammer length legs.


After the swimming face, the thin pads dry out very quickly and do not feel like a wet and big diaper when riding. This makes it more ideal and comfortable when swimming. However, because the pad will not be as thick as with cycling short, some people usually feel less comfortable. Also, while a wetsuit is a bit buoyant, a tri suit doesn't help that much with buoyancy.



  1. It can be worn throughout the triathlon.
  2. Designed with lightweight and breathable material
  3. It comes with quick-drying and thin pads.



  1. The thin padding causes some discomfort during long-distance races
  2. Not very buoyant for swims
  3. Ideal only for less extreme weather conditions


Wetsuit review

If the triathlon will be held in open water and the water will likely be cold, your best bet is a wetsuit. They are ideal for weaker swimmers. It will not only keep you warm but also help you afloat easily. Also, unlike other types of swimsuits, wetsuits don't cost an arm and a leg.


You can start by asking friends if they have one you can borrow. Just make sure it fits you well, and it should not be too tight or loose. One that is too tight will make you feel like you are suffocating and cause unnecessary anxiety. Similarly, it will take in more water if it is too big, making you feel sloppy and heavy, which is not suitable for a race.



  1. Made of comfortable and thin neoprene
  2. Full body coverage
  3. Temperature control
  4. Ideal in both cold and hot water
  5. Available in various designs



  1. Expensive
  2. Ideal only during the swim phase


Which one should you choose?

They are all made of neoprene, and there is no significant difference, right? Well, that's fine, but while you can use both of them, they all have differences. The tri-suit, for instance, is perfect for the entire race. The forward-facing propulsion design is what sets it apart. Its construction targets flexibility and comfortability.


It is okay, in some situations, if it is legal to race in an ordinary wetsuit as long as it is less than 5 mm thick. However, keep in mind that you might lose some energy or get hot with every stroke. If you already have a legal suit, there is no problem competing for your fast-few races in a wetsuit. However, getting a tri-suit means better performance, more comfort, and most essentially, you will be mentally prepared because you will feel ready for the podium in your ready-to-go tri-suit.


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