best wetsuit – TriSports University The place to learn about triathlon. Tue, 15 May 2012 20:46:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 best wetsuit – TriSports University 32 32 Blueseventy Helix and Fusion Wetsuits. Mon, 14 May 2012 16:57:10 +0000 Swim specialty brand Blueseventy is an innovator in aquatic speed garments. Their top end Helix and value oriented Fusion wetsuits epitomize their functional approach to swim speed technology. Dive in with these two suits here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Blueseventy is a swim company with strong competitive results from Ironman to the Olympics. The Helix and Fusion showcase their approach to swim speed.

New Zealand based swim company Blueseventy continues in 2012 with their Helix and Fusion wetsuits. This past week we got a chance to swim in them at the University of Arizona pool.

Blueseventy traces its roots back to 1993 under a different name early in the history of triathlon wetsuits. In 2005 the company was re-badged “Blueseventy” in reference to the seventy percent of the earth that is covered with water. The company was an early developer of non-neoprene, warm water legal swimskins– what you wear when wetsuits aren’t legal-  as debuted in Kona in 2006. Blueseventy went on to be a major swimskin innovator for Olympic events.

Blueseventy Fusion.

The Blueseventy Fusion is a $295 entry price point full suit with features trickled down from Blueseventy's higher end suits.


The Fusion from Blueseventy is a leg floater with thicker 4 mm Yamamoto neoprene panels south of your waist and a thinner 3 mm chest panel. The idea is to correct waterline and position the swimmer- especially the new swimmer who needs the most help- in a level swim attitude. This is a common approach to wetsuit design in the age of the Terry Laughlin Total Immersion style but some wetsuit brands reserve this swimmer positioning feature to their very high end suits.

An additional benefit to using the thinner 3 mm chest panel is some latitude on the size chart and incredible freedom of movement in the arms, also owing to the 1.5 mm FLEX panels. This is a go-to suit for swimmers with a very large chest or athletes who perceive a wetsuit as restrictive.

Fusion from Blueseventy swims much better than its $295 price tag, mostly owing to the orientation of the neoprene thickness with the bias toward leg and hip buoyancy.

A refreshing benefit of the Fusion is simple design. This suit hearkens back to the very first fullsuits, which were extremely fast. The entire outside of the suit (except the very bottom/rear leg) is smoothskin neoprene. There is no exposed jersey fabric to increase friction with the water, get soaked and reduce buoyancy or interrupt the slippery outer surface of the suit. Most other entry price point full suits have fabric panel underarms as a cost cutting concession. Blueseventy took the high road with the upper body design of the Fusion by going all smoothskin.

The suit uses a conventional zipper design that unzips downward. The zipper, leash and neck closure are beefy enough for multiple race seasons even with repeated high speed removals.

The Fusion uses a traditional zipper design that opens by pulling downward.

There is a water-grip enhancing trim panel sewn into the forearm. Instead of a set of horizontal ribs that may slow arm entry the Fusion has a textured forearm that improves “grip” during the pull phase. It’s hard to rate the true effectiveness of these stroke panels, but some stroke panels feel more effective than others. The forearm panel on Fusion falls in between. You don’t get sore shoulders after your first 500 in the pool from holding the water too effectively on the forearm and it does not detract from the suit’s performance or feel. A benefit of this design is maintaining good feel for the water since it is relatively thin. I like this panel design, it’s a good middle ground.

The textured A-Grip panels provide traction in the pull phase without losing feel for your stroke.

Fusion also uses a well designed lower leg for quick removal in T1. The legs are angle-cut to increase the total size of the leg opening. The back of the leg does use a swatch of jersey fabric that is uber-flexible. Your feet blow right through this opening in T1. It’s one of few suits, especially at entry price point, that you can get off from the knees without using your hands by pulling one leg out, stepping on the suit with the free foot and jerking the other foot out. The leg opening is a great design.

Leg openings are angle cut to increase removal speed and there is a small panel of flexible jersey fabric for fast removal.

Our swim tester, Marty Mares of, found no drawbacks with the Fusion and commented that it went on, fit and swam like more expensive suits. In the about- $300 price point this suit is a contender. We particularly liked the almost entirely smoothskin outer on the Fusion, especially when some value-priced suits are using a Nylon 2-sided panel under both arms to reduce cost. While that is a proven way to build a value priced full suit the Blueseventy Fusion goes beyond the typical entry price point specifications with a nicer overall fabric selection. This is a leading suit in the entry price category for full suits.

Blueseventy Helix.


Other than Quintana Roo’s Superfull, I’ve probably swam more races in the Blueseventy Helix than any other suit in the six years it has been available. The Euro-tri magazine “220” awarded one of four “Wetsuit of the Year” awards won in the media by the Helix. After swimming in a lot of suits the reason I settled on this one is simple: It swam the best. While there may (or may not…) be faster suits such as De Soto’s unique two piece design with ultra-thick legs the Helix is the best all-around suit I’ve used. As the Helix has evolved it has only gotten better.

I’m a back of the middle pack to middle pack swimmer. I can swim distance, but I can’t swim with the leaders in most cases. I want a suit with a ton of floatation and effortless stroke feel in the arms. I also want a suit that doesn’t take on water as the swim gets longer, as with Ironman Canada, Wisconsin or New Zealand. That means precise fit. Lastly, I’m not a fan of wetsuits built entirely of super stretchy neoprene. Suits made of Yamamoto Type 40 neoprene, the most flexible neoprene commonly used in swimming wetsuits, seemed almost tooflexible to me and seemed to change fit throughout the swim no matter how tight I wore them. They were also prone to damage. If you want to read the best insight into swimming wetsuit fabrics written, and written by the man who invented the triathlon wetsuit, Dan Empfield, go here.

Well placed stretch panels and a great forearm design along with great fabric selection throughout make the Blueseventy Helix a standout suit.

While a lot goes into making a suit swim well the key design of the Helix is a perfectly dialed upper body. It lets you swim efficiently and freely while providing the right waterline. Blueseventy built three key components into the upper body and sleeve of Helix to make it swim well. Firstly, their VO2 chest panel is both flexible for better fit and breathing and super thick for good flotation. For athletes who feel a lot of chest tightness in stiffer wetsuits this may be an answer. Second, Blueseventy makes judicious use of Yamamoto 40 cell neoprene only in places where it benefits range of motion for an easy stroke. Best of all worlds: great floatation combined with flexibility. Finally, the TST or “Torsional Stretch Panels” allow easier reach at the front one-third of the stroke. The benefit of this design becomes apparent in long, rough water swims.

A. VO2 Chest panel for floatation and freedom of motion in the chest for breathing. B. TST or "Torsional Stretch Technology" panels make arms movement easy and natural without taking on water. C. 40 Cell neoprene used in underarm area to enable freedom of movement.

For the crowd that loves dimples the chest panel and legs of the Helix are dimpled. We can’t measure if this makes the suit faster but do see a coating of bubbles adhere to the suit when submerged partially because of the dimpled surface. This may marginally increase buoyancy and reduce friction with the water, although Blueseventy makes no specific claims to do so.

In addition to the dimples that run down the chest of the suit there is also a flex panel at the back of the knee. Rather than use a nylon two-sided panel, which I’m convinced absorbs water during longer swims, Blueseventy opted for a textured rubber outer panel that serves the purpose of improving flexibility but does not soak up water like two-sided nylon. Another potential benefit is this flexible panel seems to make the suit come off faster.

Left. A flex panel at the back of the leg seems to facilitate better removal as well as making the legs more flexible. Right, The dimpled texture extends down the legs.

Blueseventy goes on to build several nice comfort and fast doffing features in the Helix including a nice, chafe-resistant neck design, speed cut legs for quick removal and a reverse zipper that pulls upward to open making accidental opening during the swim nearly impossible.

The Blueseventy Helix unzips by pulling upward making it easy to grab the leash and nearly impossible to accidentally open in the swim.

The combination of proven features and recent improvements in the Helix along with a legacy of upgrades cement its position as a best in category suit. At $650 the suit isn’t inexpensive, but this review will tell you it swims- or out swims- some of the new generation of $1000 super-suits. By that measure the suit could be considered a good value. Price point discussion aside, the suit swims great and is super fast, not only in the water but also in T1 where it peels off faster than a ripe orange.

Blueseventy’s dedication to swim speed apparel is proven in triathlon and Olympic swim events and the newer Olympic open water swims. They don’t make bikes and only recently started making triathlon apparel. Swim is their primary business and the Fusion and Helix wetsuits prove they continue to do it very well.

The incredible floatation features of the Blueseventy Helix make all swimmers feel more comfortable in the water.

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TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature Wetsuit. Fri, 13 Jan 2012 22:47:16 +0000 $1200 for a wetsuit? Really? Swim innovators TYR break new ground on price point with their sensational Freak of Nature wetsuit. The $1200 question is, does the freakish price deliver freakish performance?'s Seton Claggett hits the water in the TYR Freak of Nature here to find out. ]]>
By Tom Demerly.
The TYR Freak of Nature has generated a sensation with a long list of features in an ultra high end wetsuit.

 $1200 for a triathlon wetsuit? Really? Really.

The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature grabs more attention for its MSRP than any other feature.  At $1200, significantly more than any other wetsuit, the suit suggests a lot. Is it worth the price? Does it deliver on the $1200 promise?

Wetsuit prices have been on an upward spiral since their invention. Dan Empfield’s first triathlon full suits were $199 in 1988. Since the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is six times the price of Empfield’s original Quintana Roo Full Suit from 1988 the question has to be: Is a $1200 wetsuit six times better than a $200 wetsuit?

2XU has a $799 wetsuit with their Project X while $650 seems to be the price ceiling for most other brands. That puts the TYR Freak of Nature at almost double the price of most of the other high end competitors. But the discussion of the TYR Freak of Nature goes beyond price, although it always comes back to it.

TYR swimwear started about the same time as other early triathlon brands, 1985. Born in the surf capital of Huntington Beach, California and founded by 1976 Olympic Swim Team Captain Steve Furniss and Joe DiLorenzo the company was built around the specialty swim market. They leveraged a significant part of that market away from legacy brands like Speedo while also entering the multisport market with wetsuits and apparel. TYR’s mantra is “Made for swimmers by swimmers”. TYR developed ultra-lightweight carbon infused fabrics for use in their TYR Carbon line of triathlon apparel worn by Chrissie Wellington. The fabric weight is unusually light and thin but completely opaque with full stretch. Each of TYR’s triathlon specific product introductions have been innovative and novel.

A look at TYR's new Freak of Nature wetsuit coming off the blocks.

The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is TYR’s flagship wetsuit. The suit is made entirely of Yamamoto Smoothskin #40 neoprene.Yamamoto #40 has more stretch than any other commonly used neoprene. Yamamoto brand neoprene is used in more wetsuit brands than any other neoprene. Yamamoto started in 1961 making neoprene wetsuits for Japan’s elite underwater demolition teams and traditional Japanese fishing women who dive for oysters.  Yamamoto claims a “90% market share” of the high end dive and swim wetsuit neoprene market.

A more flexible suit made from Yamamoto #40 accomplishes a few things:

  • It is easier to put on and take off, especially aiding removal at race speed in transition.
  • It has better “curb appeal”, allowing retailers to sell more wetsuits from a better dry land try on experience by the consumer. Because they’re easier to try on in the fitting room, they’re easier to get out the door.
  • It fits more body types. Because of increased stretch the suit’s fit becomes more flexible.
  • It is more flexible in the water, allowing swimmers to complete the stroke more easily.

Wetsuit flexibility is not the entire story of performance though. More flexible isn’t always faster. There is suggestion that high wetsuit flexibility may contribute to water absorption into the fabric lining over a long swim. This may result in gradual loss of bouyancy, especially if the suit is loose and/or poorly donned. The suit becomes “water logged”. As the suit’s liner soaks up water it begins to sink. In an odd paradox a more flexible suit may accelerate the process by permitting water inside the suit. In response to this several suits are designed with a non-absorbent linersuch as Aquaman and Profile Design’s “Metal Cell”. This smooth laminate on the inside of the suit prevents water-logging.

Weighing, then immersing, then re-weighing a section of nylon backed wetsuit neoprene to measure the weight of the water absorbed during 1:15:00 of submersion at 8" depth.

To test the theory we weighed a dry sample of 5 mm neoprene with a nylon lining cut from a wetsuit chest. After dry weighing we submerged it to 8 inches depth for 60 seconds and re-weighed it. Then we submerged it for 1:15:00, a middle of the pack Ironman swim duration, and weighed it again. It gained 18 grams when wet and a further 2 grams after 1:15:00 of submersion at 8″ depth. Spread over the entire surface of the suit the fabric does appear to gain some weight from being in the water. This does not account for water potentially taken on between the suit and the skin due to an ill fitting or poorly donned suit. While far from scientific this is an interesting idea. The edges of the neoprene sample are not finished in the test though. A complete wetsuit doesn’t have exposed fabric edges. It can’t soak up water through the unfinished edges, only the inner surface of the fabric. While that likely changes the rate of absorption in our sample, it may still suggest a trend in water absorption of nylon backed suits.

As with any swimming wetsuit, donning it correctly by pulling it up is critical. Because of the flexible Yamamoto #40 on the TYR Freak of Nature getting the suit adjusted correctly on your body is easy.

The suits with the smooth, non-textile liners such as Profile Design and Aquaman’s Metal Cell feel less flexible but may swim faster. Some results of swim tests performed in an open water lagoon in Curacao in the Dutch Antilles during the early 2000’s suggested these stiffer feeling suits were faster- despite them feeling stiffer. The suits do not provide as easy a try-on experience for consumers and have a tough time leaving the sales floor compared to ultra-flexible suits that pull on very easy for a dry land fit.

An interesting feature of the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is how it positions your body in the water. Since “waterline” of the swimmer is a key stroke component a wetsuit that helps float the swimmer’s legs and helps the swimmer rotate may offer an advantage. The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature has extra floatation and rotation features in the legs and hips. TYR claims these features help the swimmer’s body position. Our observations may confrim this. Seton Claggett, who did substantial swimming in the TYR Freak of Nature for this test, reported enhanced body position while swimming. This extra floatation in the legs was “…something I really like…” according to Claggett. Top swim coaches often speak of “swimming downhill” and not letting the legs sink. The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is designed around that concept.

Floatation in the legs is optimized to correct the waterline of the swimmer allowing them to maintain good body posture. This photo was from a sequence right after push off from the wall as the stroke begins. You can see how the legs have floated to the surface.

Another noticeable feature of the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature are the V-GCP “pull panels” on the forearm section. A number of wetsuit manufacturers have built some type of grip device onto the forearm in the hope of increasing forearm “traction” and surface area in the water. The idea is to “hold onto” water better as you pull yourself forward. The V-GCP section also increases the surface area of the forearm. Our tester, Seton Claggett, said “The arm grippers on the Freak of Nature are like nothing I have ever swam in before, I am actually surprised they are legal because they do increase the surface area of the forearm resulting in the ability to hold more water, and hence go faster.” My experience with arm grippers also suggests better “grip” on the water, if for no other reason than greater shoulder fatigue in suits equipped with grippers. Another benefit may be increased awareness of stroke, compelling the swimmer to maintain better form during the “catch” phase.

The V-GCP panels on the forearm are designed to increase surface area and traction.

TYR has built a series of textured panels into the suit. These “Elevation Panels” concentrate buoyancy and may influence hydrodynamics. The panels are most obvious from the inside of the suit. On the outside of the suit they look like dimples on a golf ball. The most significant panels may be the ones located on the outside of the upper thigh. These Elevation Panels help facilitate roll during the stroke cycle, improving form.

The elevation panels of the TYR Freak of Nature are most apparent when viewed with the suit inside out.

The other potential benefit to these textured panels is based loosely on the idea of “supercavitation”, a theory that a rough surface texture traps bubbles against the suit and these bubbles slide more easily through the water. The theory is proven. Underwater projectiles have been developed with supercavitation “bubble generators” to help them slip through the water easier. The dimpled surface of the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature performs a similar function. This reduced friction supercavitation is visible when you watch a swimmer rotate their hips underwater wearing the suit, effectively sliding along on a small layer of bubbles.

Supercavitation is the idea that an object slides through water easier on a layer of bubbles (green circle) than it does on water itself. The prinicple was developed on the Soviet VA-111 Shkval underwater projectile (right) from its bubble generating nose. At lower speeds the TYR Freak of Nature traps existing bubbles on its skin to reduce friction, increasing speed and floatation.

Other basic construction features on the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature are good design at the neck, leg and arm opening for comfort, no neck chafing, speed of exit from the suit and durability. The neck is low and has neoprene smoothskin on its inner surface for a good seal. Because it is low it likely won’t chafe most users. Leg and arms are seam tapped and speed cut for faster removal and good durability, a thoughtful feature in a high end racing wetsuit. Seam ends inside the suit are taped with a fabric dot for added durability.

Nice construction details: low, double sided smoothskin neck seals out water. The gold rear panel improves zipper performance and fit. The leg and arm openings are made for fast removal and feature durable interior seam tape.

Overall attention to detail on inner seams and outer gluing of the suit panels is very good. Even minor features like the the loose running ends of stitching are glued down. This is no small feat since sewing the hyper-flexible Yamamoto #40 neoprene is like stitching thick skin. Seams also have to be arranged and sewn knowing how much the neoprene will stretch during donning and high speed removal in transition. It is difficult to make a Yamamoto #40 wetsuit very durable but TYR may have accomplished that with good attention to detail on the Freak of Nature. This meticulous level of construction accounts for a large part of the price on the suit.

Minor details most consumers miss, but appreciate over time: The seam ends on the TYR Freak of Nature are securely finished with adhesive to prevent unravelling.

The gold lining of the suit picks up body marking from ink used to number your body during the race. It doesn’t change the wetsuit’s performance but it is worth knowing. When storing the suit follow TYR’s storage instructions, the same for all high quality wetsuits. I used a piece of Velcro pile to the hook closure at the neck when transporting the suit to prevent the Velcro hook closure patch from fraying the gold fabric suit lining. Since the suit comes with a nice carrying case you can just throw the little piece of Velcro pile in the case when you’re using the suit, then press it on when packing the suit for transport.

I added a scrap of Velcro pile when transporting the suit to keep the Velcro hook from grabbing the gold fabric.

In the water Seton Clagget remarked about how the flexible Yamamoto #40 made breathing easier, “Two of my other favorite suits are the Blue Seventy Helix and the TYR Hurricane 5.  All of these suits have the legs riding high in the water, something I really like, are incredibly flexible and comfortable in the arms/chest.  Because the FoN has Yamamoto 40 throughout the suit it is a little easier to breath in than the Helix and the Cat 5.”

Claggett sized himself based on his previous experience with Yamamoto #40 wetsuits. “Getting the fit right on an all Yamamoto 40 suits is extremely difficult because the material is so flexible.  TYR was able to accomplish great fit due to their development of a great jersey material that backs onto the neoprene.  The fit of this suit is just like the Blue Seventy Helix and the Cat 5 – in my opinion, all of these suits fit the general population extremely well.”

The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is sold in 8 men’s sizes and 7 female specific patterned sizes. The suit comes with a carrying case and a swim cap.

Is the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature worth its $1200 price tag? Seton Claggett put it this way:

“When you get into the upper end of technology the price begins to skyrocket compared to the small gains.  If you are looking for that extra little bit, like all technology, it is going to cost you. So, if you are new to the sport then I would never consider this suit.  If you are a veteran who enjoys the lifestyle then I wouldn’t get this suit.  If you are on the bleeding edge and you are here to kick ass and take names (and have the money) then I would get this suit.”

There is no denying this is a very, very nice suit. TYR build a comfortable, swimmable high performance racing wetsuit with added durability features and every current performance design feature. The suit is also flashy looking. Whether that represents good value to a given customer is more a function of their discretionary income and willingness to part with it than anything else. It’s an individual decision. For those who do make the leap to TYR’s flagship $1200 Hurricane Freak of Nature they will get a well designed, beautifully made suit that swims great. It may be tough to put a price on that.

The new TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature wetsuit.