Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Zoot Wikiwiki Wetsuit

Whilst a session in the river - on a warm evening as the sun goes down - is the hilight of any training week, I've never considered myself a strong swimmer. As a result I've stuck to the mantra of Buoyancy Above All Else - on the understanding that weaker swimmers are often better off in the lower-end (and less flexible) suits.  However, after hearing about the new Wikiwiki and getting a chance to see it up close at the Outlaw Half, I jumped at the chance to give it a go.

To the River!

It was approximately half an hour between the postman arriving and me being down at the river - on such a sunny day it luckily wasn't hard to convince my family that a picnic by the river was exactly what we needed!

I was a little nervous after reading on the tags that the Wikiwiki is only 0.5mm thick in the upper body - partly because of the Buoyancy mantra above, but mostly because my swimming companion had recently bought a new suit with 0.88mm - and a previous swim (11C) I'd spent quite a lot of time berating his choice when he quickly started to turn blue (to be fair he has almost no fat whatsoever). When he arrived bearing his old suit, I regretted my teasing even more - but (literally) buoyed by a picnic lunch, we headed to our change spot.

The Suit

The bright colours in a camo-style (it's anything but camouflaged!) definitely make the suit stand out - and I have to confess to really liking it - an opinion shared by my kids. My original Speedo STR Pro looks totally drab by comparison. Combined with the thinness of the arms, it feels almost like a top for a trendy nightclub (not suggesting this guys - I'm way past it, and frankly the overheating issues might be fatal!).

As usual, the Zoot size guide was accurate - and I encountered the first benefit of the flexibility - it was really easy to get on without the usual huffing and puffing - a welcome bonus! I was also pleased to see that the suit seems to avoid gimmicky "features" which normally seem to be pointless or potentially illegal (such as the infamous Speedo Tri Elite flaps which saw them banned unless you removed your wetsuit's "features" with a knife). Every part of the Wikiwiki seemed to make sense - so it was time to get into the water and see (1) if I would turn blue and have to endure the mocking I gave out last time, and (2) whether a high-end wetsuit like this could suit a swimmer like me.

Into the Water

The initial rush of cold water on my upper body was - refreshing actually! (an advantage of being in the sun for a few minutes before getting in). And I rapidly realised that I might actually be able to feel the water properly in the same way I try to in the pool. It's not something I've managed before when open-water swimming - I end up feeling that technique work is for the pool, and open water is just for working. But with the Wikiwiki I realised that even someone as lacking finesse as myself could get to feel the water properly at the catch.

So worry #1 was out of the way - I was swimming, and comfortable. I started to take check of my body position - and pleasantly found that my legs (normally v.sinky) were up near the surface, and I felt great - almost like a Proper Swimmer! The freedom in my shoulders was also fantastic; it really felt much more like I was in the pool without wearing a wetsuit at all (except without my legs dragging on the bottom) than when I normally go open-water swimming.


There's no contest as to which suit I'll be wearing over my GBR kit for the ETU Middle Distance this weekend - I really didn't expect to like the Wikiwiki this much when I've been perfectly happy with other wetsuits in the past, but it felt great and (I'm not normally that effusive about kit) I genuinely love it. I've been out in it again since, and it's the first wetsuit that's made me feel totally free (probably my fault for my "Buoyancy over all" mantra!). Buoyancy where I needed it, with freedom everywhere else - though I can imagine that freedom might come with a temperature penalty very early on in the swim season (for reference, it was absolutely fine at 17C for that first swim - I normally start swimming at about 11C in April/May). Obviously I haven't really been able to test yet whether that feeling translates into speed; hopefully the weekend will tell me more!

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