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...is the one that fits you best. All the technologically advanced features in the world won't make a bit of difference in your swim if your wetsuit does not fit correctly. You're better off with a $200 entry-level suit that fits like it was made just for you than a $1,000 elite model that is 'pretty close'. Proper sizing is absolutely critical, so when considering a purchase be sure to work with someone who is reliable and very experienced. Having sized over 20,000 athletes into the world's most trusted wetsuit brands, obviously we feel that WetsuitRental.com fits the bill here. If you shop elsewhere, here are some things to keep in mind.
Do not rely completely on manufacturer's sizing charts. When we first started in this business, manufacturer size charts were close to useless for us. They were created to size elite-level triathletes into their wetsuits. A 6'0", 200-pound elite triathlete is built VERY differently than a 6'0", 200-pound beginner. Since a lot of our customers were beginners, we had to make some serious adjustments to the sizing charts we used in our daily operations. In the last few years, most manufacturers have adjusted their sizing charts to accommodate a more 'standard' size athlete. Their level of success varies, so make sure to work with someone who fully grasps the sizing nuances of a variety of wetsuit brands. Someone who can do that will be able to find the perfect wetsuit for you.
Compare several lines of wetsuits. If you find a dealer or manufacturer with a size chart for his line that is 99% accurate, consider it a huge red flag. This is a company who wants to sell you their wetsuit - not necessarily the best wetsuit for you. With the wide variety of body types and sizes out there, it's just not possible to create a line that fits EVERYBODY perfectly. Undoubtedly, you can get a suit that fits OK in most any wetsuit line, but remember that the best triathlon wetsuit out there is the one that fits you best. Wetsuits are pricey - not a place where you want to settle for a fit that is 'good enough'. You might barely fit within the size range (we're talking true size range, here, not manufacturer size chart range) of a Brand A size Medium, but fit smack dab in the middle a Brand B size Large range. The more lines of wetsuit a shop carries, the better your chance of getting into the perfect wetsuit.
Put the wetsuit on correctly. Unless you've got a lot of experience, you're probably not going to put the wetsuit on correctly without some guidance. We have instructional videos on our website and include detailed instructions on how to properly don a wetsuit with those we ship out. Be sure whoever you're working with is not afraid to get embarrassingly personal when making sure you're suit is on correctly ('It should be so snug in the crotch that you're just shy of wedgie-ville.') If someone could guarantee that they handed you the very best wetsuit in the world for your body-type, the sizing-advantage is completely lost if you're not wearing the suit correctly!
Beware of deep discounts. Of course, we're all looking for a bargain and there are always some to be found in the triathlon wetsuit industry. Your best bet for a legitimately discount-priced wetsuit is to go used or buy last year's model after this year's model has debuted - much like buying a car. If you find the current year's model of wetsuit offered at deep discounts, proceed with caution. Generally you'll find one of two things to be true... 1) the suit is flawed and the dealer/manufacturer knows it and has legitimately dropped the price according to its value hoping to move his merchandise, or 2) the original MSRP was set absurdly high to allow for eye-catching discounts. Manufacturers will sometimes do this to maximize sales. But remember, a $500 wetsuit that never sells for more than $250 is in reality a $250 wetsuit. Buying such a wetsuit doesn't mean you're getting a bad wetsuit, you're just getting a $250 wetsuit - not a $500 wetsuit like you've been lead to believe. Shop smart - what would you do if you walked onto a car lot and found the competitor model of the $30,000 car you've been coveting is selling brand new for only $15,000?
Consider longevity. With this kind of investment, you're going to want your wetsuit to last more than one season. In our position as a wetsuit rental business, we have the opportunity to observe first-hand how well different wetsuits hold up with time and usage. The lines of wetsuits we carry today are not the only lines we've ever tried. We have tried several that met our expectations right out of the package but just didn't make the grade in the long run. Find a dealer that has either been in the triathlon wetsuit business for some time or employs folks who have. There are brands out there that are rock solid and some that are not-so-much. Try to stick with those that have had time to develop a dependable reputation. Sometimes you can get a wetsuit from a younger or lesser-known company for a pretty good deal (we're talking a relatively low starting MSRP - not a price 50% below MSRP). Don't be afraid to take advantage (Hey, all companies have to start somewhere, right?), but be sure you're buying from someplace with a generous return policy - just in case.