So those are two of the reasons that the non-wetsuited resent the wetsuited. A wetsuit provides an advantage in racing that is sometimes palpably unfair (in a two hour race, to give wetsuit wearers a mere ten minute penalty is ridiculous). And there is a perceived culture clash between the competitive world of the triathlon and the gentle world of open water swimming, exacerbated by the fact that some wearers of wetsuits can be a bit arrogant in their behaviour. So, is that all?
Unfortunately not. There is also a purist element to the no wetsuit evangelicals. Take Channel swimming, for instance. If you are going to swim the Channel, either solo or as part of a relay team, there are rules, and primary amongst them is the prohibition on wetsuits. You are allowed to wear one swimsuit, which must have no legs and no arms, one silicone cap and a pair of goggles, and that’s it. No other aids to either warmth or buoyancy are permitted. If you want to swim the Channel in a wetsuit, you can do it, but you won’t be allowed to call yourself a Channel swimmer. You have to be content with Channel crosser, as though you had just got on a ferry or something.
There is a point to this, it has to be said. Obviously being able to keep swimming for anything up to twenty hours is extraordinary, and a wetsuit won’t help with this, although it will substantially reduce the time you take. But it will largely remove the challenge of swimming in water which is well below human comfort levels, about which More Tomorrow.
*No similarity with any swimmers, living, dead, wetsuited or non-wetsuited, intended.