So… Suits vs Skins… I’ve already mentioned a lot of the arguments against by those who eschew wetsuits. In discussing my earlier posts one friend mentioned that wetsuits can be a little elitist in that they cost money – much, much more money than a normal swimsuit. And indeed they do, but I can’t really accept that as an argument against wetsuits per se, although it’s certainly an argument against making wetsuits compulsory in a given situation. But as argument against wetsuits per se, imho it’s not an argument. After all, bikes cost money, but no-one uses that as a reason not to support cyclists and cycling in all their manifestations. I guess the answer is not to favour those who can afford the pricey equipment over those who can’t.
But what of the arguments for wetsuits? And of course, there are just as many. For a start, wetsuits remove at least one of the big challenges of cold water swimming, which is, surprise surprise, the cold! Wetsuits make it much, much more possible to do long swims in colder water if you’re not either acclimatised or one of those who are lucky enough to be able to withstand cold water even without a lot of acclimatisation. And there are people like that, people who just seem to be able to withstand the cold better than others and to be less troubled by it, either because they are insulated by their own personal Bioprene* wetsuit or because they’re just built that way. For everyone else in the “not acclimatised” camp, the only way to do longer outdoor swims is with a wetsuit. Most of the long swims I’ve done have been with a wetsuit, and I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done them without. So from that point of view, wetsuits open the door to a world of outdoor and wild swims for those for whom it would otherwise remain firmly shut.
And this has to be a good thing not just for those individuals but for all of us. For a start there is the little industry which has grown up around the world of outdoor and wild swimming in the last few years, involving companies large and small organising and running events from the Great Swims and the Bridge to Bridge to small hand-picked groups going for a weekend potter in some beautiful rivers and pools, there is something for everyone. For almost all of these the vast majority of swimmers are in wetsuits, and it’s fairly obvious that without this huge wetsuit market very few of these events and businesses could keep going. For our sport to become so popular and so widely taken up is a great thing for all of us; more places to swim, more people to swim with, more swimming adventures to go on!
*The cold water swimmers’ term for body fat