Q: Do I need a triathlon wetsuit?

A: No

Q: But everyone else wears one?

A: Sigh

I’m going to start off with this – I am not a fan of wetsuits. I spent a large portion of my life as a competitive swimmer and even earned a scholarship to swim at the Division I level. And you know what we never wore in college?


When I grew up swimmers looked like Mark Spitz. Little weiner bikiner and goggles, that was it. We got made fun of endlessly. “Do you wear Speedos and shave your legs?”

Then Michael Phelps came along and made swimming cool, but we were too late. We were forever dorks.

But I get it – you probably weren’t a competitive swimmer but still really want to be a triathlete. You’re nervous and open water scares you. In that respect wesuits are essentially yuppie adult floaties.


Here’s my problem. They normalize the field. Bad swimmers put on a triathlon westuit and get a whole lot faster. Good swimmers put them on and get slightly faster.

The swim is already a disproportionate portion of the race. A typical Ironman may look like this: swim 1.25 hours, bike 6 hours and run 4 hours. So someone who spent their whole life swimming gets an advantage for about 11% of the race. Michael Phelps vs. average swimmer won’t gain nearly as much as Chris Froome vs. average cyclist. Galen Rupp will mess your world up you in the marathon portion. But now were allowing everyone this big ole flotation device to take even more of a swimmer’s edge away.

Ugh. You can make a similar argument for triathlon bikes. If we don’t allow them then everyone is renormalized on regular road bikes. And we all probably save money in the process! Why allow some people to buy results? Seems silly to me. How many people are priced out of these races because its too expensive to compete?

But it is what it is and wetsuits are allowed. But do you need a triathlon wetsuit? Not really. I’ve placed 6 overall in the swim portion of a triathlon wearing no wetsuit and laughed at all the people struggling to get out of their suits during transition.

But eventually I caved and bought one. Why? Rabbit holes are enticing.

Already skeptical of buying a wetsuit I had no interest in buying an expensive one. So I landed on the Xterra Vortex Fullsuit

Xterra Vortex Triathlon Wetsuit


What the heck, this is $400. This aint cheap!

Slow down. You good friend Cheap Athlete has partnered with Xterra and is able to get you 60% off their suits and accessories! That’s an awesome deal.

Go to the Xterra website and add the Vortex to your cart. At checkout enter in the code C-CHEAP and let the savings roll in. The cost of the cost for the Vortex drops from $400 to $160 and the transition bag drops from $110 to $41.60.

Regarding the transition bag, if you sign up for an Ironman you’re getting one for free so you may not need to bother. If not, $41.60 is a solid deal.

Xterra Vortex Review

Show up to a race and about 50% of the racers will have Xterra wetsuits so don’t be concerned that you’re showing up with a Huffy to a bike race. This is a legit wetsuit designed for triathlons at an amazing price. If you want to buy a triathlon wetsuit then this is it. Don’t get suckered into thinking you need to spend twice as much.

The Vortex wetsuit did all the wetsuity things I expected from a wetsuit like: be a wetsuit. I could tell a difference from not wearing a wetsuit and can see the draw towards wearing one for beginner swimmers. I did not, however, turn into Katie Ledecky after putting it on. And neither will you no matter how much you spend on one. Lets be honest with ourselves, she will destroy our sorry butts. And think how silly you would look in this hypothetical race that will never happen are she rocks you while you are wearing a $800 wetsuit like a complete moron.

Q: Should I get a sleeveless or full body wetsuit

My opinion is full body. Sure the sleeveless is cheaper but the one thing I REALLY do like about wetsuits is that it keeps you warmer in cold water. So the more coverage the better; plus the more flotation the better for people who want maximum speedage. If it’s too hot and you’re worried about overheating just don’t wear one at all; good chance the race wont be wetsuit legal at that point anyway. Your transition will thank you as you jump right on your bike while people are struggling to take off their wetsuit.


Don’t be short-sighted and buy a sleeveless. Chances are you’ll do a cold water swim eventually and buy a full body one, thus spending twice. That’s not our mantra here.


So do you need a triathlon wetsuit? No, but for those who decided they want to buy one then climb out of the rabbit hole and go with Xterra Vortex. It’s a great, affordable triathlon wetsuit and way more suit than you’ll ever need. The marginal gains, if any, from a more expensive suit are way less than just getting your lazy butt in the pool and practicing more. So grab some goggles and swing down to the pool and stop googling for wetsuits. Or keep reading my site, one of those two.

Happy swimming!