Whether you are dusting off a 5-year old wetsuit for another Tri season, or have purchased a new one that just arrived in the mail, there are four things every racer should do to thier wetsuit prior to a new season. Following these simple steps takes just a little time but can extend the life of your suit and, more importantly, be sure it works for you on race day.
1. Clean the Wetsuit. Cleaning the wetsuit is an easy process, done by rinsing it off with a garden hose or simply rubbing it down with a wet cloth. Take care to clean it well enough so that you will be able to spot any imperfections (step 2, below). Cleaning a wetsuit is even more important if you stored it in a place where it tends to get dirty or dusty over the winter. If you want to give your wetsuit a deep clean — recommended occasionally — you can buy a wetsuit cleaner specially designed for neoprene wetsuits such as those used in triathlon.
2. Inspect the Wetsuit for Rips or Tears. Hopefully your wetsuit was stored in a place away from sharp objects or other things that could harm it, but sometimes a wetsut thrown in a storage room comes out worse for the wear. Inspect your clean wetsuit from head to toe to be sure no tears are present. Remember to inspect the seams as well as the fabric. If you find a rip or tear, determine if it can be fixed. Much like fixing a bike tire, you can patch neoprene if the rip isn’t too large, and especially if it doesn’t penetrate the fabric all the way through. Wetsuit repair cement such as this one can patch up a wetsuit so you can still get many more swims out of it.
3. Soak it. Yep, run your tub full of water and let your wetsuit soak like a sponge. A wetsuit has many qualities of a sponge, and it can dry out just like one too. Wetsuits are intended to be just a bit moist throughout the neoprene when not in the water. Not wet, but not bone dry either. Giving the wetsuit a good soaking for a few hours will rehydrate it and will lessen the chances of dry, hard neoprene cracking or ripping when you use it again.
4. Try it On. This should go without saying, but we see many triathletes get to their first race of the year and realize that the wetsuit no longer fits, the zipper broke, or there is another problem to deal with. Trying your wetsuit on a few weeks before race day is easy and takes 10 minutes. Don’t learn that your zipper is busted on the morning of your big race, you only have yourself to blame. Plus, doing this at least a couple weeks before race day still gives you time to find a new suit if for some reason you can’t use the old one anymore.
By performing just a few preparation steps at the outset of your season, you and your wetsuit will both be better off for it.