Sunday, 17 September 2017

Orca Two Piece Swimrun Wetsuit - first impressions review

I'm wanting a less warm wetsuit than my Alpkit Silvertip for some mild weather swimming as over summer the Silvertip has been  a touch too comfortable. Being fairly substantial it's also quite firm around the shoulders and the gains of buoyancy are offset by stiffness around my arms.

Although there are a myriad of high performance triathlon-focussed wetsuits out there I wondered if a Swimrun one might be more appropriate. First, I'm more likely to do a Swimrun event than need a marginal speed gain in a swimming race and secondly the features such as pockets and land-based ventilation seem pretty useful for general holiday swimming use.

From Orca's website
It seemed useful to be able to order the two parts in appropriate sizes too as I'm in the small-tall category which isn't very well catered for by the majority of manufacturers. I ordered an MT top and #5 bottom from MyTriathlon who delivered promptly. So what do I think of the product?

I must stay now that I haven't worn the wetsuit in action and intend to return it very soon. It is a pity that you can't send slightly used wetsuits back to the shop! On the positive side, the sizing table and the product seem to be accurate as both parts fitted as I'd expect. I was slightly disappointed by the 'features' or maybe quality of the wetsuit as both pieces are made of fairly thin neoprene lacking in a smooth skin. Perhaps this is to reduce the risk of damage but it gives the impression of a cheap beachwear shorty wetsuit rather than a midrange performance wetsuit. The bottom piece feels to be better quality material than the top and is stated to be Yamamoto 39 cell neoprene. Although the promotional material mentions 'buoyancy in the lower trunk' I can't imagine much of this deriving from the bottom as the material is only 3mm thick.

The pockets on both pieces are made from a light mesh and are 'closed' by virtue of the upper piece overlapping the lower. I can see that this would be adequate for a light, low value item such as a nutrition bar but I wouldn't trust the pockets with my house key or a GPS device. I understand that zips add complexity and areas of weakness but this design doesn't feel quite enough. The overlap closure also stops a large item, such as  hand paddle being fitted into the pocket.

These points are perhaps niggling but there were two aspects which are the ones that are causing me not to keep the wetsuit, although neither can be fully evaluated without going for a swim! The two pieces are designed to be joined by 3 substantial pieces of velcro that adhere to the lining of the top. I didn't want to take the protective cover from the velcro to test the link thoroughly but I got a very clear impression that due to my tall body I would tend to pull the sections apart on every stroke. Of course, a stretch along the body is common to all of us and a traditional wetsuit would stretch and gradually adapt to the swimmer's shape, but I wasn't convinced of the adequacy of the connection here and suspected that I'd end up with a lot of cooling water flow around my body.

The second problem was that the relatively thick neoprene of the top bunched under my armpit and didn't feel to be as elastic as even that of my fairly budget wetsuit. I really could imagine chaffing early in a swim.

I liked the jacket style of the top and can see the concept of a two piece working well especially in a warm climate with a significant proportion of running. Indeed the design is fine for the casual beach use I mentioned above.  However I don't think this product is for me at the moment as I'm wanting something that gives a greater impression of stopping waterflow and more focus on the swimming component. For me, the near £200 price is a little high for this product. For serious swimming I'd like to see some of the neoprene technology of the £300 Orca 'Openwater' two piece or, for general holiday use, a lower price.

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