"Perfection is not
when there is nothing else to add, its when there
is nothing left to take away."
In the world of product
design and engineering that is a beautiful haiku.
Elegance is a term so maligned and pandered that the
true meaning of it has been perverted (not unlike
this very sentence
), but I have a text book
example for you.
Sideways thinking is something
I admire: The way to solve a problem or make an improvement
with unconventional or previously unknown ideas. That
is innovation. Sometimes revolution.
You know you need a wetsuit
to be competitive in triathlon swims. You know it
also adds a big safety margin.
The triathlon wetsuit serves
multiple functions. It keeps you warm; it provides
flotation for safety and reduces anxiety about crowded,
open water swimming; it makes you much faster with
improved buoyancy and better hydrodynamics. There
is no question you are warmer, safer and faster in
a triathlon wetsuit.
Here's the problem: Traditional
(old school) triathlon wetsuits were one piece "jumpsuit"
styles that were complex (and expensive) designs of
neoprene panels sewn and glued together into a neck-to-ankle
garment. The suit used neoprene from 1.5mm to 5mm
thick to achieve different levels of flotation and
flexibility depending on where it was on the suit.
All these different panels went into the pattern that
was eventually glued and blind stitched together.
You put the suit on and took it off with a big zipper
that ran up the back of the suit.
The T1 forces you to "Press The Buoy" or
swim downhill and achieve a better swim posture by
supporting the legs better than one piece suits. CLICK
With a one-piece wetsuit
people report varying levels of effectiveness in swimming,
especially with the most popular style- the long sleeve
full suit. Most people who report poor results with
a triathlon wetsuit do so because they didn't put
it on correctly, it doesn't fit or both. They failed
to pull the "pants" section of the suit
up correctly and the sleeves down snugly enough. The
suit may not fit correctly either. If you aren't built
like a lean, mean well-trained triathlete this becomes
an even bigger problem. Putting a full, one-piece
wetsuit on correctly is not important, it's critical.
If you fail to have a perfectly fitted one-piece wetsuit
that you have put on correctly the suit will actually
slow you down, the opposite of why you bought the
thing in the first place. When people fail to get
just the right size in an integrated, one-piece wetsuit
and/or fail to put it on correctly the suit has a
restrictive "pulling" sensation to it. It
restricts your breathing and your stroke.
Finding the zipper pull and opening the zipper
takes valuable time and is more difficult than
pulling off the T1 top.
Another anomaly of the one-piece
wetsuit is where it puts the majority of the
flotation: In the chest.
Top swim coaches including Terry
Laughlin of "Total Immersion" teach
the importance of "downhill swimming"
or "pressing the buoy" to swim more
streamlined and level in the water. This technique
of faster, easier, more efficient swimming causes
a swimmer to be more horizontal in the water.
The problem with most of us, especially crappy
swimmers (like me) is that your legs sink. Since
your chest is full of air (in your lungs) it
floats just fine on its own. You don't need
an extra 5mm of floatation on your chest as
bad as you need it on your legs.
Guy on the left is doing it wrong: Guy on the
right has done it correctly: Remove the suit
to the waist as soon as you stand up in the
Dan Empfield, founder of Quintana
Roo and inventor of the triathlon wetsuit, is
designing the first triathlon wetsuit in the
80's. Empfield is a clever fellow and knows
a thing or two about wetsuits and a lot about
triathlons from being a classic California surfer
Look at a photo of the first Ironman
triathlon field: Dan is there. He observes that triathletes
need flotation primarily in the legs. The very
first triathlon wetsuit is born and it is a "pants
only" design. Empfield is a clever marketing
man though and knows this simple concept will be tough
to sell so, for added warmth and sale-ability he puts
a top on the thing and, boom, an industry is born.
The industry didn't look back for years.
Empfield sold Quintana
Roo years ago and retreated back into the peace and
eccentricity that is his mind. It is where ideas are
born. Empfield was free from the financial constraints
of corporate reality. His brain hit "reset"
and he went back to the mental drawing board. In it
he saw a wetsuit that delivered flotation to where
the athlete needed it most: The legs. The wetsuit
was so easy to put on it was impossible to get it
wrong. Even a first time user could benefit from it
instantly. For the accomplished triathlete it offered
better fit, flexibility and freedom of movement than
one-piece designs. The neck was lower, allowing easier
breathing and no chafing. The wetsuit was modular:
If you wanted a full suit one day you could have it.
The same suit could be a long john the next day. Part
of the suit could even be used for other watersports.
If you damaged the leg or arm of the suit there was
no need to replace the entire suit, just the damaged
component. The separate components (top and bottom)
could be sized differently. There was no zipper to
fail. The suit was lighter and more flexible. It was
much less expensive than one-piece triathlon wetsuits
but more comfortable and faster. It was as fast or
even faster in the transition area. It was the next
logical step in triathlon wetsuit design. It was pure
Separating the top and bottom of the suit gives all
swimmers, especially weak swimmers and novices, greater
freedom of movement in the suit. It is easier to breath
and the suit is less restrictive. CLICK TO ENLARGE.
Empfield pitched the new
wetsuit idea to henchmen Emilio De Soto and Dan Neyenhuis.
De Soto is a flamboyant and charismatic Cuban playboy
whose line of daring Brazilian-inspired triathlon
clothing caused a sensation in Southern California.
The De Soto brand has since caught on elsewhere. De
Soto always seems to be in the company of several
beautiful women, usually the models who appeared in
his racy catalogs. He's done more than just cut a
dashing profile though. Emilo De Soto was an impressive
professional and masters triathlete. In addition to
gratuitous sex appeal (continued today in his new
low-rise "hip hugger" tri shorts for women)
De Soto built function into his technical tri clothing.
De Soto's company was a natural for bringing Empfield's
advanced third generation triathlon wetsuit concept
The suit is easier to put on and allows greater freedom
of movement in the arm. You almost can't put it on
The advantages of these
suits can be summed up in three words: Better,
The suits are better
because of their versatility and modular construction:
The fit is more customized and precise with separately
sized top and bottom, especially for first time wetsuit
buyers. Suit components can be replaced separately
if damaged. Once you own the top and bottom you can
also buy a vest (sleeveless) top to make it a long
john suit. With no zipper to fail the suits are more
durable. The zipper can never open accidentally during
the swim, since there isn't one.
The suits are cheaper:
A full De Soto T1 Wetsuit top and bottom sells for
$384.00. A Quintana Roo Superfull one piece suit is
$429-449 and cannot be converted to a long john suit
in warmer conditions. An Aquaman Bionik is $420. The
De Soto T1 is, at a minimum, 9% less expensive than
the other premium wetsuits with greater comfort, speed
The suits are faster
because they provide flotation where the
swimmer needs it: The legs. They "force"
you to swim more correctly. They benefit novice swimmers
the most by helping to correct their most rudimentary
swimming error- letting their legs sink. Because the
suit is separate components top and bottom it allows
greater range of motion and flexibility in the torso.
It is easier to put the suit on- it almost cannot
be put on wrong. The arms never restrict the stroke.
There is greatly reduced sensation of restricted breathing.
In the transition area the suit is actually faster
Eric Fernando does it right. By the time you
hit the beach (running) the top of your suit
should be off. It is much easier and faster
to pull the top of a T1 off than a zippered
1 piece suit.
|Swimming in the De Soto T1 confirms
the suit is different. It feels less like you
are wearing a wetsuit. The top of the suit is
more form fitting, especially at the back where
one-piece suits with a zipper are "baggier".
Not having a direct attachment between the top
and bottom of the suit makes the suit swim "more
freely". You really notice a difference in
flexibility of the suit when you do a flip turn.
This isn't of much use in open water, but it underscores
the effect separating the top and bottom has on
suit flexibility and ease of movement. I felt
my stroke more in the two-piece T1. I do feel
a little faster in this suit than a one-piece
suit, it just feels "easier" to swim.
I have to believe this ease makes you faster.
How much? I have no idea. I imagine it will vary
from person to person depending largely on their
If you are used to swimming
in a one-piece suit I think you will like the T1.
If you have never swam in a triathlon wetsuit at all
and you do swim in a two-piece suit like the T1 first,
if you do try a one-piece suit I doubt you will like
the one-piece suit. A one-piece suit will feel very
restrictive after swimming in the T1.
I had serious doubts about
being able to remove a two piece suit as quickly as
a one piece. I've practiced transitions quite a bit
and I have one piece wetsuit removal down to a science,
at least for me. I can easily remove a one-piece suit
from the waist in less than nine seconds, and you
can too with 30 minutes of practice. We teach a transition
class here at Bikesport that includes a block of instruction
on high-speed wetsuit removal and it never fails to
make people faster at wetsuit removal, regardless
of the type of suit.
This is an early attempt at removing the suit. With
practice the entire suit can be removed (top and bottom)
in 8.82 seconds.
The thing to remember about
wetsuit removal is that, when you hit thigh deep water,
you pull the top of your suit off. Since you are doing
this while running that portion of the removal really
doesn't add to your transition time. In the case of
the T1 that is a shame, since the T1 is much, much
faster to remove from the top half of your body than
a one piece suit.
Dawn Polk, Manager of Different
Strokes Swim Shop in Livonia: (248) 477-0521 www.different-strokes.com,
assisted us in our test and these photos. Dawn is
an experience swimmer and triathlete. She had no problems
removing the T1 quickly after one short block of instruction.
Dawn also illustrated one of the other advantages
of the De Soto T1 two-piece concept. She first tried
on a size 4 bottom and a size 4 top. The size 4 bottom
fit nicely but she settled on a size 3 top for a better
fit. The size 4 top was too big. The size 3 worked
much better. You can't do that with a one piece suit.
I did four trials of wetsuit
removal while I was wet (but not using Bodyglide or
other lubricant that would make the removal faster)comparing
the T1 against the Quintana Roo Superfull. I divided
the removal times into two segments: With the wetsuit
completely on to removal of the top to the waist(in
other words, just removing the top of the suit to
the waist); Then, removal of the pants section until
it is completely off. I used Cesium touch pad stopwatch
software in a Palm V PDA to time the removals. Each
removal includes the time it took for me to touch
the PDA screen to stop the clock, about half a second.
Superfull 1 Piece Removal.
removal trials with suit wet.
T1 2 Piece Removal.
removal trials with suit wet.
What I found was the T1
wetsuits is 19% faster on average to remove than a
QR Superfull after four trials. This is an
average over the total removal time. That is significant.
The bottom of the T1 was marginally slower to remove
for two reasons: The legs are not "speed cut"
or angle cut and you have to take down the "bib"
suspenders, which adds somewhere along the lines of
1.5-1.7 seconds. I'm not certain why De Soto elected
to not use the angle cut "speed cut" opening
at the ankle, but my presumption is that "speed
cut" ankles do remove some floatation from the
legs and feet. Realistically, you could do a subtle
version of angle cutting the ankle on your T1 if you
wanted to at home with a keen eye and a pair of scissors.
I see no need to.
There is an excellent video
of Emilio De Soto removing a T1 wetsuit at his website,
in his tech and specs section. In this video Emilio
has the T1 off in 8.87 seconds, top and bottom. With
practice I have no doubts I will be pulling mine off
as fast very soon.
I was ready for this test
to come out either way. When I first saw the T1 wetsuits
I thought "It will take much longer and be more
difficult to remove them". I was wrong, and this
proves it. For people who think a two piece takes
longer to remove, well, they are wrong. With either
suit you do have to practice removing them to minimize
time, but the T1 two piece is defiantly faster in
the transition area overall.
In general I was initially
resistant to the idea of two piece wetsuits. We already
had existing relationships with several excellent
one-piece wetsuit makers. I didn't want to take on
another brand, especially one that was a smaller company
seven days UPS shipping away from us in California.
But the technical advantages of the T1 are so substantial
they can't be ignored. If we didn't offer them to
customers and wound up selling them a one-piece zipper
suit instead, then they found out about the T1 on
their own we would be in big trouble. The T1 is an
enormous improvement over old one-piece zippered suits.
Three words: Better, Cheaper, Faster.
De Soto Wet Suit
- 125 lbs.
- 138 lbs.
- 153 lbs.
5'8" - 6'2"
- 180 lbs.
175 - 205 lbs.
- 230 lbs
2003 Tom Demerly -
No portion of this article may be used without expressed