Well, the answer really is that ‘it depends’. Swimming breaststroke in a wetsuit is different. This is what many of us have discovered as a result of pools being closed and taking to open waters instead.
Wearing neoprene keeps us warm and enables us to swim in colder water, but the buoyancy created by wetsuits stops the natural undulation of breaststroke and causes ankles to pop out of the surface of the water when trying to kick. This is even more exacerbated in salt water.
High level coach and super-swimmer, Andrew Horsfall-Turner* explains why:
“Breaststroke is difficult in a wetsuit as it alters the position of the body and causes it to float higher on the waterline. This affects the hips drawing forward (and marginally down) to create space underwater for the kick. Therefore, with a wetsuit your feet are likely to come out of the water.
The second effect is on the glide phase, which is where a swimmer carries speed and momentum forwards. The wetsuit cuts this short by floating you to the surface and causes timing to breakdown.”
Wetsuits could be adapted, but simply removing buoyancy from the hips and legs would not be enough because the neoprene on the chest would still cause the body to float to the surface instead of driving forwards. Adding weight to a suit might solve the problem and keep a swimmers body below the waterline, but that would go against all safety considerations and would be irresponsible to consider.
Reducing wetsuit buoyancy in an attempt to accommodate breast stroke would also negate the benefits that they provide for swimming freestyle in terms of promoting the correct body position.
Swimming in a standard wetsuit, there are ways to adapt breaststroke to make it work in open water, but it’s different. Accepting that the stroke needs to be flatter, and the kick needs to aim downwards will work for some. There will be a compromise on technique if you want to stay warmer than you would be in skins, but the answer probably lies in using a thinner body suit – if you think Blueseventy should look into this as a new product innovation, please let us hear your thoughts via our contact form or social media channels.
*Andrew Horsfall-Turner is a Blueseventy Europe Ambassador with his sights on a new swim course record at Kona 2021. He’s also a high-level swimming and triathlon coach. Check him out on Instagram @andrew_h_t
*Photo credit @waterlili_71