Wetsuits are one of the most important pieces of equipment in triathlon. They are a necessity in cold water, but also represent one of the biggest time savings of any piece of equipment, capable of shaving minutes off of your swim time. Yet they rarely get the press that cycling equipment gets. Think of the last wetsuit you can remember making headlines. Maybe it was the T1 Water Rover by De Soto (we'll talk about that one in a minute) - that was years ago. Now how about new wheels? You can probably think of a dozen headliners in the last couple years alone.
This may be because the wetsuit's function is pretty simple. Keep you warm, and buoy you (especially your hips/legs) out of the water as much as possible. The more of you that's out of the water, the quicker you go. Air is just so much easier to move through than water. But once you're all suited up in premium Yamamoto rubber from head to toe, what's left to improve the wetsuit experience? Each manufacturer has its own take on what those things are. The aforementioned Water Rover simply added more rubber. It was 10mm thick through the legs, providing the swimmer significantly more buoyancy, and was so effective that it was eventually banned, and now the max thickness you can use is 5mm. Various other advances have been offered, from special panels, to two-piece construction, and others.
But my favorite new tech is the one shown here in the Roka Maveric X - a suit sewn in the "arms up" position, reducing shoulder fatigue and addressing the primary complaint with full suits. Many new triathletes hem and haw about whether to buy a full suit or a sleeveless (answer: full suit, every time). The big hangup with full suits is that they impede the swim stroke by making it a little harder to reach your arms out. And that's precisely what the Maveric X addresses with its construction. Arms up is its "natural state" if you will, so that reach forward is as easy as if you had no suit on at all.
Now, that comes at a pretty steep price - nearly four figures for this hunk-o-rubber. I'd love to see the arms-up construction trickle down to lower-priced suits, especially given that I'm not totally sold on all of the Maveric X features. For instance, the thin forearm panels that purport to offer you "better feel" of the water ... I'd rather just have more rubber there. Mostly because I'm a wimp and I get very cold on the swim, and I'll take as much insulation as I can get. But that's a minor complaint. In all, the Maveric X works really well, and this is the most comfortable suit I've worn in over a decade.