Price: £199 / $247 / €290
Sizes: XS to XL
I’ve been wanting to try out a breaststroke specific wetsuit for some time as some Trinewbies prefer to swim breaststroke rather than front crawl / freestyle in their triathlon swims.
I wanted to know how the design differed from a standard triathlon wetsuit and if it helped to swim breaststroke in open water. I also want to see if it could also be used for freestyle stroke if a triathlete wanted to use both strokes during their swim leg.
As with all good triathlon wetsuit tests I wanted to find out if you can run in it to T1 and strip out of it quickly to get on the bike leg.
The Orca Vitalis Breaststroke Open Water Swimming Wetsuit
This is the first time Orca has produced a breaststroke specific wetsuit and my first impression is that they have done a decent job.
The suit is comprised of 100% Yamamoto neoprene (Yamamoto 39 FS technology) which means it has lots of tiny air cells in the fabric which gives it a very stretchy, jelly like feel plus insulates you really well. The ultra stretchy fabric means it was really easy to put on and take off plus very comfortable when moving around before entering the water. I’m used to feeling a bit “robotic” and stiff on land when in a wetsuit.
The most important difference between the breaststroke suit and normal triathlon wetsuits is the panelling. The panelling across the chest is super flexible to enable the breaststroke front drive, extension and back sweep motion. The leg panels are also super stretchy to enable the wide leg kick.
The whole suit is kept quite thin as unlike in freestyle where you want your hips high in breaststroke you need your hips to sink slightly to enable the glide, pull (outsweep), breathe head up (insweep) and kick. This means the suit is a 3:2 whereas standard triathlon suits tend to be 3:5. Where 3 is the 3mm on the top of the suit and the 5 is 5mm on the bottom half of the suit.
The breaststroke suit thins out to 2mm in the chest for added flexibility. Orca has added a double thickness neoprene around the ankles to stop it getting damaged when you put it on and take it off. This was interesting and when I simulated a triathlon transition, I could put my foot on this reinforced area to pull my let our super quick.
It’s got the standard YKK wetsuit back zipper but what stands it apart is on the zipper cords the Orca logo is rubberised so it’s easy to grip.
Another nice touch is that it has a key pouch in the back for your locker key should you go swimming in a supervised lake area. I would not trust a car key in there as it will get wet. You can get car key locker boxes if you want to store your car key somewhere safe when you swim.
When I put it on my partner helped zip up the back and he said it was the easiest wetsuit he has ever zipped up and being a triathlon race official he has zipped up many a wetsuit at races!
Swimming in the Orca Vitalis Breaststroke
Getting in the water was quick as I did not feel the cold in it even though it is thinner than other wetsuits. The neoprene did not impede my stroke at all. When breaststroking my hips were low and in the right location to do the frog leg kick. When I switched to front crawl (freestyle) my arms were not impeded and it almost felt like I had no suit on, but I was warmer and also had extra flotation around my hips putting me in a streamlined position.
Versatility of the Orca Suit
The Orca Vitalis Breaststroke is versatile and great for both breaststroke and freestyle swimming. It’s very comfortable and flexible plus not constricting around the neck like others I have worn.
As a coach I would also wear this in a kayak and stand-up paddleboarding to keep me warm when coaching and guiding.
I found that the suit came up on the large size and was baggy around the ankles so consider trying the size down.
I was surprised that it did not come with a net to carry the wetsuit in so you will need to find your own waterproof mesh bag for it.
If your preferred stroke is breaststroke this is an ideal suit for your triathlon training and racing.
It’s an excellent first swimming wetsuit which doesn’t compromise on quality and gives flexibility where it’s needed. It’s good for both breaststroke and freestyle swimming with a great price tag.
The Yamamoto neoprene will give you the flexibility you need and also warmth on those colder waters. If you do want to alternate between freestyle and breaststroke, then practice in this suit as unlike standard wetsuits it won’t give you that hip buoyancy you may have experienced in the past, but it did give me enough.
The little touches like rubber on the zip cord, key pouch, thicker neoprene around the ankles and bright colors on the sleeves impressed me as I unwrapped it from the box.
I would recommend this for swimmers and triathletes wanting a versatile wetsuit for swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding and of course especially for breaststroke swimming.
The Orca Vitalis Range
Alongside the Vitalis breaststroke the line features standouts like the Vitalis Thermal, a model focused on thermal insulation. Other new products include the Vitalis TRN, a multipurpose suit with high flexibility and neutral buoyancy; the Vitalis Light, a sleeveless model with maximum elasticity; the Vitalis Hi-Vis, the equivalent to the Zeal Hi-Vis in the standard range; the Vitalis Shorty, designed not only for swimming but for various aquatic activities; and finally, the Hi-Vis Squad and Shorty Squad models, multipurpose wetsuits adapted to the sizes of younger swimmers.