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Coaches Corner


In our experience, athletes find that a Viper Pro gives them 2 to 6 seconds per 100 meters vs. a jammer or one-piece women’s training suit. Strong swimmers will be closer to the 2s/100, and developing swimmers will be closer to 6s/100. The speed gain is even greater if you compare vs. a tri race kit, which may balloon and cause more drag than a swimsuit. The speed gain is also greater as you fatigue during the latter part of a swim.


 How can a suit that doesn’t give you buoyancy make you faster? There are several reasons:

    1. A swimskin lowers surface drag. The hydrophobic coating on the Viper X, Viper Pro, and Viper Elite makes the suits extremely slippery in water. Pour water on them, and you’ll notice that the water doesn’t soak in, but beads up and slides right off. The same thing happens to the water that you swim through – it is repelled by the suit and has very little frictional interaction with the suit as you move forward. The result: lower surface drag + faster swimming.
    2. A swimskin reduces form drag. Your body and your tri race kit have all sorts of ripples and contours. Your race kit may flap around in the water. All of these things mean you have to move more water out of your way in more different directions in order to move forward. Moving extra water takes extra energy, and this resistance is called form drag. A Viper swimskin – particularly a snug-fitting one – smooths these wrinkles over and makes them into long, flowing lines that water can flow over without a lot of energy.
    3. A swimskin helps you maintain your body line. This is the least obvious reason, but it’s the most important: in swimming, body line equals speed. This is why experienced swimmers can swim so fast with so little effort, while developing swimmers can spend twice the energy and not go nearly as fast. Experienced swimmers keep a straight body line; developing swimmers tend to wiggle, or “snake” as they swim. A swimskin – again, a snug-fitting one especially – simply prevents you from wiggling as much. 


If you just finished reading the previous section, you probably picked up that for optimal performance, a Viper swimskin should fit tightly. How tightly? Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you can get it on without another person zipping you up from behind while you squeeze your shoulder blades together, it’s too loose.

When trying on a swimskin, there are a few things to keep in mind. (1) You’ll want to put your race kit underneath, as you will wear it over a race kit during a race. (2) It’s important to understand that the degree of compression you feel on land will be different from what you feel while swimming. A well-fitting swimskin to feel more compressive when you’re standing with your arms at your side than when you’re swimming.


IRONMAN’s 2017 rules regarding the use of swimskins and wetsuits can be found here starting on page 12. A few key takeaways:

  • Wetsuits are not allowed in water temperatures above 76.1 °F / 24.5 °C.
  • At some races, IRONMAN may make wetsuits “optional" for water temperatures between 76.1 and 83.7 °F / 24.5 and 28.7 °C. However, athletes wearing wetsuits at these races will be ineligible for awards or Kona-qualifying spots.
  • Your tri kit may extend outside of your swimskin as far as the elbow. IRONMAN had a rule prohibiting this in the past, but it has changed in the current rules, per Section 4.03(f).

USA Triathlon’s current rules regarding the use of swimskins can be found here. A few key points:

  • Wetsuits are not allowed in water temperatures above 78 °F.
  • Wetsuits are “optional" for water temperatures greater than 78 °F and less than 84 °F. However, athletes wearing wetsuits at these races will be ineligible for prizes or awards.


The following major events are typically either always non-wetsuit or borderline. If you’re planning to race any of the following, best to get your Viper now so you're ready to race!

  • Ironman World Championships
  • 70.3 World Championships
  • Ironman Chattanooga
  • Ironman Maryland
  • Ironman Louisville
  • Rev3 Williamsburg
  • Eagleman 70.3
  • Ohio 70.3
  • Maine 70.3
  • Atlantic City 70.3
  • Augusta 70.3
  • Robious Landing Triathlon
Until 5pm CST Apr 14th only, ROKA is offering an additional 5% discount on all Viper Swimskins (i.e., a limited time T-POW-Viper30 discount – so a 5% addition on top of your normal 25% discount). Just contact customer service - 877-985-7652 or teams@roka.com - to place your order using the T-POW-Viper30 code. Check out their men's collection here and women's collection here.

 If you have a question for our Coaches Corner, send it to us at: POW Coaches Corner