Triathlon Swim-To-Bike Transition: How To Get A Wetsuit Off In 10 Seconds

Triathlete reaching behind her to unzip her wetsuit
(Image credit: Pete Saloutos / Getty Images)

In July, I will be competing in the London Triathlon. It’s not my first tri but I’m still a relative newcomer to the sport. The big difference between this triathlon and my first one, the Ardingly Sprint, is that the swim leg at Ardingly took place in a pool, while London will be in open water. This means I’ll have to get to used to swimming in a wetsuit, and learn how to take it off as quickly as possible to ensure I don’t get held up for too long during the swim-to-bike transition. Luckily, Maxifuel open water swimming coach Kevin Wallace has a foolproof plan for getting out of your suit in a hurry.

Kevin Wallace’s Wetsuit Transition Plan

“Often you’ll have a short wait before you’re helped out of the water at the end of the swim leg,” says Wallace. “This presents an excellent opportunity to start getting out of your wetsuit.

‘As you approach the exit, reach behind and unfasten the Velcro strap on the back of your wetsuit, then drag the chord and pull your zip down (it’s important to spend time practising this in advance, especially if you’re wearing a wetsuit that you’re not that familiar with). You’ll feel a cold rush as water starts to circulate inside your suit.

‘As the people in front of you are getting out, dip one of your shoulders underwater, then roll the sleeve all the way down and off your arm. The water will act as a lubricant, and should allow you to get your whole arm free in one motion with minimal resistance. Once one arm’s out, repeat the process on the other side.

‘Just before you get out of the water, roll your wetsuit down to your waist and pull it out from your stomach. This will allow water to start circulating in the lower half of the suit.

“As you get out of the water, you’ll feel the water in the suit start running down your legs. Once you’re clear of the exit, stand still and roll the wetsuit down to your ankles on both sides.

‘Bring your left knee directly upwards, then step it out to your left. This will turn the wetsuit leg inside out, and pull your leg most of the way out of it. Then, step your right leg up and across, bringing your right foot down on the trailing left wetsuit leg as close to your left ankle as possible.

“Step your left foot out of the wetsuit. The water should act as lubricant, allowing your foot to slip out with minimal effort or resistance. Once your left leg is free, repeat the process with your right leg. Freeing both legs should take no more than seven seconds.

“If you practice this technique in advance – most swimming pools will be happy to let you use your wetsuit if you don’t have access to an open water venue – you’ll save yourself precious time during the transition on race day. I’ve seen people whose wetsuits have gone bone dry spend two or three minutes struggling to get them off, but if you get this technique right, the whole process should take less than 10 seconds, the first half of which you can get out of the way while you’re still in the water.”

Ben Ince

Between 2010 and 2016, Ben was the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Ben also contributed exclusive features to Coach on topics such as football drills, triathlon training plans and healthy eating.