IRONMAN

This company has had a vagabond existence. It started making triathlon wetsuits better than 15 years ago in New Zealand. Then it switched countries of manufacture and its suits were made in the Orient, by giant Taiwanese blown rubber and finished goods maker Sheico. Because of its affiliation with Sheico it switched from rubber made by Yamamoto to rubber made in Sheico's factory. The highest end of Ironman's wetsuits suffered because Sheico's rubber wasn't the equal of Yamamoto in buoyancy, softness and comfort.

In recent years, however, Ironman has returned to its roots, and its suits are made of the same basic Yamamoto rubber as those used in all the top suits. Accordingly, Ironman's wetsuits have enjoyed a jump-up in quality.

Ironman has two powerful assets. First, there is a specific style of pattern this company uses which you might call roomy. Lots of people fit in them. This is distinct from companies like, say, Orca, whose patterns are quite nuanced and if you don't have the "right" body you're stuck in a constrictive suit.

The other arrow in Ironman's quiver is the value it offers. This is especially the case in its Instinct line. This value-priced line still features Yamamoto rubber but, like De Soto's T1 lower-priced TRES model, and certain other brands, Ironman's Instinct suits are made of SCS-coated #38 rubber. Not quite as stretchy, but still a very good rubber. The Instinct longjohn and fullsuit sell for $280 and $180 respectively. At $180 the longjohn is a great value, and it hits a very important price point.

At $280, however, the fullsuit is a bit overpriced for a Yamamoto #38 suit. While the Instinct john is $20 less than a QR john, the full is $20 more than QR's comparable full.

The Stealth line is the best of the Ironman offerings, and $425 is a fair price when other top-line suits are costing upwards of $500. The weak links in the Ironman lineup are the two middle suits. Few who want to spend top dollar for a wetsuit are interested in a sleeveless suit, because Ironman's $280 Instinct fullsuit will be faster in the water than its $275 Stealth longjohn.

This is the case with most wetsuit companies, however. The top of the line, flagship suit, whether it's Ironman's Stealth, Aquaman's Metal Cell, T1's best 2-piece, Quintana Roo's Supersuit, or Orca's P-flex, will always sell well. Then you have the bargain priced lonjohns that will usually sell for $200 or less. Those two models will usually account for the bulk of the revenue for most wetsuit companies. In the case of Ironman, this company has done a very good job in both categories.

Ironman Wetsuit's website can be found here.