T1 Water Rover

Most Slowtwitchers know how I feel about one-piece wetsuits, versus their two-piece cousins. Certainly each style has its place, but, two-piece has a much, much bigger "place" than it currently inhabits. Why? Interesting question. I think I'll defer to an article accompanying this on the Slowtwitch home page, on the subject of empty space, which has nothing to do with swimming, but everything to do with good ideas that take a while to finally gain traction. But enough on that.

The thing about this wetsuit, it's brazen. I'm trying to remember anything so brazen as this, and what comes to mind is Dennis Conner's catamaran used during the 1988 America's Cup. New Zealand's Michael Fay thought he leveraged every rule when he built the formidable KZ1 (more popularly, the "big boat"). Dennis Conner responded with his catamaran, not strictly forbidden by the rules and, after trouncing KZ1 on the water Conner had to fight several court battles to finally win the Cup outright.

Simply put, Conner sailed the "unfair advantage" and maybe that's what we've got here. There is no rubber thickness limit in wetsuits. Not in America, nor in much of the rest of the world, unless its ITU racing you're contemplating. Accordingly, Emilio De Soto has built his idea of Conner's catamaran: the fastest wetsuit the rules will allow.

The Water Rover features 10mm rubber, along with 8mm, 5mm and 2mm. Yes, that's 10mm—not a misprint—and that's double the thickness of the rubber used in any other suit currently on the market. When I was a wetsuit maker in the old, old days, I experimented with 7mm rubber. But it was ponderously heavy and stiff, certainly not acceptable in a commercial setting. But De Soto's new 10mm rubber is incredibly soft Yamamoto #39 rubber, and, as long as the rubber is not used in the shoulder area, no restriction problem is encountered.

Still, this 10mm and 8mm rubber is sparingly used. But it's nastily used. De Soto's clear intent is to place the rubber wherever it will yield the maximum speed advantage, specifically, in the arms, hips and legs (not in the torso).

The engineering of the suit is clever. 10mm joins to 2mm, and blindstitching such a seam is a practical impossibility. Rather than try to do this, De Soto has created a lap joint never used in wetsuit construction (to my knowledge) and pulls off the job.

The Water Rover sells for $620 as of this writing, but it isn't for sale yet. It'll start shipping on December 1, 2009.