Equipment Review: Z3ROD Vanguard Black (Stealth) wetsuit

Back when I joined my local Triathlon Club (Horsham Amphibians Triathlon, HAT for short) coming up for 5 years ago now, I purchased a mid-range Orca Apex 2 wetsuit at the TCR Show. There wasn't really much thought that went into my choice for my first wetsuit - at the time I had little to no knowledge of my specific requirements, I suppose the general feel and overall cost were my main criteria. A sales rep at the Orca stand squeezed me into what generally felt to be the right-sized suit and gave me a good deal - sold!

To be honest that original Orca wetsuit has done me well and I have no complaints. OK, over the years it has developed a few nicks but there is still some life in it and I could have quite easily stuck with it for some time yet. The one (big) negative with the Orca wetsuit was that I simply struggled to record good times and was typically slower than when swimming in the pool, despite the buoyancy benefits, that normally helps to improve my swim times. I felt that the main problem was the rotation in the arms, whether from a slightly incorrect sizing or more likely from the thicker rubber used in the arms region.

With this in mind I was interested to try out the new Z3ROD (pronounced 'Zerod') Vanguard wetsuit that had a good reputation for greater flexibility and better arm rotation. Fortunately a good friend and fellow HAT member, Alan Law, who manages The Physio, Fitness and Wellbeing Company, has just started selling Z3ROD wetsuits and kindly offered me a demo suit to try out.

The description on the Company's website is as follows:

Mainly made of high quality Yamamoto 39 neoprene, the VANGUARD is an extremely powerful and performance wetsuit. It features our Elbow 2 Elbow panel to give you the flexibility you need for a natural crawl. It’s as if you are wearing nothing at all! The Z3R0D Air Tech neoprene at the front of the suit will carry you high in the water, leaving you to focus on your stroke. And the Nano CSC coating will ensure you’re as fast as you can be!

Main Body + Upper : 5mm Yamamoto Aerodome
Lower Legs : 3mm Yamamoto 39
Arms & Shoulders : 1,5 mm Yamamoto 39
Back: 3mm Z3R0D Yamamoto 39
Coating : SCS Yamamoto

I am just over 5 foot 11 inches tall and currently weigh around 76kg (a little over my ideal race weight) and the standard medium size fitted me like a glove. It was slightly easier to get on than my Orca wetsuit (less tight) although I took my time because I was a bit worried about tearing the rubber, which was considerably thinner on the arms than my existing wetsuit.

The specific suit that Alan had available for a demo was the all-black 'Stealth' limited edition. I wasn't worried about graphics or not, however it was quite nice to know that it was a limited edition - quite low profile but very sleek.

My first swim in the Vanguard was at the 50m outdoor pool in Lewes (Pells Pool), an ideal location for testing it in a nice, safe controlled environment. I did need a little help doing up the wetsuit as unlike my Orca it zips from the top down. The main advantage for this is that in race conditions if any competitor got a hold of the zip cord and pulled down they could not unzip the suit. This is always a risk in the Orca, albeit it has never happened to me to date.

The buoyancy was excellent but not all that different from the Orca. The main difference was the arm rotation, it was that good I didn't even feel that I had a wetsuit on. It all felt very nice and most importantly, faster! The arms have some ribbed regions for aiding with 'grabbing the water' - a nice touch.

After about 500m of swimming in Pells Pool I switched to my Orca wetsuit - the arm rotation was like 'chalk and cheese' - it was definitely harder work to turnover the arms and I expect over the longer distance would produce greater arm fatigue.

In a way I didn't want to like it because it was a higher-end wetsuit that was slightly out of my price range (RRP £455), however there was no doubt that it offered an advantage over my Orca and sorted the main issue I had.

Fortunately Alan was able to let me have the demo suit for a very fair discount so with a contribution from my family (Father's day present) I am now the proud owner of the Z3ROD Vanguard Stealth wetsuit - sweet!

It's first official outing was the River Arun Ironman swim 2014, which I was down for competing in this weekend just gone. This is a fantastic event put on by the nice people at Raw Energy Pursuits and one that I have completed in previous years. My PB was 1:04 so I was out to beat that time.

This is normally a very fast race, mainly because it is a tidal river and one of the fastest flowing in the UK. Unfortunately, on this occasion the organisers slightly mistimed the start of the race (very hard to get exactly right) and there were no PBs from me or most of the other swimmers. I did however feel that I swam the 3.8km distance better than on any previous occasion and I simply put this down to my new Vanguard Stealth. My time was a respectable 1:12 on the day - 161st out of a total field of 351 swimmers that completed the distance.

I must get some 'Bodyglide' and remember to apply liberally before using the wetsuit for another long distance swim as I did get a small amount of rubbing in the neck area, nothing major and probably down to me for not taking enough time to prepare for the race - lesson learnt!

I have included a few pictures of the River Arun Ironman Swim 2014 and another pictured at Southwater Like with Sarah and Matt who also purchased Z3ROD wetsuits. Matt looking extremely 'Batman-like' with the top of the range 'V-Flex'.

Me, Sarah and Matt at Southwater Country Park - sporting our new Z3ROD wetsuits
Team photo - River Arun Ironman Swim 2014
HAT Club swimmers, Alan in the middle, sporting the top of the range V-Flex

Walking to the start of the race - Stealth-like

Job done - graceful exit (not so Stealth-like)

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