The Suit of the Season: Speedo Fastskin Championship Suit Decision Guide

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 1

February 06th, 2010 Industry

(editor’s note: The American version of all of these suits are legal in FINA and NCAA competitions. The NFHS (high school) uses the FINA list as their official list. For other organizations, please confirm what the suit rules are with your administration.)

This time of year, with club and high school swimmers across the country turning their attention to Championship dreams, questions start popping up about which is the best suit to use to maximize times. While we can’t answer that for you (it largely is dependent upon your body type, level of competition, and how much money you want to spend), we can offer you our reviews of the latest and greatest in high-tech racing suits.

Things have gotten a little simpler this year, with the new suit rules. As a general rule of thumb, the suits must be permeable to water, have no rubber, polyurethane, or metal (including fasteners and zippers), and for boys must be jammer or smaller (that is, waist to knees) and girls kneeskin or smaller (that is, shoulders to knees).

To see the official FINA list of approved suits, click here. Note that there may be suits that are not on this list that will still be legal if they fit all of the guidelines, but the suits on the FINA list are guaranteed by the manufacturers and approved by FINA as legal.

Click on the name of the suit to go to find it on SwimOutlet.com, where you will find the cheapest deals on these suits.

The women’s kneeskin suits come in regular and “L” or “Long” sizes. This Long refers to the length of the torso, not necessarily the height of the swimmer.

Be sure to check out our articles on the best care practices to maintain the quality and longevity of the suit. Also, be sure to read our best practices for  putting on compression suits.

SPEEDO CHAMPIONSHIP SUITS

Aquablade– The Aquablade was first released in 1996, and was the beginning of the high-tech suit revolution (post paper suits). The theory behind the aquablade is that the material repels water and alternates different textures of material to create a drag-reducing, water-channeling effect. The suits were responsible for scores of world records in the 90’s. While these suits may be relatively old technology, they still work, and are a great value at $54.95 for the women’s and $49,95 for men’s on SwimOutlet. These suits tend to fit similarly to your regular meet suit, so stay true to size. The jammers run longer than what you’re used to, and the women’s suits may be a little tighter across the chest**.

**Sizing recommendations based on the expectation that racing suits are sized properly. Many (if not most) swimmers wear racing suits that are a size too big. If you have any doubts, check out your local swim shop, and they should be able to help you out.

Fast Skin II (FS II) – In 2000, Speedo released it’s latest line of super-suits: the Fast Skin. The original Fast Skin is no longer in production, the FS II works on the same basic principles. The suit is made out of Lycra and Spandex, and is copied after shark skin to reduce drag. The suit is made out of Nylon and Lycra, and the fabric is designed to reduce skin vibrations and muscle vibrations, which reduces drag and saves energy. For this reason, it’s imperative that the FSII fits extremely tightly. If your regular racing suit is very tight (can’t pull the straps more than an inch off of your shoulder, can’t fit more than a finger in the waist for boys), then stick with the same size on the FS II. If not, consider going down a size. Remember when your suit shows up that it’s supposed to be extremely tight, and it’s best to take the suit off in between races. For women’s suits, if you are broad across the shoulders and chest relative to your waist and height, consider taking a size up**. Women’s suits are $104, jammers $119, and briefs $34.95 on SwimOutlet.

Note: There are some old FSII’s that have rubber dimples on the chest. These rubber dimples make the suits illegal, but they can be peeled off fairly easily, and they then should meet all regulations. My home state high school organization, the UIL in Texas, has issued a release stating that these old FSII’s are allowed with the rubber dots removed, but be sure to check with your organization before you wear them. Many shops are selling these at big discounts, and it’s a great way to save money. The new FSII’s do not have these rubber dots, so no need to worry about those.

**Sizing recommendations based on the expectation that racing suits are sized properly. Many (if not most) swimmers wear racing suits that are a size too big. If you have any doubts, check out your local swim shop, and they should be able to help you out.

FS Pro– (Note, the American and Japanese version of this suit have been approved. The Australian version has not.) The newest in the Fast Skin line, the FS Pro has a more papery feel like the old paper suits, but will last much longer. The lighter material allows for greater power without reducing compression effects seen in the FS II. Other improvements include vertical seams to further reduce drag, a new, more water repellent fabric, and a less restrictive feeling from the compression. Also, the quick-dry fabric makes the suit ideal for when you have multiple swims in the same day. Speedo also used some very high-tech computer software to make the suit fit more ideally to a swimmer’s build than previous models, which seems to have worked on the guys suits. For women, base your sizing on the ssize of your chest and width of your shoulders. If you’re narrow up top, size down.  Otherwise, stick with your regular race size**. These won’t feel as tight on the swimmer as the FS II’s will. These are the best Speedo has to offer before you have to significantly upgrade your price range, with women’s kneeskins on SwimOutlet for $158.95, and the jammer is $139.95. SwimOutlet is also offering free standard shipping on FS Pro’s right now, which adds to the deal. If they fit well, are well cared for, and are taken off immediately after races, these suits should maintain their advantage longer than the FS II’s.

**Sizing recommendations based on the expectation that racing suits are sized properly. Many (if not most) swimmers wear racing suits that are a size too big. If you have any doubts, check out your local swim shop, and they should be able to help you out.

Speedo LZR Elite– The ultimate in Speedo race technology. Make absolutely certain if you purchase this suit from somewhere other than the link provided that it has the FINA approved stamp on the back of the suit, because LZR is a recycled name from a suit that is now illegal. The Elite is the key difference in the name. The LZR is made of the same material as the FS Pro, but has 2 major upgrades. One is that it uses a special technology (ultrasonically welded and bonded) which makes the suit appear to be one big piece, and perfectly smooth. This can be a huge advantage for reducing drag when tenths of a second makes a difference. These are the suit of choice for Phelps, Lochte, Hoff, and Coughlin, among others. These suits are made for very limited use, around 6-8 as an absolute maximum (expect 3 or 4 to be safe), and in their limited use so far, there have been occasional reports of seams splitting, so having an FS II or Pro as backup wouldn’t hurt. These suits don’t need to fit as tight as the FS II either, as they are supposed to have some sort of suction technology to hold everything in place, rather than pure compression. They also might fit a little differently than you’re used to, as they’re designed to squeeze in the right places to create the greatest hydrodynamic effect. As with the other suits, ladies with large chests and broad shoulders may need to go a size up, but any gap at the top of the suit will ruin your swim, so make sure they’re tight. Other than that, they fit pretty true to size (these come in both odd and even sizes, to get a more accurate fit.)** Boys may consider going down a half-size from the best fit of a regular suit. These are definitely the top of the line, but be prepared to pay for that quality.

Note-On the standard cut women’s version of this suit, the crotch strip is very, very narrow. For modesty reasons, I would tend to lean toward the knee-length version.

**Sizing recommendations based on the expectation that racing suits are sized properly. Many (if not most) swimmers wear racing suits that are a size too big. If you have any doubts, check out your local swim shop, and they should be able to help you out.

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How many races can you swim in a FS II before it becomes less effective? How do you know when it’s time to buy a new one?

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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