The development story behind our Gold wetsuit

How do you stay winning when you are no longer able to train 10 times a week in the pool now that you are working full time and looking after kids? The answer is that you spend two years designing and engineering the fastest wetsuits on the market to do the hard work for you. Our wetsuits are designed for anyone from the elite athlete chasing Olympic glory, to the weekend warrior, and everyone in between.

Now, let's go back a few steps. I am one of the founders of Great Ocean Wetsuits and a past professional open water swimmer for Australia.  I've raced at the World Swimming Championships for Australia and won national titles across pool, open water, and surf lifesaving events. I’ve also won large participation ocean swims such as The Pier to Pub on the Victorian Surf Coast and the Rottnest Channel Swim in Perth. Two years ago, I reached out to my friend Aidan Clark, who has worked in the wetsuit industry for almost 30 years, and we set a goal of creating a premium wetsuit brand for athletes of all abilities. To do this (including myself), we gathered the following team:

Aidan Clarke: Worked at Orca in the 90s before moving on to found 2XU, over 30 years in the wetsuit industry.

Mike Trees: A former professional triathlete in the 90s and elite running coach, can run but is a terrible swimmer, so he needs all the help he can get.

Hamish McDougall: National level swimmer and national level swimming coach, knows what's required to build an efficient swimmer, and how to make the wetsuit work for you.

Together we set out on a two-year journey to engineer what we believe to be a collection of the fastest and most efficient wetsuits on the market.  Originally, I believed all types of neoprene to be the same, but I quickly came to the realisation that while many brands were using the same type of neoprene, eg Yamamoto 39, their wetsuits were completely different. What I also learnt initially, was that the internal lining (backing) for the neoprene is the key material that drastically changes its properties; for example, higher grade supports flexibility while lower grade drastically reduces the stretch of the overall neoprene. Additionally, having thinner arms often doesn't result in more flexibility.  Think of a piece of paper; it is extremely thin but has close to zero stretch.  It may just be reducing the heat retention and attempting to change the overall durability.

Moving on, over our two-year period, we did tests for speed over 100m, 400m, and up to 1500m, along with longevity testing by swimming each day in our suits.  Overall, from this controlled testing, I can safely say that our wetsuits are crazy fast, faster than anything I have worn or raced in before. This message is echoed by both Mike Trees and Aidan Clark who believe this to be the fastest wetsuit both have worn or designed.  Additionally, with Hamish's input and the inclusion of a key design feature being our HIP WRAP, we have greatly enhanced core stability when swimming which reduces hip drop when sighting and keeps you in a more streamlined position.

Now, why would you read a blog written by one of the brand founders about how good their wetsuits are and how fast they might be?  It's not exactly a peer-reviewed scientific paper (I do have a science degree).  Isn't it just marketing?  Let me explain.  As I said before, I am genuinely surprised each time I put on our wetsuits with how good they are compared to what I have raced in previously. Now, you can do all the controlled testing you want, swimming behind closed doors and using it as marketing, but what about the real results, in front of the public, where there's no hiding?

Last month, I raced at the Lorne Pier to Pub in the elite, ‘superfish’ category. The race is 1.2km long and attracts 5,000 swimmers each year to Lorne on the Victorian Surf Coast.  I have won the elite category and hold both the record for the number of wins and the fastest time. However, the last time I won was in 2017 when I was 12kg lighter, trained 10 times per week, wasn’t a dad and didn’t work full time. To make things even harder, I was up against swimmers with recent personal best times of 3:50 over 400m in the pool and current Australian Swim team members, while I’m stuck training only twice a week. My partner, who is a two-time Olympian, was questioning why I was swimming as I had nothing to prove, and I had clearly not been training. The answer is – because I love it.

The race always starts out fast.  When the gun goes, the pace is like a 200m sprint with a 6-beat kick. After the first 200m, I began to feel heavy and wondered how I was going to stay with the lead pack. The pace always slows down a little, but even though I was hurting early on in the race, the high flexibility in the shoulders wasn’t impacting my stroke rate and slowing it down.  It was not contributing to any extra fatigue (than my lack of training had) that having to muscle my arms over with a less flexible neoprene would have. The high buoyancy of the wetsuit also meant that, even while extremely fatigued and thinking I should have listened to my partner, I wasn’t bulldozing through the water - I was sitting on top of it.

For the entire race I was hurting badly, but I was still in the lead pack sitting at the back. From my experience, I always know that the pace picks up after the last marker buoy is turned as there is only 200m to the beach. Somehow, I was able to find a little extra speed and swam from the back of the pack level with the swimmer coming first from only two sessions per week.  However, two years of engineering design and the wetsuit was extraordinary, and while I may not have looked the fastest, being 12kg heavier than what I used to be – the proof was right there in the result - our wetsuit is faster than what we expected.

Now, unfortunately I wasn’t expecting to be competing for first place running up the beach.  I ultimately came second by 6 seconds, not because of the wetsuit or lack of swimming speed but my lack of running speed and running training. Overall, I was stoked to have finished second and even more so being a new dad.  I had done it in what I believe is an amazing wetsuit designed by a team brought together with one goal.  

 To cap it off, below are a few testimonials from athletes who have chosen our wetsuits. Their experiences echo our sentiment.  “We've not only engineered the fastest wetsuits, but we've also  surpassed our own high expectations”.

 Brenton Ford - Effortless Swimming 

 This is the most freedom I've felt wearing a wetsuit. The range of motion through the shoulders and across the chest feels as though I'm hardly wearing anything. The buoyancy is excellent, it's super comfortable, I'd recommend this suit to beginners through to elite swimmers and triathletes.  

Matt Hauser - Australian Olympic Triathlete 

I've been using the Gold Wetsuit for all my open water training and Triathlon Racing this year and absolutely love the feeling of it. It's a perfect mix between a snug fit with zero chafe and limited restriction in the upper body/neck. Super buoyant and gives an added confidence when attacking a race. Highly recommend it!

Grace Thek – Pro Triathlete

I have used many wetsuits over the past few years but nothing compares to the Great Ocean Gold Wetsuit. It feels like a second skin, provides buoyancy in all the right places, has great flexibility in the shoulder region & offers a well-balanced feel in the water! In my opinion, it’s the gold standard of wetsuits! 

 Kate Gillespie-Jones – Pro triathlete

Superb wetsuit! Feels great in the water from the first wear great balance of being tight but not restrictive! Buoyancy profile is perfect putting you in just the right position and helping with sighting. Quality is top notch haven't managed to nick the suit yet 👌

Andy Donaldson - World record holder ultra marathon swimmer 

I'm absolutely thrilled with my experience wearing Great Ocean Wetsuits' silver wetsuit! The fit was spot-on, providing both comfort and flexibility in the water, and it exudes a high-quality feel. I highly recommend it for swimmers and triathletes alike—it's a fantastic wetsuit!

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