Huub is the latest company to make a splash in the wetsuit market. This small start-up company is making some pretty big waves in the world of wetsuit design and innovation. The Huub team, assembled by Dean Jackson (formerly of blueseventy and QR) who brought together a group of people with backgrounds in not only the wetsuit business, but in swimming as well.
The Huub recipe for success was to combine experience, science, and research, oh yeah, and not to mention hire one of the most renowned swim scientists around, Huub Toussiant (yes that's where the name came from). They even enlisted the expertise of the guys from Swim Smooth in the design of their wetsuits. Hubb's path to wetsuit design is simple, if the data and research proves it makes a better, faster, wetsuit incorporate it...if not scrap it.
We've said it before and we'll probably say it again...begin researching wetsuits and you'll quickly find most high end wetsuits are actually quite similar especially with the outer skin that makes up the suit. If you have shopped for a wetsuit at all you have no doubt come across the Yamamoto name. This Japanese company produces the materials used in about 90% of the wetsuits worn in triathlon today, regardless of what brand is printed on the outside, there's a very strong likelihood that it's printed on Yamamoto rubber of some variety. Whether it's Yamamoto #39 or #40 or some combination, pretty much any quality suit utilizes the same outer skin.
So if that's the case then it really doesn't matter what suit you pick...Right? Well, not exactly, while some of the materials may be the same, the fit and performance of the suit vary greatly from one brand to the next. Rather than just stuffing yourself into a rubber suit and being forced to conform to it, the trend we're seeing in some of the new wetsuits that have come through the TriBomb shop is more about the suit conforming to the user, not just in the size department but in actually working with the swimmer to address and/or correct some of the most common issues faced by swimmers, and more specifically triathletes.
The Huub philosophy seems to be about making a suit that works with the swimmer, particularly the triathlete, who let's face it, generally is not the poster child for picture perfect swimming. Since the vast majority of triathletes (about 85%) do not come from a swimming background the Huub approach is to address some of the most common mistakes that are seen in those of us who are less than perfect in the swim stroke department.
It doesn't take long to see that the guys at Huub are hell bent on making a better, faster wetsuit. Huub is the kind of company we love to see come to the triathlon market...Why? They basically eat, sleep, and breathe wetsuit design. This kind of passion usually produces superior products and it allows the company to focus on doing one thing and doing it well. It also allows for the product to be more in tune with those who will actually use it.
Instead of focusing on hype or the latest marketing gimmick the guys at Huub are able to focus on what matters most, building a great wetsuit. For example, you won't see any gimmicky catch panels or other "aids" with this suit even though that seems to be the latest thing in the way of wetsuit hype. Huub's research showed no significant gain with the catch panels, and in fact some research suggests it may actually slow you down, so they simply abandoned the idea.
Huub has several wetsuit models available and they are as follows:
Archimedes - The full blown top end Huub suit, and one of the two suits featured in our First Look.
Aerious - The mid-level version, which incorporates many of the bells and whistles of the higher end Archimedes.
Aura - The Women's specific version, not just a men's suit with a pink or purple stripe, but a suit designed and specifically cut for a woman with buoyancy distributed to complement a woman's body.
Aegis - The entry level Huub suit.
Perhaps one of the coolest features that Huub has incorporated into their product line is to offer their suits in varying buoyancies. Both the Archimedes and the Aerious (the two top level models) are available in 3:5 and 4:4 configurations. The numbers, stamped right on the front of the suits, indicate the thickness of the upper vs the lower body panels.
Not only a cool idea, but a very functional one that allows the individual swimmer to get a more customized wetsuit based on the ability level of the athlete wearing the suit.
The 3:5 configuration has a 3mm upper body thickness and a 5mm lower body thickness to allow you to maximize the height for your hips and legs while swimming. This model is best suited for the athlete who has the typical inefficiencies that come with being a less experienced swimmer. If you suffer from sinky legs (no, not stanky leg, that's a dance) the 3:5 is the suit for you. The added buoyancy gives an extra boost for those who have trouble keeping the lower half of the body properly aligned. We can tell you from our brief testing that the added buoyancy of the 3:5 suit allowed our legs to be higher in the water than any suit we have tested to date.
The 4:4 configuration is designed for the more advanced swimmer who has an excellent overall body position. The 4:4 allows for an even distribution of buoyancy across the suit and allows for a more balanced approach for the more efficient among us.
We've had the pleasure of having a couple of the new suits here at TriBomb and we will do our best to cover the features of these highly anticipated wetsuits.
X-O Skeleton - The idea here is to try to eliminate the snaking motion that many age group athletes experience. Not only inefficient, but the added side to side motion creates tons of drag.
The X-O Skeleton is made up of more rigid and much less stretchy, but highly buoyant material (the gray areas of the suit are the X-O Skeleton). These sections wrap around the front of the suit and continue around to the back as well.
Built into the X-O Skeleton is a super buoyant material (NBR) which is commonly used in life jackets. This material allows the Huub suit to provide a crazy amount of lift and at the same time give the swimmer a bit more structure for more efficient swimming.
While most of the latest wetsuit world hype is about preaching all over flexibility, a few, Huub being one, have discovered that it's not just about flexibility, but flexibility in the right places. There's really no need for super flexible panels in this part of the suit. Huub found that by giving more structure and support in the core area of the suit the swimmer is able to maintain a much more straight and aligned position in the water.
Continuing the flexibility in the right places theme the Huub team incorporated areas of very thin very flexible material in key areas like in the lats and shoulders with panels as thin as 2mm to allow for great range of motion and stretch where it's needed most. You will also notice the Huub name proudly displayed like a superhero badge on the front of the chest.
While it does look cool, this area also adds a tremendous amount of pliability and stretch to this key area of the wetsuit.
This area allows the suit to stretch and move with your upper body while swimming and it provides a little breathing room, literally, allowing the suit to expand more easily as to not restrict your breathing.
At the top of this area is the very thin and comfortable collar section.
The back of the collar has a soft flap to ensure comfort.
A view with the flap closed.
Huub also incorporated an over-reach panel into the back of the wetsuit. The visible bulges either side of the zipper in the pictures below.
They found that up to 70% of swimmers cross over the center line while swimming. Their solution was to incorporate panels that restrict the crossover motion by actually pulling the arm straight with the suit.
Probably one of the first things that you notice when you see the Archimedes suit are the bright red panels that give the suit a Terminator look, but seem to be missing the familiar rubber coating that covers the rest of the suit.
The folks at Huub designed this area on purpose (no, it's not a clever way to save money on rubber) to help the swimmer be in a more natural position for the catch phase of the stroke.
Rather than having the typical restriction of a normal sleeve without the relief cutout, Huub designed a panel that allows the bicep to expand without restriction. The concept came from the folks at Swim Smooth and is aimed at reducing arm fatigue and allowing the athlete to have an improved bent elbow position for the catch phase of the stroke.
The view of the Bicep Release from the inside of the suit.
A closeup of the extremely thin and flexible calf panel.
Not just an easy way to remove the suit when T1 rolls around (even though it's a side benefit). These red sections that run from the calf down to the achilles are designed to relieve some of the pressure many swimmers experience in this area of a typical wetsuit.
Huub found that by making an extremely flexible section in this area of the suit it allowed for more freedom of movement, relief of cramping in that part of the leg, as well as allowing it to be a more kick friendly suit.
Inside view of the Calf Release.
Stay tuned for our final review of the Huub suits.