High-technology swimwear fabric
High-technology swimwear fabrics are scientifically advanced materials used for swimwear in competitive water sports such as swimming and triathlon. Materials of this type are normally spandex and nylon composite fabrics with features to reduce drag against the water. The fabrics include features that increase the swimmer's glide through the water (said to mimic marine animal skin) and reduce the absorption of water by the suit as opposed to regular swimsuits.
Some companies claim that their fabrics reduce drag even more than the water's normal friction against the skin. To do this, they design high-end lines of competitive swimwear that cover the arms and legs.
More than 130 swimming world records were broken from 2008 through 2009 by the use of these high-tech swimsuits. However, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) unanimously voted to ban the use of these suits in official competition beginning in 2010. The banned suits were polyurethane based, and guidelines as of 2015 simply require that suits "Be permeable to water, contain no metal, rubber or polyurethane" as well as coverage requirements which ban the use of neck-to-ankle suits for both men's and women's competition.
High-tech fabric lines by swimwear manufacturer:
- Speedo – Aquablade, Fastskin, Fastskin 2, Fastskin PRO, LZR Racer and Fastskin 3
- Nike – LiftSuit
- Diana – Submarine
- Arena – Powerskin ST, Powerskin XP and Powerskin R-EVO, Arena X-Glide
- Adidas – JetConcept, Hydrofoil
- TYR – Fusion, Aquapel, Aquashift, Tracer and AP12
- Jaked – 01
Whether high-tech fabric lines such as these give substantial advantages to swimmers is heavily debated. For example, Speedo claims their lineup will increase one's swimming speed by 3–7%. Their most popular suit, the Fastskin, was worn by most Olympic swimmers and increased speed by reducing drag by up to 4%. It is meant to resemble shark's skin; therefore, it has tiny triangular projections that point backward so that the water spirals off the athlete's body. A 2000 study, by Joel Stager of Indiana University's Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming, reportedly found an increase of only 0.34%. Most of the manufacturers counter with their own studies though touting the advantages of their own individual lines overall and against their competitors.
The materials are sometimes very expensive ($300–$600 US for a full suit), limiting their use to highly competitive and professional levels of the sport. However, in recent years with the advance of technology the most basic 'high-technology swimwear' can be purchased for approximately $100.
Prior to the start of the ban of the high-tech super-slick swimsuits at the beginning of 2010, over 130 world records had already been beaten using the high-tech fabrics. Nearly every medal winner at the 2008 Summer Olympics made use of the high-tech swimwear, which was seen as the catalyst behind the "technological arms race" in professional swimming competitions including the 2009 World Championships. World Champion American swimmer Aaron Peirsol, who swam two world record times at the 2009 World Championships, jokingly said, "A lot of us are joking that this might be the fastest we ever go, we might as well enjoy this (2009) year". Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times suggested that the world records set with the use of the high-tech suits be "accompanied by an asterisk".
- Crouse, Karen (July 24, 2009) Swimming Bans High-Tech Suits, Ending an Era. New York Times
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- Arena International. "Arena Powerskin (official website)".
- "FINA Opts To Ban All High-Tech Swimsuits in Unanimous Vote". Washingtonpost.com. 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2014-05-19.
- Elliott, Helene (July 28, 2009). "Suits making a mockery of swimming championships". Los Angeles Times.