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8 best sporty swimsuits perfect for surfing, swimming and triathlons

Whether you’re at the pool, beach or lake, these sporty swimming costumes are sure to make a splash

Amy Sedghi
Tuesday 06 June 2023 12:50 BST
We took to the water to give these a trial run
We took to the water to give these a trial run (iStock/The Independent)
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Style, affordability and performance are all non-negotiable when it comes to choosing a decent swimsuit, but if you’re considering a sports-related cossie, you’ll want to demand even more from your final pick – it can’t just look good for sitting around the side of the pool, after all. It needs to deliver during intense movement and over prolonged periods of activity.

You might be an avid swimmer, paddleboarding pro or perhaps dipping a toe in triathlon or heading out for a surfing session once the weather warms, but whatever your watersport of choice, there’s a whole host of swimsuits out there that are perfect for your next session in the pool. But what should you consider when tracking down the right suit for you?

First thing’s first: think about what you need the swimming costume for. Sure, you can snap up a classic swimming costume that you can do it all in but for utmost comfort and satisfaction, it’s worth paying attention to the details which will make that swimsuit the best option for your objective.

You should also consider the environment you’ll be swimming in: do you need something to keep you warm out in the cold lakes or chilly British sea? Or will you be doing lengths in a nice, toasty indoor pool?

There are also options when it comes to materials. More and more brands are looking to recycled materials to craft their swimwear from, while others are exploring more sustainable and environmentally friendly options, such as yulex rather than neoprene in surf-related pieces.

In a bid to find the best sporty swimming costumes for a variety of activities, we tried on a range of cossies and got into the water, all the while thinking about the quality, design, coverage, support and comfort of each option.

How we tested

To really put these swimsuits through their paces, we took to the water and spent time doing all manner of water sports that came our way. Indoor pools, lidos, lakes and the sea: we’ve dipped in them all and assessed how the swimming costumes have fared during exercise and also post-activity.

As is the case with any item of activewear, it is crucial that the product washes well and the fabric, stitching and any fastenings don’t easily deteriorate, so we kept an eye on this too. Plus, style, affordability and any technical innovations were taken into consideration. Here’s our pick of the bunch.

The best women’s sporty swimsuits for 2023 are:

  • Best sporty swimsuit overall – Zone 3 women’s strap back swimsuit: £37, Zone3.com
  • Best for surfing – Finisterre nieuwland 2e yulex long sleeve swimsuit: £150, Finisterre.com
  • Best for training – Dhb Aeron women’s swimsuit: £38.50, Wiggle.co.uk
  • Best budget option – Nabaiji women’s one-piece swimsuit kamyie+: £17.99, Decathlon.co.uk
  • Best luxury option – Stay Wild Swim odyssey one piece: £170, Shopstaywildswim.com

Zone 3 women’s strap back swim suit

Zone 3.jpg
  • Best: Overall
  • Sizing: EU 28 - 40 (UK 4 - 16)

Designed to bear the demands of day-to-day training, this swimsuit by award-winning triathlon and swimming brand Zone 3, is a true staple that deserves to be in the kit bag of any keen swimmer.

The fit is comfortable while feeling snug in the best possible way and the cut of the suit allows for movement while still providing a good level of coverage. Single bound straps that cross over the back help create a supportive fit across the chest and we liked that the open back didn’t scoop down too low.

It also has a double lined inner and is created from 100 per cent chlorine-resistant fabric with 50+ UV sun protection. Zone 3’s mix of fabrics used in the swimming costume are designed to have excellent shape retention, be breathable and fast drying – all great qualities for the constant demands of activewear both during exercise and afterwards in the washing machine.

We loved the balance the swimming costume struck between comfort, coverage and performance. It was one that we found we reached for time and time again for both pool and outdoor swims. The print – one of four designs available is also vibrant and cheerful without being too gaudy.

  1. £37 from Zone3.com
Prices may vary
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Ellesse Lilly swimsuit

Ellesse.jpg
  • Best: For a retro vibe
  • Sizing: UK6-UK16

Italian sportswear brand, Ellesse have got the retro vibes down with this swimsuit. The high rise cut of the swimsuit, combined with the bold logo emblazoned across the front of the costume feels like a real throwback. With Nineties-style being on trend, we think this will really appeal to some, though others might not be so enamoured with it.

We personally fell into the former camp though and thought it had a cool vibe to it. However, we did find the low back and high rise cut a little distracting when exercising. Padded cups were good though for extra chest support and despite the cut being a little too revealing for our personal preference, we did find the fabric soft and comfortable.

For days when you’re going for a gentle splash, this is a fun option. It’s not to say you can’t easily do lengths in it, but compared to some of the others we tested, it did lack in technicality and sports performance design.

  1. £30 from Ellesse.com
Prices may vary
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Finisterre nieuwland 2e yulex long sleeve swimsuit

3.jpg
  • Best: For surfing
  • Sizing: UK6-16

Although this option from B-Corp brand Finisterre is suitable for both swimming and surfing, it was our go to when hitting the waves on a board. The long-sleeved swimsuit is built with yulex natural rubber, which produces up to 80 per cent less carbon dioxide than using traditional neoprene. It’s a fabric that eco-conscious Finisterre have committed to using since 2021 in its bid to produce more sustainable wetsuits.

Flatlocked seams, specialised zig-zag stitching, a zip guard and ergonomic panelling makes for a performance focused piece that allows for maximum movement without any chafing, rubbing or slippage. And thanks to the suit’s 2mm thickness, it helps keep you warm in slightly chillier waters. As well as being suitable for spring and early summer, we could also see ourselves making use of this costume during cold water swims in winter at the local lido. It’s also possible to layer up with a swimsuit or bikini underneath.

The swim suit comes in black and also an ink blue and coral colourway, which we thought looked especially chic. In fact, the design and style of this suit really stood out and was a piece we were excited to wear.

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Dhb Aeron women’s swimsuit

dhb.jpg
  • Best: For training
  • Sizing: UK8-UK16

Designed for a second-skin fit, the Dhb Aeron women’s swimsuit has a compressive fit; in other words, it’s pretty damn tight, it but should make you more aero in the water thanks to its streamlined design. The swimsuit, available in black or green is made from a recycled nylon fabric that is highly chlorine resistant with 50+ UV sun protection. And it’s also resistant to sun cream and oil.

We liked the performance orientated details on this swimsuit, such as the silicone printed hems, which stop them sliding up or down, plus the flatlocked seams to avoid any rubbing. Cleverly, Dhb have even positioned the side seams in a specific way to help reduce drag in the water.

Despite the tightness of the swimsuit, it still allows for good coverage thanks to lined front and back panels. This suit has been created to provide a swimming experience that’s unencumbered by restrictive material or straps and fabric that rolls up – we can attest to the success of this. For a no fuss, sleek swimsuit to get your swim training in down at the pool, it does the job very well and for a very reasonable price given its technical details.

  1. £38 from Wiggle.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Nabaiji women’s one-piece swimsuit kamyie+

Nabaiji.jpg
  • Best: Budget option
  • Sizing: UK6-UK18

Made from a highly chlorine-resistant material, this budget-friendly swimsuit features an inner lining made from 100 per cent recycled polyester. It may not be as luxe as some of the other options we tried, but for the price, we thought the design and style of it did the job.

Wide straps and a V-shaped back help with stability of the swimsuit, so you’re not having to constantly readjust, while the three colourways on offer veered towards understated rather than loud. It’s worth noting however, that the sizing can come up quite small, so it might be worth going up a size if you’re unsure.

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Stay Wild Swim the odyssey one piece

Stay Wild.jpg
  • Best: Luxury option
  • Sizing: UK6-UK18

Created by environmentally conscious influencers, Natalie Glaze and Zanna Van Dijk, Stay Wild Swim is a premium swimwear brand that makes some of the most stylish one and two pieces using regenerated ocean plastic. As well as being sustainably minded, the brand has long made great efforts to use a range of diverse body shapes in its marketing, which we highly approve of. Stay Wild Swim also offer free alterations on its pieces to anyone who has a prosthetic limb or any other physical disability and the option to sew in pockets for anyone recovering from breast cancer surgery.

We love the company’s slow fashion ethos and its carefully edited collection, which comprises three one-piece styles and a selection of mix and match bikini tops and bottoms. Our favourite of the swimsuits has to be the odyssey one-piece for its striking design, luxe look and flattering fit.

Of course, as well as looking good, the product excels in the water too. The coloured panels create a sculpting effect and the material hugs in a way that feels pleasant and supportive. Its raised neckline and zipper are also nice details, that didn’t rub or chafe.

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Youswim aplomb one-piece

You.jpg
  • Best: For pregnancy
  • Sizing: One size that fits UK6-UK18

Ethically woven, dyed, cut and sewn in England, You Swim is a brand on a mission to create swimsuits that adapt to a body’s natural state of flux. It’s “on a mission to turn the tide on standard, inflexible sizing.” It’s no surprise then that the ribbed and seamless stretchy one-pieces have been so readily embraced by those going through pregnancy. The magic of this piece is that it’s suitable for anyone. It comes in one size, which can stretch to encompass seven sizes that are the equivalent of a UK6 to UK18.

You Swim has three swimsuit shapes in its collection, but the aplomb option has the most coverage and a classic shape. These cozzies also come in a range of 14 different colours, from muted shades to vibrant hues. At £126, they aren’t cheap, but then again, they’re not designed to be. These truly are an investment piece that’ll stay with you however your body shape changes, which we love.

  1. £126 from Youswim.com
Prices may vary
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Batoko seal swimsuit

Batoko.jpg
  • Best: Eco-friendly option
  • Sizing: XS-3XL

A small independent swimwear brand based on the north west coast of England, Batoko’s swimsuits are consciously produced in small batches. They’re also made from recycled plastic waste that’s been intercepted before heading for landfill.

This fully lined swimsuit has a scooped back and feels pretty supportive across the chest. If a high-rise cut isn’t your cup of tea, then you may well love the shape of this cossie. It was one of our favourites for a wild swim or when at the beach.

We love the bold and fun animal and nature inspired prints. Highlights include a pink and red lobster cossie, a cute puffin design and a very cool narwhal illustration, but our favourite is the seal swimsuit. Having teamed up with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a portion of the proceeds from each seal swimsuit sale goes towards helping rescue and rehabilitate grey seal pups.

  1. £60 from Batoko.com
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Sporty swimsuits

For an all-rounder that hits the mark on performance, durability, comfort, style and affordability, you wouldn’t be disappointed with the Zone 3 women’s strap back swimsuit. A staple item that delivers across all our key considerations, the cossie is one that we’ll fling in our swim bag time and time again, whether it’s to go to the pool, hit the beach or paddle in a lake.

We were also impressed with Batoko’s seal swimsuit, thanks to its playful design and feel. The brand is also worth highlighting for its passion about the environment and our oceans. Buying a swimming costume from them seems like a win-win.

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