Orca is an American company specializing in wetsuits for triathlon, open water swimming, free-diving, and lately, swimrun. The Orca Core is the first generation wetsuit for this company. Since its inception, Orca has developed newer models consisting of the RS1 Swim-Run and the Swim-Run Perform with more versatility, floatation, and storage. The Swimrun Core, however, is one of the most popular swimrun wetsuits you will encounter in the US circuit of swimrun. As this was our testers’ first swimrun wetsuit, it has been put through its paces with over 2 years of intense training and racing in cold, hot, rainy weather conditions and across a variety of terrain including: sea, alpine lake, technical trail, and rocky scrambles.
Disclaimer: Swimrun Labs did not receive any payment from Orca or its competitors to write this product review, and acquired the product through purchase at market value.
- Features: Front zip, small outer thigh pocket, removable sleeves, whistle
- Material: Yamamoto 38 & 39 neoprene, Hydrolite panels, Infinity Skin lining
- Color: Black with bright orange accents
- Weight: 20 oz. (dry), 30 oz. (wet)
- Sizes tested: women’s medium (also available in XS, S, L, and XL in both women’s and men’s sizing)
- Cost: $199 (plus tax) + FREE US shipping
- Fit: If this is the first time wearing a wetsuit designed specifically for swimrun, as it was the testers’, you will immediately notice the Orca Core wetsuit is light weight and flexible when compared to triathlon or open water swimming wetsuits. It’s neck line is also lower than other wetsuits, mitigating (not completely preventing) the all too well-known neck chafe.
- Sizing: One of our testers is a 5’6″, 137 lb. female, indicating a medium on the sizing chart. For the first year or so, this size was accurate; however, it has stretched out a little since (see Durability rating below).
- Aesthetics: The bright orange sleeves and side panels are great for visibility in the water.
- Perceived value to the swimrunner: While this wetsuit does not have all the fancy nuances of the newer generations or other swimrun-specific brands, it is one of the most affordable swimrun wetsuits out there.
Testing Results Breakdown
The Orca Core’s thin uniform neoprene makes this suit light-weight and cool on runs, preventing over exertion and over-heating. It also has an even thinner stretch layer between the thighs for running ease. However, because the neoprene is uniform throughout (versus strategic paneling as in NU’s Triton 2.0), runners have to push through neoprene at the hip crease with every stride they take, expending slightly more energy than required with other swimrun wetsuits. Also, where to stash gel, collapsible water bottle, mandatory race bandage, and spare goggles??? In a tiny side thigh pocket just big enough for a flip phone. Yes, plan on wearing NU’s Lapa bra or the NU Lapa Shirt for the pockets needed for your swimrun goodies.
The testers found this suit quite comfortable to swim in, noting good flexibility through the shoulders. However, the uniformity of neoprene thickness in this wetsuit provides minimal flotation, requiring most swimrunners to use a pull buoy for optimal body position in the water. That said, even being on the thinner side, it withstood water temps as low as 48 degrees F on a 250m swim and 55 degrees F on multiple 500-1000m swims (sleeves on). Also, in the first year of use of this wetsuit, the fit was perfect, preventing any water from entering the suit on swims. However, in the second year of training and racing, testers noted water flushing throughout the core and legs of the wetsuit, creating significant drag on the swims.
This wetsuit is one of the easier front zipper-only wetsuits to cab down due to its thin and flexible neoprene, Infinity Skin lining, and extended front zipper. One caveat to the extended front zipper is that it will extend below your race belt. This resulted in multiple run to swim transitions where testers were trying to zip up their wetsuits and getting caught on the race belt. This issue could be avoided with a well-designed race belt that does not ride up above the zipper as in the SWIMRUNNERS Pull Belt.
While this wetsuit is still in one piece after countless training sessions and 7 races over the past two years, we would have liked to see it in better condition at this point in its lifespan. Firstly, we had to repair two holes in the neoprene around the thigh due to friction from our pull buoy thigh attachment in transition. Also, as previously mentioned, while the tester’s size has not changed, the wetsuit has stretched out a bit, allowing water to flush through it on the swims. Overall, we can’t complain too much considering this wetsuit’s price point.
While there is quite a bit of room for improvement on this wetsuit and more sophisticated swimrun wetsuit options out there, the functionality and affordability of the Orca Core make this an excellent entry-level wetsuit, or an option if you’ve never done a swimrun and just want to see what all the hype is about. However, after a few seasons of training and racing, you may find your eye wandering to other models and brands out there.