What is the Speedo Fastskin?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The Speedo® Fastskin™ was the original Speedo® swimsuit modeled after the skin of sharks. With advanced techniques, the swimsuits are meant to reduce drag in the water and increase speed. Although the original Fastskin® model is retired, the newer versions, FSII™ and Fastskin™ LZR Racer® are considered by many experts to be the most advanced professional swimwear in the world. By July 2008, more than 40 swimming records have been broken by swimmers using the Fastskin™ LZR Racer™.

The Speedo Fastskin was designed to mimic the skin of sharks.
The Speedo Fastskin was designed to mimic the skin of sharks.

In 2000, the original Speedo® Fastskin™ model was launched at the Sydney Olympics. Using sharkskin as a model, the Speedo® designers had created a bodysuit that mimicked the texture and efficiency of shark skin. At the Olympics that year, 83% of the swimming medals won were by swimmers wearing the suit.

Speedo® Fastskin™ is a swim suit brand worn by many professional swimmers.
Speedo® Fastskin™ is a swim suit brand worn by many professional swimmers.

For the Athens Olympics in 2004, a new Speedo® Fastskin™ suit was displayed: the FSII™, an upgraded version of the original. This model featured seams that would follow the direction of the water, reducing drag. The super-tight suit also had a more flexible thread than the original, allowing for greater range and ease of movement. Using a combination of the sharkskin like material and another fabric called flexskin, the swimsuit helps different parts of the body move through the water, actually allowing swimmers to swim faster. At the Athens Games, athletes wearing the FSII™ won 47 medals.

The newest version of the shark suit is stunning professional swimmers and spectators alike. Speedo® claims that the Fastskin™ LZR Racer™ improves performance dramatically reducing drag by 10% over the FSII™ and allowing for better oxygen efficiency and faster turns in the water. The suit was developed with the help of NASA and the Australian Institute of Sport and patented in Portugal, making it a truly multi-national development.

Not surprisingly, the use of advanced suits has raised considerable controversy in the world of professional swimming. Critics suggest that the suits give some swimmers a heavy advantage, especially over those who cannot easily afford them. To some, using the technology of the Speedo® Fastskin™ suits is similar to doping or using weighted equipment. Instead of relying on the athlete’s own strength, the swimsuit seems to do a lot of the work for them.

However, sports officials feel that the use of the suit is justifiable in competition. After complaints the International Swimming Federation, or FINA, ruled that the Speedo® Fastskin™ LZR Racer™ was acceptable for all international competitions. Rival companies quickly began turning out similar products in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The Speedo® Fastskin™ line has changed the world of professional swimming. By eliminating the natural drag of water on the body, swimmers shoot through the pool, achieving unbelievably fast speeds and new world records. If the technology continues to improve, swimming competitions may become more about the abilities of the suit rather than the swimmer. For now, be sure to catch a glimpse of the Fastskin™ LZR Racer™ at upcoming professional events, where it is certain to be a feature.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


@Rotergirl-- I completely agree with you. There are so many factors that play into winning a swimming competition. Swimwear is only one factor. Technique and practice are far more important.


@SarahGen-- There is no doubt that Speedo Fastskin provides and advantage in speed in competitions. How else could records be broken otherwise? Swimmers haven't gotten faster, their swimwear and equipment are improving their speed.

That being said, I agree that most professional swimmers have Fastskin swimwear. It is expensive, but not so expensive that a professional cannot afford it. In fact, they have become more affordable in the past several years.

At the end of the day, it's what the International Swimming Federation decides that counts. And they have decided that it is acceptable, so there is no point arguing about it.


How can it be argued that Speedo Fastskin swimwear does the work for swimmers? That is not very logical.

Good swimwear makes the swimmer's job a little bit easier but I highly doubt that it makes so much of a difference that it can be compared to doping. And I'm sure that most professional swimmers use this type of swimwear these days. So if there is an advantage, everyone has it.


@Rotergirl: I was thinking the same thing. I always watch the Olympics and love the swimming, and I have to wonder about the athletes who gripe about this kind of thing. Is it because they feel it's really detrimental to the sport, or is it just because they don't really, truly have the chops to compete in the top .5 percent? I think I would believe it more coming from a proven winner like Michael Phelps rather than a swimmer who never stood a chance to win a medal, anyway.


I remember when those suits were debuted. They caused quite a stir. I'm not a swimmer, so I really don't have a personal stake in whether these suits are used or not, but I do wonder if they can give an athlete an unfair advantage in a sport that is won or lost by fractions of a second.

I will say that the best suit in the world won't change an average swimmer into an elite swimmer, and no suit is going to get someone on the medal stand if they're in the world champion competition and can't hang with the top swimmers.

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