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December 15th, 2016
Posted In: Articles, How-To
Whenever I post a winter surfing photo on social media the responses are usually “You’re crazy!” or “It’s too cold!” Some of these responses come from friends who have never set foot on a surfboard let alone on a beach in December so they get a pass, but when it comes from someone who calls themselves a surfer, I scratch my head.
As I’ve said before, there is no logical reason to skip the cold water months. If you are surfing only in the warmer seasons you are totally blowing it. Simply stated, winter surfing means perfect surf and minimal crowds because all of the trendy summer surfers have gone snowboarding. Sure it’s cold but the modern wetsuit is lighter, warmer, fits better and as a result, makes winter surfing really comfortable and fun. The modern wetsuit is so warm that I’ve found myself sweating in the lineup during the harshest of winters. With wetsuit technology exploding with new ideas every year there is simply no excuse to miss the best time of year for surf.
But I’m not going to bullshit you, the elements in winter can be tough for the unprepared so if you’re planning on winter surfing (and you should because it’s fun) you’re gonna need to be ready so I’ve created a list for you. See below:
Get Good Gear!
I’ll be blunt, being cold sucks, so when it comes to buying a wetsuit, remember this mantra:
COLD IS BAD. WARM IS GOOD.
Wetsuit technology is fantastic and affordable so get yourself into the warmest wetsuit available and don’t skimp on the extras. If you live in a place where the water gets below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) it only takes a few minutes for your session to turn from fun to freezing so get yourself a hooded wetsuit. During the coldest months from December to April I wear a hooded, blindstitched 5mm wetsuit with all the bells and whistles because the water temps drop into the mid 30’s. Here in the Northeast we often have to walk through snow to get to the ocean but because I have invested in good gear I’m warm and toasty. When it comes to boots and gloves for winters in this region I like 7mm round toe boots and 7mm mittens.
Pro Tip: Three and 5 finger gloves don’t really keep your hands as warm during the coldest months so I recommend mittens because they keep your fingers together and therefore warmer.
Pro Tip: Thick boots and gloves are difficult to get on and off so I recommend a little water-based liquid soap, just on the inside at the mouth of the opening. This makes it 100% easier to get on and off, especially when they are a little wet. Don’t put in too much because your hands and feet will slip around inside and be sure to rinse them out thoroughly with cool water because soap acts like a drying agent.
Take Care of your Equipment
So you’ve invested in the best wetsuit and accessories available so don’t leave it in the trunk of the car or in the bottom of the bathtub. Immediately after surfing rinse it thoroughly with cool, fresh water then hang it inside-out in a place where it will get lots of air. Pro Tip: Don’t hang it by the shoulders on the hanger because it’s stretches out the suit and damages the seams, particularly around the shoulders. I hang my suits in half over a bar or a thick hanger and let it drip dry. Keep your wetty out of the sun and away from heat sources or you’ll dry out the neoprene and ruin the seams.
Pro Tip: Because I will be in the water with clients as often as three times a day, I have a trick that I use to speed the drying time of my wetsuit. Immediately after rinsing I place it carefully at the bottom of my washing machine and use the SPIN ONLY setting. Centrifugal force will spin 90% of the water out of the suit. To further quicken the drying process I hang the suit near a fan and a dehumidifier and voila! In less than an hour I have a dry to suit to put on. Don’t forget to turn it logo-side out after the inside of the suit dries. I also have a boot and glove drier that skiers use and it works great.
Remember your wetsuit and accessories are the only things from protecting you from the elements so take the time to care for them.
The immediate concern when winter surfing is staying warm before, during and after your session and this takes a little preparation. Planning ahead. If the forecast calls for epic surf the following day I pack my gear the day before. This includes:
Don’t change outside
The Kook of the Day Instagram page is full of surfers in their wetsuits in weird places. Call me a kook but in the winter I put my wetsuit on and take it off in my house because changing outside is just a another way to get hypothermia. I drive to and from the beach in my wetsuit. I stop and get coffee at 7-11 in my wetsuit. No compromises on this one. I’d rather drive 20 miles in a warm wetsuit then spend 10 minutes struggling out of it in the cold. If you can’t change at home then find a place with a public restroom and change there. Another option is your gym because they usually have hot showers.
The Pros and Cons of Peeing in Your Wetsuit:
Let’s face the facts, we all pee in our wetsuits. Urinating in your wetsuit sounds gross but feels amazing, and after 2 cups of coffee and a bottle of water it’s inevitable but there are some things you should know:
*Rinsing your wetsuit thoroughly will prevent this from become an issue.
I hope this helps and I hope to see you in the water doing some winter surfing.
Coach Robbie Nelson,
*Editor’s Note: Robbie does not endorse the following suggestions. These are suggestions from Wetsuit Wearhouse, not Robbie* For getting into and out of your wetsuit boots, Wetsuit Wearhouse recommends wetsuit socks from WETSOX. For shampooing any odors away, we suggest using wetsuit shampoo like MiraZyme to eliminate that nasty odor. And lastly, wash your suit with a Rinse Hanger for an easier and simpler experience.
What about a drysuit instead?
Drysuits are mostly for sports where there is little water contact, like kayaking or wakeboarding. The loose baggy fit of a drysuit won’t give you the speed and agility you need for surfing. Plus, the extra material will create a lot of drag. Not to mention if the drysuit fails, it could fill with water and become a safety hazard. Hope that helps! Thanks!
Bob, I have to agree with Lauren. Plus the moment you get into the water your bladder will betray you and peeing in a drysuit is gnarly. Plus I have found that wetsuits are way more comfortable, especially the Xcel Drylock and the new Rip Curl winter suits are amazing.
See you in the water,
Robbie Nelson, Lead Coach
My surfing advice. Do what Robbie say. He da man.
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