Image: Seasick Threads

Unfortunately it looks like we’re all somewhat stuck local this year. Ordinarily this is the time we’d all be thinking about escaping the cold and getting tropical but I guess we’ll have to park those urges for the time being. On the bright side – the swell has been pretty consistent. With plenty of stuff to get amongst locally, here are some great ways to take the edge off and take full advantage of what’s on offer this winter.

Surfing at Gentleman’s / Gentlewomen’s hours

No need to get up and at it early – colder weather generally means less sea breezes and therefore less need to surf at the break of dawn each day. In winter I employ what I call “gentleman’s” or “gentlewoman’s hours”.  This means that I don’t really hit the water until after 9am unless something like a wind change or tide makes it unavoidable. Early surfs in the cold tend to get frustrating – not really feeling warmed up or “on it”, sub 10 degree air temperatures. If the wind isn’t going to change, or tide going to spoil it, why not hit it later in the day? Finish your coffee, sleep in and get at it when you are ready – there’s no rush.

Poncho Towels

One of the biggest assets you can have come winter time – these really do make changing in and out of your suit a much more pleasant experience. Protection from cold air and cold winds – one less thing to procrastinate over. Grab one of these and it will make that heated car into wetsuit into water transition so much easier.

Boots Gloves Hoods

Cover everything you can! As a general rule, if people are still feeling the cold (while wearing a good winter wetsuit) they then tend to grab boots first, a hood second and if still chilly, maybe some gloves third. With quite a large variety of these products out there, I thought I’d take this opportunity to run you through the difference of each. You can then pick the right one for your needs.

Boots

Boots can really be lumped into two major categories:

  • Constructed styles (which are more shoe like)
  • or Sock styles

Constructed styles are the toughest wearing boots. They have a rubber sole that give you better protection against rocks/reef. This sole generally has better grip than bare feet too. These boots will last the longest but may take a little getting used to. You do tend to lose a little board feel with these as well.

Make Winter Bearable - Sock Style Boots Patagonia

Sock styles are the closest thing you will get to not wearing boots at all (while keeping your feet warm). For those of you who are used to surfing in warmer waters (or really hate the feel of wearing more constructed styles) these are the boots for you. These provide great board feel but are more susceptible to wear and tear.

Like wetsuits, boots come in variety of thicknesses, with different methods of sealing their seams and some with thermal linings as well. Again like wetsuits, the more you feel the cold – the thicker, better sealed and thermally lined you should go for.

Hoods

Hoods come in 3 main styles:

  • Caps
  • Hoods and
  • Tuck-in Hoods (with double neck flaps)

Caps are a bit like wearing a beanie – they do keep your head and ears warm/protected but leave your neck exposed to the elements.  Caps are the least claustrophobic option of all the different styles of hoods.

Make Winter Bearable - Xcel Hood

Hoods give you good coverage of head, ears and neck.  They are not as restrictive or closed-in as the tuck-in double flap style. As they sit over the collar of your wetsuit, water can still flush through them during wipe-outs.

Make Winter Bearable - Tuck In Hoods Double neck flap

Tuck-in Hoods – these are the warmest option of all hoods.  The double flap tuck-in design (one flap that tucks into the neck & one flap that sits over the neck of your wetsuit) means that there is minimal water flushing (if any at all). Full coverage of your head excluding a portion of the face, provides maximum protection from the cold wind and water.  Grab one of these and even the nastiest southerly buster is bearable.

Gloves

Gloves tend to be the last option people go for after boots and a hood. Although if your hands do particularly react to the cold, you might want to consider them sooner.  If you feel the cold a lot then they are well worth the investment.

Like wetsuits, gloves come in variety of thicknesses and some with thermal linings as well. So the more you feel the cold – the thicker, better sealed and thermally lined you should grab.

Second Wetsuit

For those that are serious about their winter surfing and can afford it, having a second winter wetsuit is a real luxury .  Not only does it mean that you mostly have a dry wetsuit to put on each session. Each suit you own isn’t subject to as much wear and tear through constant use. 

My general rule is to buy a new 4/3 every second seasonThe newer suit is always used in the mornings (when it’s coldest) while the older one is used in the milder afternoons.  Having a second suit leaves less excuses for getting in the water. As a result you end up clocking up a lot more water time over the colder months as a result.