Surfing in cold water doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, or something to avoid.
In fact with the right gear, and the right knowhow, it’s something you can embrace wholeheartedly.
There’s a whole world of surfing out there that you’re missing if you don’t embrace cold water surfing, so buckle up, harden up, and get ready to tackle it head on…
HOW COLD IS TOO COLD FOR SURF?
There is no ‘too cold to surf’, only not good enough, or not thick enough wetsuits.
You see, neoprene is damn effective at keeping you warm in cold water, you’ve just got to have a wetsuit that’s thick enough to handle it.
Wetsuit technology now allows people to surf even in arctic conditions, so there really are no excuses.
IS IT SAFE TO SURF IN COLD WATER?
It’s safe to surf in cold water, so long as you have the right equipment to handle it.
Just arm yourself with a top quality, fit for purpose wetsuit and you’ll be sweet.
10 TIPS FOR SURFING IN COLD WATER
1. DON’T THINK YOURSELF COLD
The biggest mistake people make surfing in cold water is they ‘think’ themselves cold.
They think themselves cold before they’ve even stepped foot in the water.
This is not cool, and doesn’t need to be the case.
Thinking yourself cold is usually the result of surfing in poor equipment, which has the knock on effect of creating a psychological barrier to getting in the water.
This is the worst thing you can do for your surfing, so don’t let bad equipment allow the rot to set in.
2. RUBBER UP
Don’t be a martyr.
There’s no need to surf in cold water in a wetsuit that’s not fit for purpose.
I mean there’s a time and a place for flexibility, but it should never come at the cost of warmth.
So if in doubt, add an extra milimeter of neoprene when needed, the tiny bit of extra thickness will impact your surfing far less than staying out of the water entirely.
Cold water is not the time for your best ever surfing, instead, just enjoy where you’re at, and make the most of being in the water.
3. SEAMS MATTER
It’s not just enough to get a thicker wetsuit to surf in cold water, you’ve really got to get a wetsuit with good seams too.
Here’s what I mean.
Wetsuit seams make all the difference when it comes to keeping you warm in cold water, in fact, they mean everything.
A thick wetsuit with crap seams, will underperform a thinner wetsuit with excellent seams - every time.
If you want to be warm surfing in cold water, get the absolute best seams your budget will allow.
4. BOOTIES: BUY THICK
If you’re surfing in water cold enough for wetsuit boots, here’s my recommendation - buy thick.
Let me explain.
Wetsuit boots come in different thicknesses from (2mm up to 7mm) for different temperature waters, and there’s a tendency to opt for thinner boots in the hope of more flexibility.
But, this thinking is kinda whack, as your feet don’t need flexibility, they need feel.
Feel = connection to board.
Wearing boots of any thickness is going to impact this massively, and an extra mm thickness here or there changes that little, so go air on the thicker side and keep yourself toasty warm.
5. WAX UP FOR THE TEMP
Did you know that wax comes in different compositions, fit for different temperature waters?
Well, it does.
Wax for surfing cold water is softer in its composition, making it more tacky and sticky even when it’s freezing.
Using the wrong wax will have you slipping all over the place.
So be sure to wax up for the temperature you're surfing.
Just ask your local surf shop for the right temperature wax and they’ll sort you out.
6. OVER COMMIT TO DRYING YOUR WETSUIT
The last thing you want when surfing in cold water is a soaking wet wetsuit.
Trust me, from experience, this sucks.
I know it’s a hassle, I know it’s freezing cold, and I know the last thing you can think of doing is going out of your way to dry a soaking wetsuit.
But take my word for it, your future self will thank you for it I promise.
7. SUIT UP AT HOME
If the water is icy cold, and the wind is blowing a gale, why not suit up at home before you hit the surf.
Doing this is good for a couple of reasons.
- It forces you to get in the surf no matter how bad it is when you get there.
- It’s way warmer, and with a bit of car heater action on the way to the surf you’ll be toasty warm by the time you get there.
8. SURF TO SHOWER
If you own a car that’s not too precious, don’t worry about changing at the beach, this’ll just get you even colder and start generating a negative connotation to surfing in cold water.
Instead, chuck a towel on your seat, fang it home, and jump straight in the shower.
Ahhh, warm water.
It’s worth it, I guarantee.
9. ICE CREAM HEAD - GO THROUGH THE PAIN
If you surf in cold water, you WILL get an ice-cream headache.
It kinda comes with the territory.
But here’s the thing, that initial excruciating pain subsides with time, so don’t give up, you just have to acclimatise.
Granted that’s easier said than done, but the initial pain will subside, so much so that after about ten minutes you’re able to duck dive multiple waves without so much as a flinch.
10. DON’T SIT AROUND, GET BUSY
The last thing you want to be doing surfing in freezing water is to sit around all day, waiting for that one magical wave.
By the time it comes you’ll be frozen rock solid.
Instead you’ve got to keep busy, keep paddling, keep catching waves, and keep yourself warm.
Surfing in cold water has its barriers don’t get me wrong, but they can all be overcome with good equipment, good mindset, and good strategy.
So don’t be one of those lame-ass fair weather surfers that only surf in the summer, get out there and commit to surfing through the winter too.
You’ll feel all the better for it.