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Cold Water Surfing Tips

   December 1st, 2020   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Cold Water Surfing Tips

Getting into the freezing cold ocean is intimidating but with our quick guide it doesn’t have to be

Cold water surfing tips might sound like common sense, but there are small subtleties and tricks that I have used to keep myself warm on some early January sessions in Northern California that were pretty bone-chilling. And, that isn’t even all that extreme compared to the surfers that are paddling out while there is snow on the ground in British Columbia. Either way, these tips work so if you want to stay warm, listen up.

5mm Hooded Wetsuit or Above

This is one of the cold water surfing tips that is no exception. If you are paddling out in water and climate that is less than 50 degrees then you need a thick wetsuit that is 5mm or above with a hood to not literally freeze. Make sure the wetsuit fits properly and is not too tight or too loose.

Obviously, a loose wetsuit will let water in but a tight wetsuit at that thickness can really mess with your paddling. It can be compared paddling with a light exercise band and when you are in the cold water you need to conserve all the energy you can.

Gloves and Booties

Next on this list of cold water surfing tips is getting good quality pairs of gloves and booties. 5mm or above is recommended to maintain dexterity which your hands and feet start to lose immediately once you hit that cold water. I personally use 5mm booties and 5mm gloves as well. You can find a full selection here.

At first, the thickness of the gloves was a bit much but after using them often I really love the added warmth and have gotten used to not needing the extra dexterity. Make sure you are pulling your wetsuit over the velcro on your booties and gloves to make sure water isn’t getting inside.

cold water surfing tips - wetsuit wearhouse

Don’t Lose Your Stoke While Changing

One of my favorite cold water surfing tips is to avoid cold situations while suiting up. For me, that means putting the bottom half of my suit on inside my warm home and putting sweats on over that. I also wear 2 to 4 layers on top to make sure I am very warm.

I like the feeling of being hot before going into a cold session. Changing in the parking lot means stripping down in the cold weather which will drop your core temperature even after just a little exposure. It’s pretty easy to avoid by at least getting the bottom half done at home.

I also sometimes throw my booties on beforehand as well because the cold surface of the ground can make you chilly and uncomfortable. If you do you have to change in a parking lot try your best to stay in the car. If you can’t, I recommend bringing a towel to stand on so the ground is not so cold.

Get The Right Board

Once you are all decked out in your thick wetsuit, booties, and gloves, next in line in our cold water surfing tips is to make sure your board is ready to go. For surfing in winter, we recommend using a board with a little more volume than you would in the summertime.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Once all your gear is soaked with water you are going to weigh 12 to 17 pounds heavier so you will need a little more floatation.
  • A board with more volume is easier to paddle and this will be helpful because the thicker arms of a 5mm wetsuit will make it a little tougher.
  • A surfboard that has more volume will make it easier to pop-up which will be helpful because you might be a little less limber with all that gear.
  • A board with more volume is more versatile if the waves decide to get mushy or slow. Rapid weather shifts are much more common in the winter.

Before The Session

Another one of my cold water surfing tips is to do some calisthenics to get yourself moving before you get in the water. My go-to exercise to get my blood flowing is to do some jumping jacks right before I paddle out. I do 20 to 50 depending on how cold I am at that moment.

A light jog in the parking lot can also be effective but make sure you are not doing exercises that don’t push your muscles too hard because you will need them during the session. Try to make the exercises you do more about your lungs, heart, and blood flow.

During the Session

One way to stay warm once you have paddled out to the breakers is to stay active and keep catching waves. The longer you sit around doing nothing in the water, the faster you will get cold. Your session might be shorter, but it will be much warmer if you keep up a good pace of catching wave after wave and not allowing yourself to cool down.

If the waves are bad and you’re waiting for a long time between sets do some light paddling back and forth while you wait to keep the blood flowing to your limbs.

After The Session

Getting out of the water and out of your wetsuit can be the coldest part of the entire experience but there are ways to avoid the parts that really chill you down. One thing I like to do is just pull the top part of my suit off, line my car seat with towels, and wear the bottom half home with my booties still on. That way I can take it all off in a hot shower which is way nicer than a cold parking lot.

If you are going to be pulling everything off in the parking lot, one of the best cold water surfing tips is to bring a jug of warm water that you can splash on your hands, feet, and head to help warm them up while you pull everything off. Chances are you will need all the help you can get because your fingers will hardly work.

Other Cold Water Surfing Tips To Consider:

  • Eat a Good Meal: Making sure you are filled up is critical cause you will be burning a lot more calories than in summer because your body will be using fuel to keep you warm.
  • Eat Foods That Promote Warmth: Certain root vegetables and starches can actually help your body maintain heat. Read up and prepare something before you go.
  • Don’t Go Alone: This should be a rule you should follow during all your surf sessions but it especially important in very cold situations because currents and swells can be much more unpredictable.

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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One Comment

  • How do you loosen the glue holding the zipper in place on the wet suit. Have removed the stitching and have the new zipper but don’t want to tear the suit by pulling on the glue. Is there a way to loosen the glue? Heat? Solvent?

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