Surfing in winter ?
Are you mad? Well, no, not at all. You can go surfing when the air temperature is below zero but 10°C in the water! You just need to be motivated and make sure you’ve got the right gear! The good thing about going into the sea in these conditions is you know you’ll have lots of room and the waves are tailor-made for a great surfing experience. However, you need to plan ahead a bit which is why we’re going to look at the key points to ensure you have a great time.
Before the session
First things first: be honest with yourself about your level of fitness and whether you’ll be able to cope with the conditions. If you’ve got a cold or feel a sore throat coming on, then think seriously whether it’s a good idea surfing in the cold as even though you’ll have a lot of fun at the time you may well feel a lot worse as a result afterwards.
So, you’re up for it! Great! Surfing in winter is, above all, a question of mind over matter. Your willpower is stronger than preconceived ideas. And, up to a certain point it’s never too cold – just make sure you’re properly prepared for the initial cold feel of the water and your gear will look after the rest.
Well, you’ve got to the car park… that’s a good sign as you didn’t decide to turn back and go home! Out of the car to go and check out the waves; the conditions are great in December even though it’s only 2°C out of the water and just six more in it. You can start getting ready.
Two solutions: getting changed in your car where it’s warm but it’s a bit of a challenge given the lack of room. Or go for the bolder “getting changed on the car park” option.
For the second solution you’ll need a mat, otherwise your feet will get cold very quickly and the ground can be really penetrating. Your poncho will protect you from the worst of the cold while you’re putting on your neoprene suit (and will cover your bare body).
Worth knowing: the technology of modern suits now enables surfers to feel comfortable when surfing in winter. Make sure you choose a fairly thick suit (generally speaking 5/4/3mm) that will cope with the water temperature in the spot where you go surfing.
If you’re still cold with that, then double up with a 0.5 mm neoprene top or wear a fleece under your suit that will be in direct contact with your skin.
Make sure the most vulnerable parts of your body are properly protected from the cold by wearing gloves, boots and a neoprene balaclava.
Tip: if you go surfing on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to use earplugs to prevent any risk of surfer’s ear, a condition that can develop after many years of doing the sport.
Even in winter you must use sun lotion if the weather is fine; you skin is no longer used to the sun so make sure you put some on your face.
Use winter wax to round things off and ensure excellent grip on your board.
Of course, before setting off, you’ve made a list of everything you need to take with you and, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T FORGET:
- neoprene wetsuit
- boots (it’s a good idea to take two)
- gloves (two as well)
- Neoprene top or fleece
- sun cream (seriously!)
- Winter wax (depending on the temperature of the water)
And…don’t forget your surfboard(s)!
During the session
You’re ready to go now. But don’t forget to warm up and get your muscles ready before going into the sea. Neoprene provides excellent thermal properties enabling you to keep warm.
As soon as you get into the water you’ll feel very cold and when you put your head under the water the first few times you may feel a bit dazed, but don’t worry – your brain won’t freeze up and your body will get used to the temperature of the water. As a general rule, you’ll get used to the cold after ten minutes or so.
If this feeling carries on and you start seeing stars, stay close to the edge and don’t hesitate to go back to the beach if you don’t feel well. Your body will only take a few more minutes to get used to it.
That’s why it’s highly recommended to surf in a group so you can keep an eye on each other (this is also advisable when surfing in summer).
Listen to your body while you’re surfing and don’t overdo it; even if your session only lasts 45 minutes it’s still worthwhile.
Word of warning: Keep an eye on nightfall when surfing in winter – it can get dark very quickly and earlier than you expect.
After the session
You’re rightly proud of yourself after braving the winter waves! But you haven’t finished it yet! You’ve got to get changed again:
Handy tip: make sure you’ve got a bottle of hot water in the car. It will warm up your hands and feet that you might otherwise not be able to feel anymore! It’s better to avoid them going numb.
Get well covered as quickly as possible (fleece, windproof jacket, thick socks, etc.). Dry your hair completely and put on a bonnet or a hood to limit heat loss from your head.
Last but not least, a thermos of coffee, tea or hot chocolate (share it with the group)! This will warm you all up while you chat about your winter surfing experience!