Where I live in Western Australia, we happen to get our best swell in the winter months. As a cold-water winter surfer, I know firsthand how important it is to know how to stay warm when surfing in cold water in order to enjoy the waves. Cold temperatures can quickly sap your energy and make it difficult to perform at your best. With that in mind, I’d like to share some tips on how to stay warm while surfing in cold water.
One of the key elements to staying warm during those frosty surf sessions is paying close attention to how we protect our extremities, like our hands and feet. These body parts are typically more exposed to the elements, and as a result, they require some special consideration. In the next sections, I’ll be discussing the different ways to keep your hands and feet warm while riding those chilly swells.
What Do Surfers Do to Stay Warm in Winter
Wetsuits and Accessories
When I surf winter swells in cold water, I make sure to wear a good quality wetsuit with the appropriate thickness to keep my body warm. Thick neoprene wetsuits, especially hooded ones, provide extra insulation against the cold. I also wear essential wetsuit accessories like gloves, booties, and earplugs to protect my extremities and prevent heat loss. Gloves and booties keep my hands and feet warm, while hooded wetsuits and earplugs protect me from cold water flushing and possible ear infections.
Techniques and Tips
One important tip I follow to stay warm when surfing is to keep moving in the water. I paddle regularly and stay active, as this helps in maintaining my body temperature and blood circulation. Avoiding unnecessary duck dives also helps in retaining body heat by not submerging myself and the surfboard beneath the waves when it is not needed. I don’t know about you, but the old ‘doing a wee in the wetsuit’ offers a bit of immediate relief too and is a classic surfer’s trick where I’m from (Haha, sorry, too much information!?)
Diet and Nutrition
In order to maintain my energy and body temperature while cold water surfing, I plan a nutritious pre-surf meal. High-calorie foods rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats provide fuel to my body and help me stay warm. Fruits and vegetables with high water content might not be the best choice before cold water surfing, so I opt for more substantial meals instead. Coffee and alcohol might be tempting for a quick fix, but they are not advisable as they can reduce my body’s core temperature. Of course, a hot drink and warm feed immediately after surfing is a great way to warm back up again too. I personally love the Aussie classic of a hot choccie and a sausage roll with tomato sauce!
Preparing for Winter Surfing
Before heading out for a winter surf, I make sure to warm up by stretching and doing light exercises. Having a warm and insulated van to change in and gather my gear is a great way to start my session comfortably. It’s also a good idea to keep a changing poncho and a container of warm water handy for rinsing and warming up my hands and feet after a surf.
Understanding Water Temperature
I always consider the water temperature before a winter surf session. Knowing the ideal wetsuit thickness and accessories needed for specific water temperatures helps me prepare better and stay warm while surfing. For instance, thicker wetsuits and extra accessories like hoods and gloves might be essential when water temperatures drop significantly, certainly this is needed when I surf in the colder south eastern states of Australia in the winter; I can only imagine what it’s like in parts of Europe and the USA (you guys are mad!).
Rejuvenating after a Cold Surf Session
After a cold surf session, I focus on rejuvenating my body and warming up quickly. A hot shower, warm drinks, and dry clothes help me regain my body temperature and recover faster from the effects of cold water surfing. I also make sure to refuel my body with a nutritious post-surf meal to replenish energy and restore balance. In Australia, we surfers wear ugg boots – sheepskin wool lined boots; in fact you wouldn’t be a surfer in winter in Australia unless you pulled your uggies on straight after your feet were nearly dry (even with sand on them, the lot!).
Don’t let the cold water stop you chasing epic waves! Get the right gear, eat the right foods, warm up quickly and enjoy the winter swell!
Torsten Bird is a talented and adventurous waterman from Western Australia, passionate about surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, hydrofoiling, skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. Torsten has spent countless hours mastering his skills and his dream is to one day represent Australia as an Olympic athlete. Follow Torsten’s adventures on Instagram.