The summer is behind us, the sea temperature is beginning to drop and it will soon be time to ditch the 3:2 wetsuit! Autumn and winter can be the best seasons to surf in the UK, but if the thought of cold water surfing fills you with you dread, here a few tips on how to survive and make winter surfing more enjoyable:
1. Invest in a good quality winter wetsuit
If you’re surfing through the winter in the UK, you will almost certainly need a 5mm suit. Look for a chest zip suit (as they tend to let less water in), thermal lining for warmth, and liquid seams. Above all, try a few on to get the correct fit and don’t scrimp! It will make the difference between you getting out after half an hour feeling numb, or staying in and surfing for a couple of hours.
2. Dont forget the essential accessories
You’re also going to need a hood, boots and gloves. If you have ever experienced an ‘ice cream headache’, you will understand why you can’t surf in cold water without a hood! Add thermal shorts and a rash vest under your suit for a little extra warmth. If you’re going to be a regular winter surfer, you need to know about surfer’s ear – Get some ear plugs to protect your ears before surfer’s ear sets in.
3. Check what mother nature’s doing
Not just the surf and weather reports, but also the tide times and what time the sun rises and sets. Don’t end up surfing in the dark and getting caught out with the tides. The beaches won’t be lifeguarded during the winter months so know your limits – if its big surf, stay out and if you’re not sure, get some local advice! Lots of people lost their lives unnecessarily last winter by insisting on surfing/bodyboarding/swimming during the storms.
4. Fuel up!
Make sure you eat the right food before surfing, not only to give you the energy you need (surfing in cold water takes more effort), but also to keep you warm. Your body needs readily accessible fuel which complex carbohydrates provide.
5. Take a hot water bottle with you
Wrap the clothes that you will be getting changed into afterwards inside a blanket with a hot water bottle inside. When you get out, you will have lovely warm clothes to change into.
6. Stretch before surf
Make sure you spend a few minutes stretching before getting into the sea. This will help to keep you warm and warm your muscles up which will help prevent injury.
7. Keep moving
The moment you stop and sit still you will start to feel the cold, so make sure you keep moving by paddling round. If you see a set coming, go for it!
8. Surf with friends
There’s safety in numbers and you’ll motivate each other to surf when its really cold. You can have a laugh in the lineup, take your mind off the cold, and look forward to a well earned post-surf hot chocolate/pint and share the stoke!
9. Invest in a Dryrobe
Getting changed in a car park post-surf in the winter isn’t much fun but a Dryrobe, especially the ‘advanced’ version can make all the difference. You can get changed in privacy whilst keeping warm thanks to its synthetic lambswool lining. It’s also waterproof and windproof! Of course, other post-surf ‘keep warm’ changing products are available.
10. Surround yourself with creature comforts
When you get back home or return to where you are staying, have a soak in a hot bath, layer up with cosy jumpers and thick woolly socks, grab a hot chocolate and sit in front of the fire.
11. Dry out your kit
Wet gear will just add to feeling cold. Make sure you rinse and dry your kit out properly, then start checking the charts and look forward to your next surf!
Surfing in winter can be very rewarding but also dangerous, cold sea temperatures can lead to extra fatigue, hypothermia and other potentially life threatening situations. Also remember, beaches in the UK are not life guarded during the winter so if you are in any way nervous about heading out, make sure you have someone competent and experienced with you. Many surf schools are open all year round and offer surf lessons for beginners as well as advanced surf coaching. Check the surf school has appropriate equipment for surfing in the winter months before you book.