Must-Have Cold Weather Surf Gear and Accessories
Although it's always cold in these parts - 4/3s at least, all year round - winter, and especially spring, bring even more demanding conditions. If you want to keep surfing happily through the cold months, may we suggest a few items to keep you comfortable as the air and water temps dip. And dip. And dip some more.
First and foremost, you're going to want more rubber. While we suggest at least getting a suit with a hood, you'll probably be happiest stepping up at least a millimeter in thickness depending on where you live. There are plenty of people who stick to their hooded 4/3 year-round here, but most will pull on a 5/4 during the spring, when the water is coldest. As suits get more flexible and easier to surf in, there are more folks opting for the thicker suit all year long, just to ensure they never get cold.
Even if the thought of putting booties on during the summer and fall makes your toes curl and your skin crawl, come winter time you'll wish you had a pair. Feet with feeling in them are better than frozen toes. With booties like XCEL's Drylock coming in half-sizes, finding the perfect fit has never been easier. And O'Neill's minimal 5/4 Ninja Boot finds the balance between heavy insulation and barefoot-like performance.
They kind of suck, but when you need them, you'll be glad you have them. While they do feel bulky and make paddling a little more cumbersome, gloves will save you a lot of pain on cold January mornings. Luckily, most people live in a zone where gloves are useful or necessary only a few months a year.
Hot Water Surf Jug
There is nothing better than pouring hot water down your suit when you finish up a cold-water session, except having enough water in an insulated 2.5-gallon container to do it several times. A bonus is that you're rinsing your suit out with fresh water at the same time.
Base Coat Wax
Colder water means you'll need softer wax to stay stuck, but softer wax smears easily and quickly leaves slick spots and bald patches on your board. A base coast of hard wax will last longer and will anchor your softer, temperature-appropriate top coat so it stays put and keeps on gripping. Read how to best apply wax to your board here.
Ear plugs are a must-have for cold-water surfers, and really, all surfers outside of the tropics should use them every time they surf. It's been said that the easiest way to prevent surfers ear (bony exostosis) is to protect the ear canal from wind and cold. A hood and ear plugs provide maximum protection, but if surfing in a hood is impractical for you, then ear plugs alone are the second-best barrier. There are several varieties, from high-tech, anatomically-mapped, 3D molded and micro-perforated to malleable balls of silicone putty. SurfEars and Doc's Pro Plugs are our favorites.
Layer up, because you'll probably want to shed some for the hike back out after the sun comes up. If you're cold on the beach you won't last long once you get in the water, so get yourself some warm jackets, beanies, and socks.
It's time to step up from the 5mm comp you've been stretching out all summer, and get some bulk for beefier waves. The heavier the wave the thicker the leash, and even a head high wave in the winter can pack more punch than you're used to.