Whoever said “sun, sea and surf” definitely underestimated the thrill of catching rapid waves during the height of winter! There’s something special about running across empty beaches and seizing the day against cold white water. Winter is a special time for surfers in the UK, as the autumn and winter swells bring us the best waves of the year. Trust us, you want to get involved!
A big part of enjoying the winter waves is ensuring your gear is up to scratch. Underestimate the chill, and the cold will cut your sessions short. However, you can make that cold December and January water your playground with the right equipment.
Here, we take you through some of our favourite options when it comes to winter wetsuits, along with all the accessories you’ll need to enjoy the waves.
Here at Wetsuit Centre, we get a lot of questions from people trying to decide what they need to enjoy the waves during the winter. We’ve answered a few below to help you choose, but if you have any more, you’re welcome to contact us.
WINTER WETSUIT THICKNESS
Picking the thickness of your wetsuit is always essential, but it’s even more crucial in the winter. You need to ensure your winter wetsuit is thick enough to provide adequate insulation for the biting winter waters.
If you’ve never purchased a wetsuit before and have no idea where to look, a 5/3-thickness suit is generally a good recommendation. In most cases, a 5/3 wetsuit will get you through winter, along with some accessories (hoods, boots, gloves) for the coldest months.
If you surf in a colder climate, such as North England or Scotland, or you particularly feel the cold, a 6mm wetsuit could be the better choice. You shouldn’t need a 7mm wetsuit for surfing in the UK unless you really feel the cold or plan on surfing in snowy conditions.
For more information on wetsuit thicknesses, feel free to check out our complete wetsuit thickness guide.
CAN YOU WEAR A WINTER WETSUIT IN SUMMER?
If you want to try and save a bit of money or invest it all into one high-quality suit, it is possible to buy a winter wetsuit and use it year-round. Of course, there are advantages to having a winter and summer wetsuit, the main ones being comfort and flexibility - the thinner summer suit will offer better manoeuvrability. However, if you don’t mind getting a little sweaty during the summer, most people can use a 5/3 all year-round.
SHOULD I GET A WETSUIT WITH A HOOD?
If you plan on surfing during the peak of winter, you will want a hood. Having a cold wave break over you without a hood is not a pleasant experience. Brain freeze when you’re out back is not ideal! The big question isn’t whether you need one but whether you should buy a hooded wetsuit or buy the wetsuit hood separately.
Which type of suit you should buy comes down to when you expect to wear the wetsuit. If you are looking for a winter wetsuit in spring and autumn, you might want to buy a hoodless suit and purchase the hood separately, as you’ll only need it for those biting winter waves.
However, if you want a winter wetsuit for the colder months, you should consider buying one with a hood. Having the hood already sealed on means there is no space for the ice-cold water to seep in, which can make all the difference in the peak of winter.
So, what are the best winter wetsuits for surfing? Let's find out!
O’NEILL HYPERFREAK - BEST PERFORMANCE
If you’re looking for a high-performance winter wetsuit, the O’Neill Hyperfreak winter range should be considered. These suits are made from technobutter neoprene and rank as the most flexible winter wetsuits on the market! They come with all the high-end specs you would expect, including chest zips, minimal taped seams and a double-sealed neck.
The O’Neill Hyperfreaks are available in a range of thicknesses, including 5/4 and 5/4+ (which is slightly thicker). You can also buy it hooded, making it an excellent choice for your winter suit.
PROS AND CONS OF THE O’NEILL HYPERFREAK
O’Neill Hyperfreak Advantages
- Technobutter neoprene makes it super flexible
- - Chest zip eliminates weak points
- Minimal, taped seams reduce water intake
O’Neill Hyperfreak Disadvantages
- Performance wetsuit means slightly higher price tag
- Soft neoprene can wear down quickly for beginners
XCEL DRYLOCK 2023 - UNBEATABLE WARMTH
Xcel are known in the surfing community for their high-end, high-quality wetsuits. One of their most popular models is the Drylock.
Our Xcel Drylock is known for being one of the warmest suits on the market, and with recent upgrades, it’s now even better. This wetsuit will allow you to stay in colder waters for longer than ever before, but its water-based glue and Japanese limestone neoprene make this suit an environmentally conscious choice.
The Celliant Black Thermo Dry advanced technology can open up blood vessels when in contact with the skin, which increases blood flow, allowing for longer-lasting warmth and muscle rebound. It is designed with a fantastic array of high-performance features, such as specialist wrist and ankle seals, a magnetic closure zipper that keeps water out, and an engineered fit system that fits perfectly.
The new Drylock is made from Xcel's latest Channel Flex upper body technology, a hydrophobic gridlock lining that relieves tension through reduced fibre and water weight, giving you a complete full range of mobility without compromising warmth. Due to these elements, the Drylock is one of the warmest wetsuits you can buy - a great choice if you’re looking forward to long February surfs!
XCEL DRYLOCK - PROS AND CONS
Xcel Drylock Advantages
- Unparalleled thermal lining for incredible heat retention
- Packed with high-end features and tech
- Made with advanced neoprene
Xcel Drylock Disadvantages
- High price range
Not convinced about the Xcel Drylock Winter Wetsuit? Why not check out our Xcel Drylock wetsuit review for more information.
O’NEILL EPIC - BEST ENTRY-LEVEL WINTER WETSUITS
If you’re just starting out and want that balance between performance and price, you can’t go wrong with an O’Neill Epic.
For many years, the Epic has been pigeonholed into being seen as one of the best entry-level wetsuits available. However, the latest edition offers high specs in the most critical areas, including 100% Ultra Flex DS neoprene for restriction-free movement and FluidFlex Firewall Thermal Lining for an added layer of body insulation, as well as glued and blindstitched seams for a water-tight seal.
The Epic is available in various sizes for men, women and kids. It also offers a range of thicknesses from autumn 4/3s to a 6/5/4mm hooded winter suit for those frosty days.
O’NEILL EPIC - PROS AND CONS
O’Neill Epic Advantages
- FluidFlex Firewall for added warmth
- Good beginner specs (including knee pads)
- Quality neoprene at a reasonable price
O’Neill Epic Disadvantages
- Not as high-spec as other options
If you are unsure if the O'Neill Epic is the right entry-level winter wetsuit for you, then have a read through our O'Neill Epic review to discover every detail of this fantastic winter wetsuit.
C-SKINS REWIRED - DURABILITY AND STRETCH
As a brand, C-Skins has dedicated much time and effort to testing its wetsuits compared to any other wetsuit brand on the market. The creators of C-Skins come from some of the coldest parts of Northern Europe and, therefore, have prioritised creating a range of winter suits that don’t make you second guess getting in the water when the surf turns on.
The C-Skins Rewired is an updated, more innovative remake of the original Wired series. It features a Dark Matter chest panel that decreases wind chill and improves the longevity of the wetsuit, making it an even better worthwhile investment.
The weightlessness of the new Halo X neoprene allows for better performance and stretch, as well as improved paddle power and reduced arm fatigue during those longer winter sessions. This futuristic neoprene is dope-dyed and is made from semi-recycled materials, including foam and yarn, making it a sustainable choice.
The Engima 3 Chest Zip is characterised by a Single Cinch, which lessens volume across the front for enhanced freedom of movement. Pair this with the Super Seal Glideskin collar, Liquid Taped wrist seals, along with the thickness of the neoprene, and you have a very warm and wetsuit on your hands.
Other excellent features include thermal lining, FutureFit 2 for enhanced body mapping, and the Xtend Isolation taped seams, which provide extra waterproofing to the seams and stretch to your body movements.
You're in luck if you think this isn’t enough to keep you warm. The C-Skins Rewired range also presents a thick 6/5/4mm hooded version that will keep you toasty.
C-SKINS REWIRED - PROS AND CONS
C-Skins Rewired Advantages
- Futuristic neoprene
- Water-tight seals
- Thermal lining
- Improved chest zip
C-Skins Rewired Disadvantages
- Brilliant features means slightly higher price tag
WHAT IS THE BEST WINTER WETSUIT FOR SURFING?
So, how do you choose which of these is right for you? Ultimately, it’s going to come down to:
- - Your budget
- - When in the year you will use the suit
If you’re keen or passionate about surfing and are looking for a winter wetsuit that you’ll use regularly, then the O’Neill Hyperfreak is great for flexibility, the Xcel Drylock will keep you in the water for longer, and the C-Skins Rewired offers a range of high-spec features to make your cold water surfs even more enjoyable.
On the other hand, if you’re and novice surfer and are unsure about what you need, you might want to consider a good entry-level model, such as the O’Neill Epic. It features great beginner specs and won’t break the bank too much.
If you want a wetsuit that could potentially take you through the whole year, then you could consider any of these wetsuits at the thickness that works best for you.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WINTER WETSUIT BOOTS?
There are so many great wetsuit boots available, so you’ll want to pick some up before the winter begins! Many of the brands featured above produce boots that are made to the same high standard, so you can’t go far wrong with a pair of 5mm O’Neill Psycho Techs or 7mm Xcel Infinitis.
The main thing to consider here is whether you want round or split boots. Although wearing round-toe boots can feel warmer since all your toes are together, some surfers feel uncomfortable in them because it feels different to having your bare feet against the board, as their feet tend to slide around inside their boots. Luckily, if you’re happy to sacrifice a little bit of warmth, a split-toe boot allows the big toe to move freely, which can improve your sense of contact for more stability and control; hence them being more favoured by advanced surfers.
The Rip Curl FlashBomb 5mm Split Toe Boots have gained a plethora of attention, now praised for being one of the warmest and most comfortable boots on the market, thanks to its super soft sole.
DO I NEED WETSUIT GLOVES?
Winter wetsuit gloves are fantastic for the coldest waters, helping to keep your precious digits warm. Similar to the boots, so long as you purchase from a reputable brand, you can’t go wrong. An important aspect to consider for gloves is thickness. Unless you get particularly cold fingers, a 3mm glove should do just fine. 5mm gloves are great for icy waters, but the thicker the pair, the less flexibility you’ll have.
We hope this guide will help you find the perfect gear for your winter surfing! Remember, we have a wide range available here and an experienced team on hand to answer any questions! Reach out to us or browse our blog for more advice on How To Choose A Wetsuit For Surfing in The UK.