How to stay warm in the sea in winter

The colder temperatures of winter are extremely unpleasant, and the thought of continuing to immerse yourself in the sea at this time of the year is, well, not very appealing. Before you pack up your swimming goggles or lock away your surfboard for six months because it’s winter, hold on. We get it, it’s cold!  But before you do - wait. Because we think you’re making the wrong decision. 

Although winter has little sun and no warmth (we agree, it’s not a patch on summer!), hear us out. Some of the best surfs can happen in the colder months due to the more consistent winter swell, and open water swimming in the winter is even more beneficial due to the colder sea temperatures.

Just because it’s colder doesn’t mean you should stop going in the sea. Our fantastic range of mens winter wetsuits and womens winter wetsuits are sure to keep you toasty, so you can keep doing what you love in the winter. By the end of this guide, you’ll know everything there is to know about staying warm in the sea in winter whilst surfing or open water swimming. From useful tips to top-notch winter equipment to keep you warm, you’ll have no choice but to embrace winter.

Surfing in The Winter


Let’s start with surfing. Winter surfing has many advantages over surfing in the summer. The winter months generate more swell due to the winter storms, and the waves are more powerful and consistent, allowing surfers to surf more often and build on their surf technique and improve manoeuvres. Surfing in the winter also burns more calories and can help to strengthen your immune system, something we could all benefit from in the winter. 

Missing out on winter surfs will not only stunt your progression as a surfer (imagine wasting all that hard work to get where you are, only to start all over again), but you’ll also be missing out on a lot of fun - and fun does great things for our mental health.


Surfer riding a wave in a winter wetsuit


How To Stay Warm Surfing in The Winter


If you want to make the most out of your winter surf, you must wear a good winter wetsuit. There’s nothing worse than having to cut your surf short because you’re too cold, especially if it’s pumping! Let’s make sure that never happens. 

How Thick Should A Winter Wetsuit Be?


Generally speaking, you’ll want a wetsuit with a thickness of 5/4mm to keep you warm during winter. Having said that, if you’re surfing in autumn and don’t need something as insulated, then a 4/3mm will do the trick. For the colder winter months when the water feels freezing, a winter wetsuit with a thickness of 6/5mm will keep you nice and snug.


check out our wetsuit thickness guide


Men’s Winter Wetsuits


Our O'Neill Hyperfreak 5/4+mm Mens Chest Zip Wetsuit has been upgraded to include fully taped seams for even better protection against water intake for added warmth. This winter suit is exceptionally flexible and features a chest zip with a FUZE closure system, reducing the amount of cold water flushing down your neck when duck diving. 

If you’re looking for something to keep you really well-insulated during those bitter winter months, our O’Neill Epic 6/5/4mm Mens Hooded Wetsuit is the ultimate dream. The UltraFlex neoprene hood retains more body heat, allowing you to stay in the water for longer - and it’s less to think about because it’s already attached!


check out our range of mens winter wetsuits


Women’s Winter Wetsuits


Our quick-drying O’Neill Ninja 5/4mm Womens Wetsuit not only looks stylish but presents a double seal neck closure for a close to water-tight seal. For a suit that gives maximum flexibility thanks to the UltrFlex arms, top shoulder, sides, and legs, get yourself one of these.

For a seamless fit, our C Skins Rewired 5/4mm Womens Wetsuit is an enhanced body-mapped suit designed to reduce stress on vulnerable points, increase comfortability and improve stretch. With a soft internal thermal lining to keep you warm, this suit is a no-brainer. 


check out our range of womens winter wetsuits


Wetsuit Accessories


In addition to a good, insulated wetsuit, we recommend investing in some thick wetsuit boots as well. Wetsuit boots need to be worn under your wetsuit legs to prevent cold water from flushing down your feet and leaking into your suit. 

Adding a pair of wetsuit gloves and an attachable wetsuit hood (if your winter wetsuit doesn’t feature one already) is the best way to stay warm in winter waters.

Our range of wetsuit accessories will insulate those other exposed areas of your body, stopping the warmth your body is working hard to generate from escaping.

Is It Safe To Sea Swim in The Winter?


Yes, it is safe to sea swim in the winter, provided the conditions are right, and you’re wearing the right gear. Don’t go out when the conditions are rough. It’s best to pick a calm winter day and always tell someone where you intend to swim. Our guide on beach safety can help you make a more informed decision on when and where to swim if you’re looking for some insight.


A group of people open water swimming in the winter


Is Swimming in The Sea in Winter Good For You?


Much like surfing in the winter, open water swimming during winter has many benefits for your overall well-being. It’s good for your immune system, improves cardiovascular health, boosts your metabolism and improves mood. Wearing the right equipment is crucial to continue reaping the benefits of this exhilarating sport. You can learn more about the Benefits Of Open Water Swimming in our previous blog.

Open Water Swimming Winter Wetsuits


At Wetsuit Centre, we stock a great selection of open water wetsuits. You’ll want to get a full-body swim wetsuit that covers your arms and legs. Leaving these areas exposed will not do you any favours, and you won’t be staying in for very long! 

Something like our Zone3 Mens Agile Open Water Swim Wetsuit is perfect. It features 4mm leg panels for added warmth and buoyancy and the needed flexibility to make your swims all more comfortable with minimal restriction. 


shop mens swim wetsuits now


For women, our Ocra TRN Core Open Water Swim Thermal Wetsuit offers 4mm Smoothskin neoprene for extra warmth, allowing you to swim for longer. The 2mm SCS-Coasted Yamamoto 39 cell Neoprene ensure you have the flexibility you need for the best swim. It’s easy to put on, streamlined and durable.


shop womens swim wetsuits now


We also recommend doubling up on your swim caps for added warmth (which will also help with being streamlined). In the peak of winter, investing in one of our neoprene swim caps, like the Orca Neo Thermal Cap, will provide even more insulation and keep you warm during your winter sea swim sessions.

Combining this with swim gloves and neoprene swim socks will give you the best chance of staying insulated.


Ways To Warm Up After Being in The Sea in Winter


Aftercare when cold water swimming or surfing during the winter is vital for proper recovery and preventing injury. Once you exit the cold water, you may experience the ‘afterdrop ’.  This is where your body temperature continues to drop - we’re talking cold, cold and cold!

If you don’t warm up properly, you risk falling ill and having to take time out of these thrilling activities. So, let’s warm up those numb toes! Here are some tips to help you warm up safely:

  • Get that wetsuit off quickly - don’t linger around in it
  • Shelter from the wind
  • Dry yourself fast
  • Put some dry, warm clothes on (our changing robes are a game changer)
  • Throw on a woolly hat
  • Have something warm to drink - it’s always a good idea to think ahead and bring a warm flask with you (and a snack if you’d like)


Someone pouring a hot drink from a flask into a mug by the sea


When warming up, preparation is key. Make sure you have everything you need to warm up comfortably. It’ll give you peace of mind and make your life much easier.

Going in the sea during winter requires a lot of courage, bravery and determination. So give yourself a pat on the back for finding out how to do it safely by keeping warm. So, now that you’re a cold water guru, are you ready to make the most of it?