When it comes to winter surfing, you want to ensure that you're as comfortable as possible, and that includes staying warm in the water! The more comfortable you are, the longer you'll be able to finesse your manoeuvres and improve your surfing.
To do this, it's important to invest in thick neoprene, especially if you're willing to dare the UK's winter waters! The average temperature of the British Isles ranges from 6-10°C during the depths of winter. With the temperatures so low, you'll likely need some additional wetsuit accessories to keep you going, such as surfing gloves, hoods and more!
In this article, we'll explore everything you need to battle it out with the elements over winter. You'll discover the benefits of these accessories, what to look for and how to wear them!
What Do Surfers Wear in the Winter?
If you want to surf during the winter months, you should consider investing in some of these accessories:
- Winter Wetsuits
- Wetsuit Boots
- Wetsuit Gloves
- Wetsuit Hoods
- Thermal Rash Vests
How do Surfers Stay Warm in the Winter?
To make sure you really are ready for the water, here are some of our top tips for keeping warm:
- Wear a winter wetsuit
- Warm up before your surf
- Wear a thermal underlayer
- Keep moving in the water
- Wear a wetsuit with a chest zip
- Wear a wetsuit with a connected hood
- Tuck all your accessories (gloves, hoods etc.) into your wetsuit
Wetsuit boots are an excellent winter accessory for UK surfers. Most surfers will wear them from late autumn through to spring, depending on their preference.
As the water temperature remains relatively warm in October, the air temperature drops, which means walking to and from the sea can be uncomfortably cold. In the early spring, such as March, the water temperature tends to be at its coldest, so boots are vital during this time.
Wetsuit Boot Thickness Guide
Like wetsuits, boots come in different thicknesses. The thicker the neoprene, the warmer you’ll be.
Wetsuit boots tend to come in three thicknesses:
Generally, people will use 5mm wetsuit boots in the UK. However, how thick you require your boots depends on your personal preference. If you tend to feel the cold or live in the north of the UK, you might want a thicker 7mm pair.
Any surf trips to locations in Northern Europe, such as Norway and Sweden, will also most likely require 7mm boots.
Types of Wetsuit Boots
There are various styles of wetsuit booties and each style has its advantages.
What you find comfortable and useful depends on your preferences, as each surfer differs in their personal needs and wants. Some surfers require more grip, whereas others focus more on warmth.
We offer an overview of the different styles of wetsuit boots below.
Round Toe Wetsuit Boots
A round toe is the standard and most popular design of wetsuit boots. They are shaped around the toes with a round edge, making them easy to produce and cheaper to buy. This simple design also makes them easy to fit and pull on.
Split Toe Wetsuit Boots
The split-toe design is for surfers who require more grip while surfing in boots. These designs tend to appeal to more advanced surfers focused on investing in performance-based wetsuit accessories.
The boot divides the big toe from the others to avoid your foot rolling in the shoe, which can be a problem for more serious surfers. When you stand up on the board, the transfer of movement from your feet to the board is much sharper.
One slight disadvantage of a split toe boot is that they tend to be less warm than round toe boots as the big toe is separated from the rest of the foot.
Latex-Dipped Wetsuit Boots
Latex-dipped wetsuit boots are an advancement on the typical boots created from regular double-lined neoprene. They provide a light and flexible boot that attracts those who want performance-based boots.
They provide more of a ‘boot-less’ feel in comparison to other designs. However, for advanced surfers who regularly go in the water, they tend to deliver less durability so will most likely require replacing each season.
How Tight Should Wetsuit Boots Fit?
Wetsuit boots should fit more like a sock than a shoe. Any gaps in the boot will fill with water, which will cool you down instead of helping to keep you warm. This excess water will also disrupt your surfing, making moving your feet more challenging!
However, the boots should not feel too tight; this can cause cramping in the foot, which is less than ideal when you're trying to focus on your surf. Most boots tend to have a thicker layer of rubber on the edge of the toe and the back of the heel; if your boot is too tight, it can really push on the toes and cause discomfort.
Wetsuits boots don’t change in size as you may expect, so if they are too tight, they will remain too small, and you may have to purchase another pair to avoid the pain!
It is worth mentioning that each manufacturer will most likely differ in size compared to another brand, so always read the company's size guide before purchasing.
Do Wetsuit Boots Go Over or Under the Wetsuit?
Wetsuit boots should be worn under your wetsuit to avoid excess water entering the suit and boot.
When you put your boots on, pull your wetsuit leg up and then pull on your boot. Pull your wetsuit leg back down once your boots are on your feet. The wetsuit must be over your boot to seal any gaps the cold water might infiltrate.
Suffering from cold hands can be incredibly painful and distracting. Wetsuit gloves can keep your fingers feeling toasty, even in the coldest of waters.
Ideally, you want gloves that include design features such as blind stitched and taped seams to ensure minimal water intake. They also need to be flexible to ensure you have freedom of movement.
When do You Need Wetsuit Gloves?
Gloves are a great option when the water starts to hover around 10-12°C. However, this is all down to personal preference. If you're more susceptible to the cold or you want to stay out in the water for a little longer, you might want to consider a pair of gloves before it reaches 12°C.
Wetsuit Gloves Thickness Guide
Depending on the water temperature and your general threshold, there are a variety of thicknesses to choose from:
Often, 3mm to 5mm tend to be preferred for surfers in the UK. However, it depends on each individual and what you want from your gloves.
How Should Wetsuit Gloves Fit?
To ensure they work properly, wetsuit gloves must fit correctly. The gloves should fit like a second skin, without any gaps for water to fill. Excess water will cause you to feel cold, and it will make your arms feel heavy with the extra weight of the water, which is the last thing you want when paddling!
Similar to wetsuit boots, they shouldn't be too tight as this can cause significant discomfort and, in some circumstances, make your hands feel numb.
It's best to always check the brand's size guide before purchasing, as glove sizing can differ slightly between manufacturers.
Do Wetsuit Gloves Go Over or Under the Wetsuit?
Like wetsuit boots, wetsuit gloves should be worn under your wetsuit. Once they are on your hands, ensure your wetsuit is placed over the top, sealing any gaps where water could leak in and fill your gloves.
Having a cold wave break over your head can cause a pretty intense brain freeze, and it is a common occurrence during the winter months. A good way to help avoid this is to wear a wetsuit hood.
Some winter wetsuits come with an attachable hood. However, you can also purchase them separately.
How Should a Wetsuit Hood Fit?
A wetsuit hood should fit tight around your head, with minimal gaps where water can enter. However, a hood should not be restrictive or cause pressure around your head and neck. A common complaint about wetsuit hoods that are too small is how hard they can feel on your breathing.
A decent wetsuit hood should be made from stretchy neoprene to ensure it can be easily pulled on and off. The flexible neoprene will also help provide a more accurate fit closer to your head and, therefore, deliver maximum warmth.
Ideally, you want a hood with a long neck; this will reduce any open gaps where cold water could seep through.
Another feature of a good hood is an adjustable cord around the face, allowing you to tighten the hood and improve its fit. It also allows you to loosen the hood when needed.
Do Wetsuit Hoods Go Over or Under Wetsuits?
Whether the hood should go over or under the wetsuit is often a debated subject; ultimately, it depends on your preference.
Some people prefer tucking into their wetsuit as this is a warmer way to wear your hood. However, tucking your hood does mean that if water seeps through the edges around your face - which usually happens when you are paddling out through waves - it could cause cold shocks of water to trickle down the body of your suit. Therefore, some people prefer to wear their hood over the suit.
If you are unsure, try tucking your hood into your wetsuit on one surf and then without during another session and decide based on your experiences.
Thermal Rash Vest
If you have a thick winter suit but still feel the cold, a thermal rash vest is a great addition during the winter season.
A thermal rashie works similarly to a wetsuit. They are often made from a poly pro material that traps heat between your body and the rashie. The trapped body heat warms up the water in your suit, maintaining your temperature.
Not only does a thermal rash vest improve your warmth in the ocean, but it can extend the life of your suit. It is a great alternative if you don't currently have the money to purchase a new, thicker suit.
How Should a Thermal Rash Vest Fit?
A thermal rashie should fit reasonably tight. It needs to remain close to your body to avoid it bunching up when it's worn under your suit, which can cause some discomfort while surfing. Not to mention, the closer it is to your body, the warmer you will be too!
However, you should be able to move easily, especially under your arms, shoulders and around your neck. If it is too tight, it will feel restrictive.
How to Wear a Thermal Rashie
A thermal rashie is worn under your wetsuit and over your swimsuit as an additional layer of warmth.
If you need further advice about purchasing your winter surf accessories, our expert team are on hand to help! Just give us a call or email us, and we will point you in the right direction!