Winter Wetsuit Accessories: All You Need to Know
As winter descends upon us, wearing that extra neoprene is essential to keep us warm in UK waters! With the average temperature of the British Isles ranging from 6-10°C at the depths of winter, you will definitely require some additional wetsuit accessories to keep surfing!
If you are keen to make the most out of the UK sea all year round, read on to discover the benefits of winter accessories, including wetsuit boots, gloves, hoods and thermal rash vests. Find out the correct fit, how to wear them and the different styles to look for!
Wetsuit boots are an essential winter accessory as a UK surfer. Most surfers will wear them from around late autumn through to spring, depending on preference.
As the water temperature remains relatively warm in October, the air temperature drops, which means walking to and from the sea is colder than expected. In the early spring, such as March, the water temperature tends to be at its coldest, so boots are vital during this time.
Like wetsuits, boots come in different thicknesses, and thicker means you will be warmer. Boots come in three thicknesses, 3mm, 5mm or 7mm.
5mm tends to be the average thickness for wetsuit boots in the UK. However, how thick you require your boots depends entirely on preference. If you tend to feel the cold or live in the north of the UK, you may need a thicker pair at 7mm, especially for those who live in Scotland.
Any surf trips to locations in Northern Europe, such as Norway and Sweden, will also most likely require 7mm boots.
Types of Wetsuit Boot
There are various styles of wetsuit boot which each have different advantages. What you find comfortable and useful depends on you individually as each surfer differs in what they want from their boots. Some want more grip from their boots, whereas others purely seek warmth.
We give an overview of different styles of wetsuit boots below.
A round toe boot is the standard design of wetsuit boots and consequently one of the most popular designs.
They are shaped around the toes with a round edge which makes them easy to produce which also makes them cheaper to buy.
Their simple design also tends to make them easier to fit and pull on.
The split-toe design is for surfers who want more grip while surfing in boots.
They tend to appeal to more advanced surfers who require a performance-based wetsuit accessory.
The boot splits the toes from the big toe to avoid your foot rolling in them, an aspect that more serious surfers complain about in round toe boots. When you stand up on the board, the transfer of movement from your feet to the board is 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 are an advancement on the typical boots created from the regular double-lined neoprene. They provide a light and flexible boot which, again, 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 Should They Fit?
Wetsuit boots should fit more like a sock than a shoe. Any gaps in the boot will fill with water and not keep you warm. This excess water will also disrupt your surfing as it will make moving your feet more challenging and become pretty annoying!
However, the boots should not feel too tight as this can cause cramping in the foot.
Most boots tend to have a thicker layer of rubber on the edge of the toe and the back of the heel, and those which fit too small 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.
How to Wear Them
Wetsuit boots should be worn under your wetsuit to avoid any excess water entering the suit and boot.
When you put your boots on, pull your wetsuit leg up to your knee and pull on your boot. Once your boots are on your feet, pull your wetsuit leg back down, so it is over your boot and sealing any gaps.
Suffering from cold hands can be incredibly painful and not to mention 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 leaks in. They need to be flexible to ensure you have freedom of movement too.
Depending on the water temperature and your relationship with coldness, there are a variety of thicknesses to choose. Wetsuit gloves start at 2mm and increase in thickness to 3mm and 5 mm.
Often, 3mm to 5mm tend to be the preferred thicknesses of gloves for surfers in the UK. However, it depends on each individual and what is required from your gloves.
How Should They Fit?
To ensure they work properly, wetsuit gloves must fit correctly.
You want the gloves to fit like a second skin, without any gaps for water to fill. It will cause you to feel cold as well as making your arms feel heavy with the extra weight from the water, which is the last thing you want when paddling!
Again, 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.
Remember to always check the brand’s size guide before purchasing as sizing can differ between manufacturers.
How to Wear Them
Like wetsuit boots, wetsuit gloves should be worn under your wetsuit. Once they are on your hands, ensure your wetsuit is placed on top, sealing any gaps where water could leak in and fill your gloves.
Having a cold wave break over your head can cause intense brain freeze, and it is a common occurence during the winter. A sufficient way to avoid head pain like this is to wear a wetsuit hood.
Some winter wetsuits come with an attachable hood. However, you can also purchase them separately.
How Should It Fit?
A wetsuit hood should fit tight around your head, with minimal gaps where water can leak in. However, a hood should not be restrictive or feel pressurising around your head and neck. A common complaint of a wetsuit hood which is too small is that it can feel hard 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 to provide a more accurate fit closer to your head and therefore providing maximum warmth.
Ideally, you want a hood that has a long neck as this will reduce any open gaps where cold water can seep in.
Another distinctive design feature of a good hood is an adjustable cord around the face which will allow you to tighten the hood and improve the fit. It also allows you to loosen the hood when needed.
How to Wear It
Often a debated subject, it, once again, depends on preference.
Some people prefer tucking their hood into their wetsuit. This method is a warmer way to wear your hood, but it does mean that if water seeps into your hood around your face (which usually happens as you are paddling out through waves), cold shocks of water can trickle down into the neck and 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 both 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 made from a poly pro material which 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 it improve your warmth in the ocean, but it can extend the life of your suit. It is a great alternative if you don’t have the money right now to purchase a new, thicker suit.
How Should It Fit?
A thermal rashie should fit reasonably tight. It needs to remain close to your body to avoid it bunching up when worn under your suit, which can cause discomfort and annoyance while surfing. 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 It
A thermal rashie is to be worn under your wetsuit 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 on 01202 302943 or email us at [email protected] and we will point you in the right direction!