It’s an unfortunate truth that the best swells arrive in the depths of winter. While ideals of surfing in nothing but a bikini or pair of board shorts keep the fire alive, surfers that aren’t fortunate enough to live in the tropics reside themselves to some pretty icy conditions.
From the sandbars of Cornwall, to those paddling for waves on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, getting in for a session often requires dealing with some seriously low temperatures and equally brutal wind chill. Maintaining body temperature becomes as vital to the cause as the equipment you're riding.
The warmer you are, the longer you’ll be able to stay out in the line up. But while a thick 5/4 wetsuit will help retain some warmth in the water, it’s important to make sure you are a nice and toasty before you even get into the sea.
If you're out on a frigid morning for a dawny, you’ll want to have the van heater on full, and top up with a hot coffee. But pulling on a base layer is going to work extra hard for you to bring that core temperature up, providing you with the very best foundation for a mid-winter surf when the local is firing.
Tiredness, hunger and early signs of shivering are all signals that it’s probably time to get out. After fumbling with fingers that are so cold they no longer function properly, you’ll eventually exit your damp wetsuit. This is where the base layer comes into its own. Once pulled on, the fabric begins to wick away moisture from your clammy skin while creating an insulating layer beneath your clothes.
If the spot you’ve just surfed is a hike away from the nearest car park, then you’re going to be thankful of that thermal base layer. It restores your core body temperature while protecting you from the howling winds as you trudge back along the coast.
Whether you’re surfing Porthleven, Thurso, or Bundoran, Cold water surfing requires a certain level of commitment, but as Sir Ranulph Fiennes says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” Advice anyone in pursuit of winter swells should take note of. After all, the quicker you get yourself toasty warm again, the sooner you can get back in for another session.
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