We’re in the thick of it now! And by thick of it, I mean our 5/4mm wetsuits that wear to stay warm as we surf throughout the winter. Last year, we brought you winter warmer tips, to help you get out in the surf even on the coldest of winter days in Tofino, and in our research, we opened up a very chilly can of worms.
We discovered that there are hundreds of different hacks out there that surfers use to stay warm, and get the most out of their session. So make yourself a tea or hot cocoa, and settle in for some more winter warmer tips.
(Photo by: Robert Fiorella)
We’ve broken it down into three sections.
1. Preparation: This is about your gear and how you set yourself up for the surf session
2. During the Surf: Techniques that you can use in the water to help keep your core body temperature at a comfortable level.
3. Post-session: This is often where we are most susceptible to getting cold. We’ll cover what to do once you have gotten out of the water at the end of your session.
(Photo by: Robert Fiorella)
Make sure your wetsuit is dialed! We covered this in the first winter warmer tips blog, but it is so important that we thought we’d repeat ourselves. You want to ensure the correct fit, as well as thickness: 5/4mm suit will do, with a hood and gloves (3 - 5mm thickness depending), and 7mm boots. Make sure the condition of the sui is good, as you don’t want any leaks or water flushing.
Start warm, but not too warm: It’s a good idea to be warm before getting in your wetsuit, but don’t over do it. For example, blasting the heat in your car until you are sweating will actually work against you by activating your body’s cooling mechanisms, and increasing the shock experienced when you actually step out into the cold.
The wind is your enemy: Spend as little time as possible in the wind. If youre checking the surf, be sure to bring your wind-breaker, and then find a sheltered area when getting into your wetsuit.
Do an athletic warm up: Surfing is strenuous! We don’t often think about it, but we should be doing a warm up before surfing just like we do before any other sports that require explosive movement. Your warmup should involve some light pulse raising exercise and mobility of all major muscle groups, and some light stretching.
(Photo by: Lena Adrian)
During the Surf
Try a shorter session: Maybe in the middle of summer, you would surf for an hour and a half to two hours. In the winer, try to cut that surf time down by about half an hour. This is beneficial for two reasons: 1. Surfing in winter wetsuit gear is harder; you are wearing more rubber which means more resistance against you, abd youre going to get fatigued mnore easily. 2. As you become more tired, you body’s ability maintain is reduced. By geting out sooner, you can avoid reaching the dreaded shivver zone!
Important note for this tip: don’t take it too seriously as sometimes the waves are too good, and you are too stoked to get out of the water! In these instances, you might surf for 3 hours, coming out of the water chattering with a big blue lipped grin. We highly approve, as long as you can get yourslef safely wamred back up afterwards!
Stay busy! This is a great tip for any surf session, but especially in cold waters, where the cold often sets in during lulls in activity. If you find yourself waiting for waves for longer than 3 - 5 minutes, try adjusting your positioning by moving further “inside” or closer to shore, to catch the small and medium sized waves to get moving again.
Avoid flushing your wetsuit! This is a tough one because when we wipeout, the chances of flushing occuring are pretty high. Think of it as an added incentive to complete your waves and execute a controlled ‘kick-out’ or dismount. Also, your wetsuit can shift and zippers can come undone throughout the surf session. Be sure to periodically check that your suit is correctly fitted by making sure that the zippers are still zipped, and that the wetsuit leg and arm cuffs are firmly over top of the boot and gloves respectively.
(Photo by: Cristina Gareau)
Get dry and out of the wind: De-suit, and wrap yourself in a towel or the almighty choncho (changing robe), get yourself out of the wind. Loose fitting clothes like tracksuits are ideal for wearing post surf. I personally have taken a liking to crocs as they are easy on when you’ve got damp feet.
Warm yourself up gradually: once out of your wetsuit and indoors, jump in the shower, but avoid the urge to turn the shower up to molten lava heat levels. This can shock your body’s vascular system and cause pain in the extremities. Rather, gradually build the heat from lukewarm. Important: Do not get into a hot shower in your wetsuit. This is the fastest way to ruin your wetsuit as the heat will melt the glues in the wetsuit, literally causing it to come apart at the seams.
Freshwater rinse your wetsuit gear and hang it up to dry for the next session: Getting in a dry wetsuit is the best way to start a session. Use a hanger and a drip tray underneath, and place your wetsuit close (but not too close) to a heater or dehumidifier, and it will be good to go for the next day.