If you’re new to surfing or have moved away from that sweet bikini and/or boardshort climate I constantly dream of here at my desk, then you’re probably wondering when the best time to bring out the booties, gloves and hood is right? Well, I’ll let you in on my secrets.
Straight up, I know it’s time for booties when I’m sitting in my car shivering, whilst waiting for the heating to kick in, so I can drive to my favourite spot. Then, I know it’s time for gloves when I come in from a surf and literally can’t take my wetsuit off because my hands are completely numb. In this situation you’re better off waiting 20 minutes for your blood to reach your extremities. Finally, the moment I know a hood is necessary, is when each duck dive I take feels like a ‘headache’ married a ‘brain freeze’ and my noggin just happens to be their birthchild…
So that’s how I measure when it’s time to dust off the winter closet and let the skeletons (surfing accessories) out of their summer slumber. However, like most theories in life, there’s science to back it up. Thus, I’m going to go into specifics.
Note: I use the term 'annoyance' instead of 'negatives' because there's really no negative aspect to booties, gloves and hoods during the winter. It's just that they can slightly alter how you feel about surfing when it's cold.
When the water temperature is sitting between 10-14°C it’s time to get the booties out. Especially at the lower end of the spectrum. However, there are great and not-so great aspects about wearing booties.
- They will keep your feet warmer for longer
- They add an extra bit of grip if you’re running low on wax
- They protect your feet from sharp reef and rocks
- They take away the feel of your board
- They can be almost too ‘grippy’ which makes it hard to change your stance after catching a wave
- They can rip easily if you’re not careful putting them on and taking them off
If the water temperature is hovering around 10-12°C, then gloves become an option. Again, it’s all about personal preference. If you’re more susceptible to the cold, or just want to stay in the surf for longer, then gloves are advised. However, it should be noted that gloves are more for protection against windchill, not just the water. Your hands will only ever be submerged whilst paddling. Whereas, your hands are exposed when sitting in the line-up for long periods of time.
- Protect your hands from the elements
- Allow you to stay in the water for longer
- They were once manufactured with ‘webbing’. Nobody needs to see that again
As soon as that salt water dips beneath 10°C, firstly you’re crazy for wanting to surf, but secondly, you’ll need a hood. Basically, if you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have an ice bath after participating in some form of sport, then imagine surfing in that - with your head constantly underwater. Simply put, it’s unpleasant. But not if you’re wearing a neoprene hood. You lose most of your body heat from your head. So it’s important you keep it warm, in order for your whole body to stay toasty. A neoprene hood can also help prevent ‘surfers ear’ which is commonly caused from overexposure to cold water and windchill.
- Keeps your head warm, thus circulating heat throughout your body
- Prevents ‘surfers ear’
- Allows you to stay in the cold water for much longer than if you weren’t wearing a hood
- Reduces headaches when duck diving
- Putting on a neoprene hood means you’re about to surf freezing water. You’d really want the waves to be pumping, if you’re heading out!
So, by now you should have an understanding on when it’s wise to add some neoprene accessories to your wetsuit during winter. However, I should stress it’s all about personal preference. I’ve surfed in Victoria (Australia) during the winter (when it’s bitterly cold) in a 3/4 wetsuit with just booties. That same season, I saw surfers wearing a 4/3 wetsuit, booties, gloves AND a hood. Deep down, I know they would have been in the water longer than me…
Food for thought.
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