Thanks for checking our blog! This is a resource for cold-water surfers and water-people, featuring tips and tricks we can share with each other to make the experience more fun and comfortable. We hope this list continues to grow with your support and input. Please send your cold-water surfing (or any water sport) tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share the best tips, give you credit for your contribution, and perhaps a nice prize as well...
Get a high-quality wetsuit that fits you very well. Life-threatening water temps are no place to cheap-out on your wetsuit and other gear. Good cold-water suits have no leaky seams and minimal flushing in the cuffs and neck or hood. Suits should be thick and warm in the seat and lower back, as this zone spends a lot of time submerged and subject to heat-loss. If you surf in windy conditions, some sort of smooth-skin on the upper body (torso/back) of your suit will keep you warmer, as the smooth-skin won't absorb water and contribute to evaporative cooling. To minimize fatigue, your wetsuit should be reasonably easy to paddle in the shoulders. Your paddling movement will be restricted compared to a warmer-water suit, but paddling should still feel reasonably limber. You will get used to the suit and the suit will likely break in a little bit and become easier to paddle in.
A good fitting wetsuit that is well-designed is key. Think about the collar or built-in hood as you’re trying on your new ones. If it doesn’t fit reasonably snug, it’s going to let water in. A snug collar and slightly loose in the shoulders is a great combination! The right suit is many different things to many people. Thickness depends a lot on you and the conditions. How cold is the water? How cold is the air? How windy is it? How much paddling are you doing? Is it sunny or not? Each individual is different, and some feel the cold more than others so trust your own instincts. Are you surfing or doing another activity that has you spending more time on top of the water? These things are the greatest influences on how thick a wetsuit you need.
Different wetsuit brands have different recommendations, which can be very confusing. Based on OUR experience, here are some general guidelines for wetsuit thickness based simply on water temperature:
Water Temp Wetsuit Thickness (mm)
Boots are the Key to better Cold-Water Performance
Once the water temperature gets below 60F, most people need to wear wetsuit boots to be comfortable. The better your wetsuit boots fit, and the less they interfere with your movement, the better you’re going to surf. It’s that simple. Think of them as your connection to your board. Everything you do has to go through your wetsuit boots, and having some sensitivity, dexterity, warmth, and a really good fit are most important.
As with choosing wetsuit thickness, having the right surf booties for warmth and mobility is key to your comfort and performance. You may be tempted to troll the internet and buy cheap boots on sale. Just remember: boots that are warm and fit perfectly are the biggest key to your comfort and performance! Frozen feet will send you to the beach faster than almost anything else.
At Solite we have gone out of our way to reinvent cold-water sports booties. We use a patented Thermo-Form material for the whole lower half. It is hydrophobic and soaks no water, so it stays much lighter. It is also many times more durable than a traditional neoprene boot. Best of all you can custom mold them to your feet using hot water. Mold them once and they will stay that way, if they’re not comfortable you can do it again and again if you like. The perfect fit, and one piece of material custom molded to your foot takes performance to a whole new level. The boot actually moves ergonomically with your foot which gives you a lot more control, dexterity and comfort. They are super durable so you can expect to get more years of normal use out of a pair. There are no seams in the lower half of the boot. Nowhere for a leak to start. Small leaks are typically the death of all coldwater booties. A leaky seam here or there and your feet are freezing.
Boots are all we do (so far), and we believe we do it better than anyone else. Yes, the lowly pair of wetsuit booties has come a long way. And once you try a pair of Solite boots you will never want to go back.
Here are our recommendations for Bootie Thickness based on Water Temps:
Water Temp Bootie Thickness
60F+ No boots necessary unless dealing with sharp bottom (reef, etc.)
Pro Tip regarding bootie fit: For cold water (below 10C/50F) you don’t want your boots to fit overly tight in the toes. They should still fit snug, but if boots are too tight, circulation is compromised, and your toes will get cold faster. Heat mold your Solite Boots using the Heat Booster socks to make sure the fit is ideal: not too tight, not too loose.
Now You’re on Board.
You’re adding 10 or 20 pounds of wet rubber to the mix. Cold water has less salinity and therefore less buoyancy. Winter Surf tends to be bigger and more powerful in a lot of places. So, ask yourself: Do you need more foam? More length? The name of the game is catching waves and having fun. Be honest with yourself about the tradeoff of fun and high-performance. Whatever that is for you, you want to be on the right side of it.
Many surfers in cold-water regions have "winter boards" in their quiver. These boards have a little extra volume and/or length to compensate for the extra weight of your wetsuit/boots/gloves and also to compensate for the fact that everything happens a little slower in a thick wetsuit. It's harder to paddle and harder to pop up quickly when you're encased in rubber. So be honest about your board choice. Foam is your friend.