In your car, keep a big jug of hot water wrapped in your towel for insulation. Old detergent jugs work pretty well, rinse them, fill with hot water right before your session and wrap your towel around it in the back of your car. When you get out of the water you’ve got a nice hot shower and a rinse for those sandy surf booties or your feet. You've also got a nice warm towel to dry off with! If you have to change outside. Try to get away from the wind. If you can find a sunny, non-windy spot you will be much happier.
The only thing better than a rinse with hot water is a nice hot shower. Driving to one is always super nice. How do you do it without getting your car wet and sandy? Plastic floor mats are key. Get a deep dish one that holds some water. But, over and above that, those reflective silver windshield sunshades make great seat protectors to keep your car seat from getting wet. The water just sits there, and you dump it out when you get out of the car. It’s a great added use and benefit for those things.
Growing up on the East Coast, good waves usually came infrequently. That meant multiple sessions per day when it was on. After our first session, we used to drive to the nearest town, find a laundromat, and put our wetsuits in the dryer on low heat. Then we would go to the nearest deli or takeout spot and grab food and come back and eat while our wetsuits were drying. Usually by the time we were full our wetsuits were dry enough for a comfortable re-entry and we were back out there. Now I can’t recommend doing this in terms of the extra wear it may put on your suit. But there comes a point where everyone makes a choice about buying an extra suit, burning through the one they have, or just putting the thing on wet all the time. If you’re like me, you’ll be looking for a dryer and a second suit.
Tip: be courteous don’t put a bunch of sandy suits and surf booties in somebody’s dryer. And if by chance you do...definitely don’t get caught. It will not make you popular on those premises.
The Ice Cream Headache
Anyone who surfs in cold water knows that repeated dunkings or extended hold downs lead to an ice cream headache equal to a pint of Haagen Dazs in one bite. To avoid this, start with a hood that fits well...really well! You may find a wetsuit that fits perfectly on your body, but the hood is too tight or too loose. Don't take this lightly. Find a suit that fits well EVERYWHERE, body and hood. There are a ton of fit-choices out there. Try on a bunch of different suits from a bunch of different brands to find your best fitting brand and size. If you surf water below 50F, make sure your hood has an adjustable string around the face opening. This will help the hood seal to your face and give you the ability to duck dive without getting a headache. In all the cold-water regions, most surfers now use a hood that’s built into their suit as it minimizes flushing by eliminating a neck collar entirely.
Sometimes I modify my duck dives to minimize the chances of getting flushed, meaning I go deeper and not just face punch through the wave. My hood has a good string but sometimes when its firing water can always get through. When it’s really cold water (and the visibility underwater is usually nil), when duck diving, I tuck my head down and turn it to one side. I find this eliminates flushing into the hood that you might get when your head is up and facing straight ahead. Puffing your face up before you duck dive sometimes helps maintain the seal. It's got to look funny but at that that point nobody really cares.
Getting Used To It
The first few duck dives in cold water are always the worst. You do toughen up the more you do it, but it's still a shock to the system, especially if you just came out of a nice warm car. There are some things you can do to minimize these shocks to the system. Planning and timing your paddle outs is key. Try to get out in the lineup without going under too many waves. Cold water has a cumulative effect, so three or four duck dives hurts way worse than one or two. There are plenty of people who will ride a wave to the beach and time their paddle out to avoid going under the rest of the set. Jetties and Reef/Point breaks with channels become your best friend when the water is really cold. A little strategy will go a long way in extending the time and comfort of your session.
Avoiding the Flush
The royal flush is really bad. That’s where a whole bunch of water gets in your wetsuit unexpectedly all at once. Even water in the 40s is so cold it feels like battery acid burning you inside your suit. If you get too much you lose your core temperature and have to end your session. Or worse your suit, boots and gloves fill up making them sloshy and super heavy. At Solite we put O-Ring style cuffs on ALL of our models to minimize flushing regardless of which boots you choose. Our 3mm and 6mm Custom Boots feature our EZ-O cuff to prevent flushing your boots while still making it easy to get them on and off. Our 3mm and 6mm Custom Pro, and our 8mm Custom Fire feature a more traditional O-Ring cuff which seals even tighter than the EZ-O for extreme conditions.
It's about Commitment
If it’s really cold but I know it’s good. I will put my wetsuit on, just the bottom half, before I get in my car. When I get to the spot and check it, if I already have half of my suit on, then I’m going for sure (even if it’s not good). But if I don’t have the wetsuit on then there is a decision to get suited up or not. Don't even put yourself in a position to make a decision. Plus, if its pumping then I’m usually first one in the squad who’s out there!