Winter surfing in a thick wetsuit

6 life-saving tips to survive the cold water while surfing in winter

1. Wear the right wetsuit

This is certainly the most important tip. Get yourself a good thick wetsuit! Buy the best 5mm or even 6mm hooded neoprene you can afford with liquid-sealing and ideally chest-zip or zip-less to minimise cold water flushing in.  These can get expensive but don’t underestimate the value of a good winter wetsuit. Take good care of it and it will last you for a few years of great winter surfing! Add 5mm gloves and boots and you’ll barely feel the freezing water!

Important to have the right gear when it’s freezing cold, by Chris Burkard

2. Get dressed indoors

If you can, put on your wetsuit, gloves and boots indoors where it’s still warm. Really do it! This will give your body some time to warm up the wetsuit before hitting the cold water and once you are there all suited up, less chance to get chicken and not go.. So don’t think twice and just get out there!

Luna Wetsuit for cold water surfing
Changing in freezing weather outdoors… not a good idea at all! Photo by

3. Feed yourself

You don’t want go hungry or thirsty after 5 mins in the water so make sure you give enough energy to your body. The most popular type of pre-surf snack are bananas, nuts and dried fruits. But in these extreme conditions, anything that makes you ready to get out there in the freezing cold water will do! Only don’t overeat or your body will be busy digesting your food instead of producing heat to keep you warm. As long as you feel energized, stoked and ready to go, you’re good!

Delicious healthy surf snack
Delicious healthy surf snack, breakfast, lunch, whatever you do, eat well!

4. Keep moving while in the water

Listen to Dory’s wise advice “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”. When you start feeling cold, just keep paddling and taking as many waves as possible. It will keep your body warm and help you stay longer in the water. You’ll be feeling pretty satisfied when coming out of the water and having trouble moving your mouth to speak. Definitively that’s how you know you had a memorable session! So don’t come out when you start feeling a little bit cold, try to stay a little longer. Now that you are in there, better make the most of it!

Surfer waiting for a wave in winter
Surfer checking a beautiful wave while surfing in freezing water, photo by Yassine Ouhilal

5. Take off your wetsuit in a warm place

Changing in a freezing cold parking lot is probably the worst part of winter surfing. There’s better ways for it! To make this experience way more enjoyable, keep your wetsuit on, drive home with the heater on and undress under a warm shower. Or if you are in an area where there is a surf school with warm showers, enjoy this luxury and get yourself a warm drink afterwards, you’ve earned it!

Surfing in Khalaktyrsky beach, Siberia
Photo by Alexander Gerasimov. Surfing in Khalaktyrsky beach, Siberia.

6. Cherish the post-surfing satisfying feeling

You did it! When you’re finally dry, all wrapped up in warm and comfy clothes, you’ll feel relaxed and probably pretty lazy. It’s time to enjoy a warm drink and food with your surf buddies or lay on the couch watch a movie. Whatever you decide to do afterward, enjoy this great feeling of satisfaction, tired muscles and a relaxed mind. Feels good, right?

Surfer girls in Lofoten Island, Norway
Pure feeling of happiness in Lofoten of Lena Stoffel and Aline Bock captured by Nick Pumphrey.

Cold water surfing actually looks more like …

Yes, winter surfing is not that bad! Except if you decide to brave the icy water of Iceland, Norway or in the Arctic, it won’t be unbearable. Your winter session will certainly look more like on the picture below. Looks survivable no?

O’Neill pro surfer Celine Gehre
O’Neill pro surfer Celine Gehre @SurfergirlMagazine

If you have more tips to survive the cold winter water, leave a comment! Hope you enjoyed this article and that you’ll motivate yourself to go get some glassy uncrowded waves this winter 🙂

Pauline Klieber
Pauline Klieber

Passionate surfer, climber, snowboarder, outdoor adventures enthusiast and traveler. Co-founder of The Active Place.