Cold water has a way of separating the proverbial men from the boys. When winter hits, you need surf gear that’s going to keep you warm for those pre-dawn hours in the water. Here are our top picks for Winter 2017.
Channel Islands Biscuit Bonzer (Price Varies)
Why We Chose It: The iconic Bonzer design from the Campbell brothers was something we’d been itching to get our feet on. Also, Channel Islands’ Biscuit Bonzer was named “SIMA 2017 Alternative Board of the Year.” We opted for the “Bonzer 5” fin set up (5’8” x 20 ¼ x 2 ¾) with a 6.5” True Ames Bonzer center fin.
Why We Liked It: This board simply blew our minds. With a hefty amount of foam weighing in at 36.1L, this board packs some serious paddle power, without losing any of the performance and rail-to-rail transition you’d expect out of a classic Bonzer. The drive off the bottom from this board was as fluid as it gets, and the speed that the Biscuit carried while slotted in the pocket (or even off of a steezy highline) quite literally blew our hair back. It worked well in a variety of conditions, from fat beach breaks to running point breaks, but we particularly enjoyed our time at a shoulder-high, racy little point.
Tester Tip: Channel Islands recommends a board that is 4-6 inches shorter than you are. We would lean more toward the 6-inch spectrum of that recommendation – or even a little smaller. This board packs some serious volume, so if you’re scared of losing foam with the shorter specs … don’t be.
Dakine 6'0" Recon Hybrid Single Surfboard Bag ($140)
Why We Chose It: Traveling with your favorite board — even if that means just carting it around in your car everyday — can take a toll on the materials, no matter how careful you are. Protecting your shred stick from the elements, or from careless baggage claim workers, is crucial to prolonging your board’s life.
Why We Liked It: The Recon Hybrid is the perfect blend of being lightweight without compromising durability and protection for your board with 3/8-inch closed-cell padding. It has a generous outline that makes it the proper choice for the wider, more “alternative” boards in your quiver, and the tough polyester top and heat reflecting energy shield bottom were welcome additions to what’s expected of a standard bag. It simply did the job.
Tester Tip: Go for about 6-inches longer than what you normally ride. Though it states that it’s a single board bag, we were able to fit two boards without fins (one 5’6” and one 5’8”), when we opted for the 6’0” bag size.
Katin Surf Sock Pullover ($69)
Why We Chose It: Sometimes, you wake up in the winter and the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the weather is crisp, but not overly frigid. For these days, we wanted something that was equal parts soft and comfy, but not overly insulating.
Why We Liked It: Have you ever looked at your favorite board all snug in its board sock, and gotten jealous? Well, this hoodie was inspired by a surf sock, so envy no more. It’s so lightweight and comfortable that we found while the sun was out, we had it on; when the sun went down, we still had it on; and when we woke up the next morning, we still had it on. It works in so many situations, it’s really hard to take this thing off.
Tester Tip: Buy one for your significant other, too. You’re not going to want to share this thing.
Matuse Dante 3/2 Fullsuit ($290)
Why We Chose It: Matuse is known for producing extremely high-quality wetsuits, and when we read on their website that “The Dante is the most flexible suit that we have ever made,” the decision was a no-brainer.
Why We Liked It: Matuse’s claim about the Dante’s flexibility was spot on. Made with their Geoflex rubber (which has a different elastic range than their Geoprene), range of motion in the shoulders, arms, back and legs was some of the most buttery we’ve ever used. The construction is as good as it gets with their Satin Seal Tape and the warmth that the wetsuit provided made us feel warm and cozy in mid to low 60-degree water.
Tester Tip: If you tend to run warm-blooded, and flexibility is the most important variable when choosing a suit, then look no further than the Dante. However, if you’re the type to get chilly rather quickly, then you may want to opt for one of their suits with Geoprene rubber and Hidden Chamber chest/back, like the Scipio 3mm.
Outerknown Layover Beanie ($68)
Why We Chose It: Outerknown’s website claims that the Layover is “arguably the coziest beanie ever created.” With a bold claim like that, we just had to get one of these beanies on our head to soothe those ice cream headaches after several duck dives in chilly winter water.
Why We Liked It: Made from 60-percent baby alpaca (which is actually just the ultra-fine-grade fiber sheered) and 40-percent organic cotton, the feel of this beanie was unlike anything we’d felt before: baby soft without being too delicate. The quality is precisely what you’d expect from the crew at Outerknown, and keeps your lid warm while still maintaining a level that breathability that doesn’t lead to overheating.
Tester Tip: You’ll likely be wearing this beanie just about everywhere this winter, so you might want to go for a darker color that will hide the inevitable wear and tear you’re going to put this thing through.
Slowtide The Digs Changing Poncho ($70)
Why We Chose It: Changing into your wettie in the cold, dark hours of a winter morning can be a difficult task. We prefer something that is A) Pleasantly warm and toasty, and B) As easy as humanly possible to operate when your brain has likely not operating at full capacity yet. Enter: Slowtide.
Why We Liked It: Slowtide’s changing poncho handles this scenario in the best possible way. It slips over your head with ease, and stays put while you wrangle yourself into your still-damp wetsuit from the day before. Made from an “ultra soft and absorbent 100-percent winter-weight cotton terry,” it has dual internal access pocket, camo hood and comes in one size fits all.
Tester Tip: This thing isn’t just for freezing cold dawn patrol sessions: it works just as well on any given day, in variable temperatures. It also works great for a cozy night on the couch in front of the fireplace (and it’s way better looking than a Snuggie).
The Critical Slide Society Los Captain Jacket ($160)
Why We Chose It: Brisk dawn patrol mornings call for a particular type of jacket: something so comfy that it warrants rolling out of bed before the sunrise.
Why We Liked It: The inner liningof the Los Captain jacket feels like something out of a fabric softener commercial. Jackets with the sherpa-style lining can sometimes feel overly heavy, which this jacket manages to avoid. While this canvas jacket could definitely be considered “heavy,” we found it to be refreshingly lightweight without compromising warmth or build quality.
Tester Tip: Don’t let your wife or girlfriend borrow this jacket… you likely won’t get it back.
Xcel 2017 Infiniti 5 Finger Glove 1.5MM ($50)
Why We Chose It: Keeping your hands warm while cold-water surfing is something that many people might overlook, but it’s a crucial detail you don’t want to bypass when the temperature starts to drop.
Why We Liked It: Our love of these gloves is simple: they kept our fingertips toasty, and we could barely tell that they were on. With a contoured fit, there was no shifting or bunching of the material, and no soggy waterlogged feel. The grippy palms made it so our hands never slipped during critical takeoffs. They simply worked. Enough said.
Tester Tip: Try the gloves on before purchasing. While Xcel products tend to fit true to size, hand size can be a tricky one to nail. It’s best to try the gloves on in-store, then purchase online of you find a good deal (otherwise, just give a nod to the brick-and-mortar. That never hurts).
Xcel 2017 Drylock Split Toe Boot 3MM ($80)
Why We Chose It: Booties are a key component to every winter surfing kit, and Xcel makes some of the finest surfing footwear around. The DryLock’s reputation certainly precedes itself, so we opted to get into something we knew would be a perfect fit.
Why We Liked It: Booties can oftentimes feel stifling. The Drylock is so cushy and flexible, without the cramped feeling we were hoping to avoid. The Drylocks kept our feet warm, added a bit of grip to our deck/tail, and didn’t get bogged down and heavy by taking on water (a very common issue with lower-quality booties).
Tester Tip: As noted about the gloves, we highly recommend trying them on before buying. You may want to go a size or so smaller than you do with your shoes, for a snug, not constricting, fit.