Winter can be a tricky time for surfers. On one hand, many places around the world light up, and many places that are horribly crowded during summer seem to empty out for a few months. On the other hand, most places get cold … very, very cold.
With that comes the necessity to gear up properly to be able to handle those frigid dawn patrol sessions.
You have to have the right equipment to allow you to stay out as long as there are waves there to catch. You don’t want to be limited based on lack of adequate gear.
From wetsuits, to changing accessories, to gifts, here is some of our favorite winter gear to keep you warm, keep you flexible and keep you stoked. Cheers to endless sessions this winter.
When we heard about a neoprene-free wetsuit from Patagonia, we had to get our hands on one and get in the water. We opted for the 3/2 front-zip full suit (suggested for 48-55 degrees Fahrenheit) for a chilly Southern California winter.
Made from 85 percent Yulex natural rubber and 15 percent of synthetic rubber, the R3 Yulex is constructed almost entirely from rubber that was derived from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
The R3 Yulex is stretchy and comfortable, and is easy to get on and off (something that's extremely welcomed on those frigid dawn patrol mornings). It kept us warm and gave plenty of flexibility and range of motion while paddling.
While there are other great wetsuits on the market these days, if you’re willing to pay a little more to make an environmental statement, Yulex is the choice.
Slater Designs’ OMNI model ($770)
The Slater Designs OMNI model was designed to perform best in waves from 3 to 6 feet, which if you live in Southern California, makes it your year-round, everyday surfboard. We rode the OMNI in North County, San Diego beachbreaks, and in solid Santa Cruz pointbreak conditions.
Between the two very different locations, we enjoyed it best in pointbreaks; however, in fast beachbreak conditions, it outperformed more traditional shortboards.
The OMNI is ECO-BOARD certified and uses what Firewire calls their Linear Flex Technology. It also incorporates Firewire's SPRINGER HD, which is the wide line that runs down the center of the board. It's an aerospace composite that runs the entire length of the board and plays what Firewire calls a "pivotal role in optimizing flex from nose to tail."
The OMNI turned out to be our favorite board of the season, and more versatile than expected.
Booties are something that most surfers will only use when absolutely necessary, as the extra layer between a surfer and their wax can sometimes feel unnatural. However, the necessity is there on those days when you just can't bear to surf with numb feet.
We tested the Patagonia R3 Split Toe booties, and as far as booties go, they were some of the best we've used. Made with a super stretchy 3mm neoprene and 100 percent external seam sealing, the R3 kept our tootsies nice and toasty, while still allowing for impressive flexibility and feel.
Another cool feature of the R3 booties is the fast-drying 51 percent recycled polyester interior lining made for nice and dry booties every single frigid morning. Suggested for use in 44-55 degree Fahrenheit water, the R3 booties are the perfect compliment to the R3 Yulex full suit.
The lobster claw (or the 3-finger glove for those wishing to be politically correct), is one of the more underappreciated pieces of winter surf gear.
Providing more dexterity than a mitten but more warmth than a glove, the Drylock TDC 3-Finger Glove from Xcel is the best of both worlds. Besides, the lobster look is in right now.
We tested Hurley's Phantom 303 Fullsuit in the chilly waters of Santa Cruz, California, and found it to be a great wetsuit for the surfer who is looking for an all-around, everyday winter suit.
The 3mm Phantom features what Hurley refers to as "Thermo Light," which is a new heat-reflective technology that creates maximum warmth without sacrificing the weight or flexibility of the suit.
The chest-zip entry was easy to get in and out of and it didn't bulk up after it was fully zipped.
For only using a 3mm wetsuit in a place where 4/3mm wetsuits are worn year-around, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the Phantom 303 performed, making it a great a choice this winter.
When it's flat and you're seeking mindsurf inspiration, this is the book you want on your coffee table.
Photographer Chris Burkard's best surf photography is preserved in this behemoth of a book, divided into eight chapters that span his travels from Alaska to Russia to India.
You'll see familiar faces, like a Gudauskas or two, but also places you likely never knew existed, and will likely never venture to, unless you like blustery trudges through knee-deep snow with your board in hand.
With essays from Burkard and other surf writers like Ben Weiland, this book will have you dreaming of uncrowded surf in far-flung places while you wait for winter swells to reach your home break. (Oh, and it makes a great gift too!)
Surfears 2.0 ($52)
Wearing earplugs is not fun, but what's even less fun is getting clogged ears, surfer's ear or even an ear infection.
After suffering a painful, surf-induced ear infection that left him deaf in one ear for a week, one of the founders of SurfEars decided enough was enough, and designed a plug that kept water out while allowing sound in.
SurfEars 2.0, the newest iteration, comes with a few new features: a loss-prevention leash, an improved water seal and a 72% larger sound channel to allow better hearing and balance. If they're good enough for Pipeline great Tom Carroll (above), they're good enough for us.
Poler x Pendleton poncho ($135)
Winter is the only time that there's a part of surfing we don't love, and that part is changing in the cold air.
Thanks to Poler's multi-product collaboration with Pendleton, there now exists a changing towel that is both comfy and stylish. Unlike a traditional changing cape, this one has open rather than seamed sides, so you can't do a full change, but it will keep you warm in those moments before and after you wear your wetsuit.
The towel material is extra thick and soft, so if we see you wearing this poncho lounging around your house too, we won't judge.
We've found the Rinsekit piece of gear essential for post-surf parking lot showers.
With a mechanism that delivers pressurized water for up to three minutes, fill the 2-gallon chamber with hot water, throw this in your car and make your winter changing sessions enjoyable rather than painful.
While we started using it as a piece of surf gear, it's also been an essential showering tool on long road trips, as well as a handy way to wash cookware while camping.