Winter surf guide – The gears you need for cool and cold water surfing

When people think of surfing, glossy waves in tropical paradises may come to mind. But there is so much beauty and magic with winter surfing that you don’t want to miss out on! Although, winter surfing got an extra element of discomfort that the tropical destination doesn’t: cold weather and water. But don’t worry, we are here to help you keep warm during the winter months – time to suit up!

In this guide, we walk you through our winter surf essentials:

Cold water gear: Here are our winter essentials

There are many amazing benefits to cold water exposure, some benefits include strengthening the immune system and releasing endorphins. And not to mention that the waves have more life in the winter season while the lineups are emptier! Keep in mind that the risk of hypothermia is much higher than in warmer waters though, it’s important to have the right wetsuit and accessories. Here are the gears to use to stay warm:

Boardshorts and swimsuits

Even though you will be nice and warm in a thick wetsuit, don’t forget to bring boardshorts or swimsuits! You want to wear swimwear of nice quality that stays where they need to be during your surf session. It’s not the easiest thing to adjust uncomfortable swimwear under the thick wetsuit!

Winter wetsuits

During the winter season, it is recommended to have a thick wetsuit to keep yourself warm and lower the risk of getting hypothermia. A full wetsuit is a good pick for chilly winter days, which is a wetsuit that covers the whole body from ankles to wrists. The wetsuit comes in a number of different thicknesses, these ones are suitable for winter surf:

Thickness for cool water

  • 3 mm wetsuit: When the water temperature is around 15°C, a 3 mm wetsuit is a nice option, like a 3/2 mm. No need for a hood, gloves, or boots.
  • 4 mm wetsuit: For cool water that is around 12°C, it’s time to put on a thicker wetsuit and maybe even a pair of wetsuit boots, a 4/3 could be a good pick.

Thickness for cold water frigid

  • 5 mm wetsuit: When the water is around 10°C you need a wetsuit with a thickness of around 5 mm. We recommend that you also wear a hood, gloves, and boots.
  • 6+ mm wetsuit: When the water temperature drops under 6°C, it’s time to bring out the really thick wetsuits! You don’t want to risk getting hyperthermia so a hood, thick gloves, and boots are definitely recommended. A hooded full wetsuit would be preferable here.

Read more about wetsuits in our wetsuit guide.

Wetsuit thickness chart: Get the right thickness for the winter

Winter accessories: boots, gloves and hoods

When the water has a temperature under 15° Celcius, we recommend you to wear some extra surf accessories to keep yourself warm.

Wetsuit boots: Wearing boots while surfing is a great way to keep your toes nice and protected from the water as well as they provide extra protection from rough surfaces under your feet. When putting on the boots, make sure that the ends of the wetsuits are pulled over them! Otherwise, the boots can get filled with water that is coming in through the ankle holes of the wetsuit.

Wetsuit gloves: Keep your fingers warm with a pair of gloves! The glows and mittens are made out of neoprene and come in different variations like five-finger glows for dexterity and mittens that keep your hands from getting cold.

Wetsuit hoods: Hoods can be built into your wetsuit or can be added on.


A condition called exostosis, more famously known as Surfers Ear, causes hearing loss and can be a consequence of exposure to cold water and wind. Therefore, bringing a pair of earplugs is a great way to protect your ears!

Hand warmers

When you head back to the beach after a cold session in the waves it can feel really nice to have hand warmers waiting for you among your stuff that you can hold on to.

Surfboard wax

Depending on the temperature of the water we use different kinds of surf vax. For winter surfing, we either apply cool water wax, cold water wax, or ice cold water wax. The softest wax is used for the coldest waters and soft wax is easy to apply.

Surfboard wax chart for winter surfing

Cool water wax: For water with temperatures around 14-18° (or 57-64° Fahrenheit) Celcius you can use a cold water wax for your board.

Cold water wax: When the water temperature is between 10-14° (or 50-57° Fahrenheit) Celcius you can use a cold water wax.

Ice cold water wax: And for the brave surfers who enter the water when it has dropped below 10° Celcius (or 50° Fahrenheit), you use ice cold water wax.

A thick leash

The conditions are usually a bit rougher when surfing in winter, which might require you to use a thicker leash than normal. You don’t want your leash to snap!

Surf ponchos

A warm and cozy surf poncho is a must-have when heading out for a winter surf. The poncho will make it much easier for you to change in and out of your surf gear. It will also keep you much warmer after you exit the freezing water than a towel ever could.

Fleeces and hoodies

Putting on a warm fleece or hoodie after a day in cold water hits differently! Keep yourself warm in high-quality clothes that are as nice to look at as snuggle down in.

A warm beanie

Keep your head and ears warm with a warm and stylish beanie before and after your surf session.

Ding repairs

Since the conditions usually are a bit tougher in winter, the risks of getting dings are high. Be ready with a ding repair kit just in case!

Dry bags

A dry bag is a great thing to bring with you to keep your stuff dry in wet conditions. It’s also great for the opposite purpose: keep your wet swimwear in the bag to protect your other stuff from getting wet and damaged. Nothing is worse than going around with wet things in cold temperatures!

A surfskate for the days when the ocean is flat

Brig a surfskate with you on your winter adventure if the weather allows it! It is a great chance to practice your surfing skills on land.

A quality boardbag

Bring your precious surfboards with you in the safest way possible! A quality boardbag is a must to store your surfboard during your journey to and from the destination. It’s a good idea to give the boards some extra padding in the bag by wrapping them in towels and clothes.

And of course; your favorite surfboards

Take out your favorite boards from your quiver and bring them with you on this winter adventure.

Surf destinations: Our favorite places to surf in winter

Experience the best surfing that winter has to offer while spending the time out of the water to see breathtaking locations and hang out with like-minded people. Check out our surf camps that are perfect for a winter vacation:

Check out our summer surf guide.

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