Surfing, in its purest guise, requires precious little equipment.
Board, wetsuit, towel. And you don't actually need a towel, nor a wetsuit, necessarily... or even a board.
Which all sounds pretty groovy and non-gear geeky... until you remember you live around 50 degrees north of the equator (as in, more than half way to the pole) and that you want to surf in winter, when the best waves happen.
Then it becomes a different story.
Then what kind of kit you're running becomes vital.
It is also important to consider which of the ages of man you represent. Or, if you prefer, how old you are.
When you're say, 16-25, you're pretty much invincible, or, at the very least invincible relative to you in ten years' time. You can wear pretty much whatever (I didn't wear a hood until I was 30). Then, inevitably, you start to turn into a bit of pussy. It happens around about the same time you cease being able to do proper poos.* But I digress.
These must-haves are not really musts, of course. You can still maintain a reasonable quality of life without any of them, even without knowing they exist.
But if you are in planning some kind of winter surfing equipment spend this Samhain - which you surely are - be it from under £20 to several hundred, you must allow us to recommend the following.
*When they go from being kinda clean-ish consistent logs to just like a sloppy pile.
1. Xcel Drylock TDC 5mm Split Toe Boot £65.95
Boots are worth an extra investment, boots are the thing to err both on the side of thickness, and extravagance..
If your feet are cold, your session, as a good time, is effectively over. Once your feet get cold, there's no warming em back up. At all. The best you can hope for is to hold the keep, so to speak, to maintain. Whereas you can warm up overall in really paddly surf, in rips, on shorter period swells, feet comfort only ever goes in one direction.
"You're only as good as your extremities" a wise man once said a long time before faux-Nordic Instagram surf chic enamel camping mug survival kit wank
These things are about as high-spec as anything on the market, and well worth what seems like a hefty investment. And if you've ever thought 'It's not that cold, maybe I only need 3mm boots', then you don't need boots. At all.
2. Belly Channels aka Clinker Bottom aka Fuck Yeah £50-ish extra
Ah channels. Look so good, feel so good, go so good.
Why doesn't every surfboard in the world have channels?
If ever there were a season that required channels, it's winter. Grip, drive, speed = confidence = you getting the waves of your winter/life on the thing. And while a deep six does more, it'll cost double and ding easier... so belly channels seem like the very happy medium.
You might need to trick the shaper into thinking it was his idea, so that he’ll offer to sand em in case the glasser/sander decide to go out like a whiney little bitches. Which is highly likely.
Remember, channels aren't just for gunny step-up spears. Add to em a fave shortboard outline to tool it up for winter. Once you do, you'll only lament all those wasted channel bottom-less years. Maybe don't go for light glass, and don't be afraid of a tint to keep her looking delightful for seasons to come. These fuckers are keepers.
3. Lunasurf 4 Piece Front Foot Traction £54.95
The surf world has had to wait a while between full deck grip heroes.
From Mr X, Damien Hardman et al to today's full traction champions, it's been a good 25 year coming back into vogue. But by jove be thankful they have!
You almost certainly have back foot pad. So why now front hoof too? And why winter?
Here's why: Goodbye heavy, slimy, ugly, useless grey multi-strata of cold water wax yuck.
Hello suit up, grab board, paddle out!
Joyous friction at the sole of foot/board interface is of course a year-round must. But given the juicier swells and inevitable later drops of winter, it becomes even more important.
Get Lunasurf grips here
4. Rip Curl GPS Watch £289
Sometimes, in winter in particular, you need a little extra incentive to dip a toe in. And in much the same way that your running or cycling apps can incentivise your exercise, or even, make it more likely that you'll actually do some, so too will the GPS watch further your froth on those marginal wintry days.
With data on top speed, number of waves caught and distance surfed/paddled, plus the added chance that the extra beef in the swell increases your likelihood of breaking your own speed record - as well as of course vital tidal data - this is the best watch for surfing on the market.
5. Xcel Infiniti Cellinat Comp Hooded 4/3 £299
Is the hooded 4/3 the new hooded 5/3? Very Possibly.
Now, if you live and surf Scotland/North Sea/Scandinavia, or if you're regularly on a jetski doing step offs (or just being a cunt), less so. You probably want thicker. But for SW Britain and all European parts south, we suggest you'll appreciate the increased flex/reduced burden of the hooded 4/3.
Moreover, if you ('re an 'older dude'/quite well off/one of those pussies who refuses to put on a wet wetsuit and thus) insist on a quiver of at least two winter suits, this one's an ideal foil to your 5mil...
Furthermore, if your basic year-round two suit combo is a 3/2 for summer and 5mil for winter, the changeovers can be awkward, right? Do you wait until December before going the 5mil? Or use it earlier, but then not appreciate it as much when it gets real cold in January. Likewise, do you switch down to a 3/2 early and be a touch cold but liberated in May, or carry on lugging a beefy 5mil on your back when swifts and swallows are dancing on balmy Bank Holiday zephyrs and people are drinking outside pubs in t-shirts and shorts? Enter the hooded 4/3... transition season heaven.
Review coming here soon. (Not cold enough to test it properly yet)
6. Lunasurf All 4mm Hooded £290
Extrapolate the logic from above... if the hooded 4/3 is the new hooded 5/3... could the hooded all 4mm be the new hooded 4/3? Again... maybe!
Lunasurf's offering fits into a brand new niche in terms of thickness, you won't see a lot of/any one thickness suits on the market... Except possibly a 2/2mm. So is an all 4mm warm enough for the rigours of your local?
"I spent 4 months (Sept-December) living in a car in Iceland, surfing several times a day in just a Lunasurf all 4mm hooded wetsuit," reckoned Ian Battrick. So, yes, then. Absolutely.
Buy a Lunasurf all 4mm here
Our test coming as soon as it gets cold enough (water's still 16 deg C)...
7. Xcel Quick Dry 2mm Cap £14.99
No £15 will change your winter surf experience more than a simple, humble twat cap. Or rather, no fifteen quid will make such a difference in the eternal struggle between stokey comfort... and death by hypothermia.
The twat cap is vastly underrated accessory.
For those unwilling to go full built-in hood, or for the very hardest of core who’ll only hood up when it’s snowing/ there's a windchill of minus 20, you can add one to your regular winter steamer.
Futhermore, if yo ass is broke, you can even bung one on with a 3/2 & boots and lengthen your autumn right into winter. Sorta.
8. Patagonia R3 Glove £40
So, why these ones in particular?
Well, it's a way of getting some Patagucci in your wetsuit quiver, right? We've gone on record saying their wetsuits are way too stiff for the 21st century. And they are, really, to be honest. But we dig the brand and everything about it, hard, hence the glove love.
Plus, Merino wool! They're lined with it. If you don't already place as much Merino wool against your skin as often as possible/you can afford between halloween and Easter then you are only lying to yourself.
Unsure about if/when you need gloves? This order of descending temperature:
- Winter Steamer
- Steamer + boots
- Steamer + boots + hood
- Steamer + boots + hood + gloves
(Hood but no boots or even boots + gloves but no hood is unsightly/dysfunctional. More wetsuit rules here)
9. Decathlon 8 litre Camping Shower £34.99
OK wait... Wait! Before you scoff, hear us out. Or at least, hear our disclaimer out:
This little hot water bottle with pump action shower head is a bit like a swimming pool or a boat - the only thing better than having one yourself is having a bro with one.
I too, dismissed and dissed this notion. Then I was parked next to friend's wife, who happens to be Brazilian and feels the cold. She had one of these fuckers in the boot of her car. We'd both finished our sesh's at the same time, it was blowing hard offshore with a windchill of a lot, and I felt relatively close to death in the Bourdaines car park. Then she offered me a go on one of these. Holy shit.