Snowbirds: 12 Winter Surfing Essentials

When it comes to surfing, Winter is a double edged sword. It’s a time of year that offers plenty in the way of waves but with the drawback of the weather. The season itself brings stormy chaos to our oceans in the Northern Hemisphere, storms that are life-threatening in these high latitudes with whipped-up rain, wind, and snow. A scary scene indeed, however at the shoreline – if we’re lucky of course – the only semblance of this storm will be crisp, clean peeling waves thundering upon the chilly beachfront under the low winter sun.

Of course, this reality varies from coast to coast with the Eastern Seaboard experiencing a more wintery scene than their West Coast counterparts. Surfers entering the water in blizzard conditions are a testament to the hardcore nature of these individuals. But when it’s just you, a couple friends, and an afternoon of perfect waves, you tend to forget all about those days under the hot sun and the crowds that followed. Yes, when done right, winter can be the best time of year for surfers as long as you come prepared, which is why a winter surfing essentials list was imperative for us. For it’s once the crowds clear and the bikinis-clad spectators are gone that the ocean truly comes to life. And you better be there to take full advantage of what she has to offer.

Zippo Hand Warmer

Zippo Hand Warmer

For those extra cold mornings or if your hands start feeling like lobster claws after a long surf, you’ll be thankful for this Zippo hand lighter that will warm you up in no time. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand (about the size of a pack of 100s) and can get up to 110 degrees when stored in its pouch. It also lasts for up to 12 hours so unless you’re surfing the Arctic Ocean, this should keep you set for more than a few sessions.

Purchase: $11

Matunas Organic Cold Water Surf Wax

Matunas Organic Cold Water Surf Wax

Despite what you may assume, there is a large difference between warm and cold water surf waxes. It all boils down to the hardness of the wax, with cold water options being the softest since as the water cools you need a wax that doesn’t harden and chip off your board. Matunas is a California-based company that makes organic and biodegradable surf wax from local CA-grown products. It’s both good for the environment and will keep you steady on the board. Win. Win.

Purchase 5-Pack: $15

Thermos Stainless King

Thermos Stainless King

Think about it. You just spent the better part of two hours in the icy ocean and you’ve just gone through the bone-chilling procedure of changing out of your suit and into some relatively warm clothes. You’re still shivering, wind-burnt, and cursing Old Man Winter. Luckily, you have your Thermos that’s filled to the brim with hot coffee. The perfect medicine. And thanks to Thermos’ vacuum insulation technology, your liquids will remain hot for up to 24 hours. Can beat that once the session is all said and done.

Purchase: $35

Pendleton Oversized Jacquard Towel

Pendleton Oversized Jacquard Towel

Just like summer, hitting the beach without a towel is an ill-advised amateur move, especially when the temps outside dip down toward the freezing mark. So if there’s any season where skimping on a towel purchase is a bad look it’s this one. Thankfully, Pendleton has us covered with their cotton velour towels that give off a cultural Native American vibe with a looped reverse side for excellent absorption. Trust us, you’re gonna need it.

Purchase: $50

O’Neill 5mm Psycho SL Gloves

O’Neill 5mm Psycho SL Gloves

As anyone who spends significant time outdoors in the cold will tell you, keeping your extremities warm is key. Throw some 48-degree water in the mix on a cold day and without a pair of gloves out there you’re asking for trouble. These 5mm Psycho gloves from O’Neill offer superior warmth and comfort even on the coldest of days and their five finger design ensures you can still remain mobile despite all that rubber. They’re also wind resistant, and quick drying for a bit of extra protection when you need it as well.

Purchase: $52

Outerknown Overcast Beanie

Outerknown Overcast Beanie

Time to replace that summer hat with something a little more appropriate. Keeping your head warm this time of year is highly advised, and this Overcast Beanie from OuterKnown comes highly recommended. It’s crafted from incredibly soft baby alpaca and boasts a heavy gauge knit with a wide folded band for extra ear protection for those chilly days ahead. And, seasonally appropriate of course, the beanie comes in heather gray.

Purchase: $78

Excel 7mm Drylock Round Toe Boots

Xcel 7mm Drylock Round Toe Boots

Much like wetsuits, boots come in various thicknesses as well. But ask any surfer who’s made the mistake of under-calling the water temp and they’ll tell you a solid pair of thick booties is a must for winter. And unless you want your feet to feel like bricks for several hours, we suggest giving these Excel boots a chance. They boast a thinner sole for enhanced mobility, Drylock ankle seals to keep water out, and host Ultrastretch technology to keep you ready for whatever that icy swell wants to throw your way.

Purchase: $80

Polo Ralph Lauren Jersey Sweatpants

Polo Ralph Lauren Jersey Sweatpants

Nothing says warmth like sweatpants, especially after a chilly surf session. These Polo Ralph Lauren sweats, made from 87% cotton and 13% polyester, are a perfectly warm and easy option to get you nice and toasty after a session. They feature a drawstring waist, two front slash pockets, a back patch pocket, and ribbed trims to keep the warmth where it belongs. Best part of all, they’re machine washable so no need to worry about a little spilled coffee or salt water stains with this pair.

Purchase: $100

Glerups Boots

Glerups Boots

Having cold feet doesn’t just suck for weddings. It’s a terrible experience for surfers as well. And considering your feet remain submerged in that icy water for the majority of the session, we’re willing to bet coming back to a pair of moisture wicking wool boots is exactly what you need. Take these Glerups for example, featuring a double layer felted wool interior sole, and boasting easy-on, easy off wearability, they’ll do you right once you get all the sand off your feet.

Purchase: $125

Patagonia Down Snap-T Pullover

Patagonia Down Snap-T Pullover

Whether you’re checking the surf or just getting out of the water it’s going to be cold this time of year. Therefore a proper winter jacket is necessary to keep you toasty as long as possible before entering those chilly waters. This 600-fill recycled down jacket insulates on its own while simultaneously working as a layer as well. And with its DWR treatment, a little light rain or snow won’t put a hamper on your surf check either. Stay warm out there.

Purchase: $199

Excel Hawaii 5/4 Revolt Hooded Wetsuit

Xcel Hawaii 5/4 Revolt Hooded Wetsuit

Real cold necessitates real rubber. And once your fall gear begins to feel a bit too thin out there it’s time to bust out the serious wetsuit. This hooded Xcel is the perfect option for those classic winter sessions. Its toasty 5/4mm thickness yet UltraStretch neoprene makeup ensures you keep warm out there when remaining flexible. It also features their Drylock wrist seals and Nexskin liquid seals that prevent water entry, TCD lining that recycles your own body heat, and a GBS construction that keeps warmth in and water out.

Purchase: $475

Chemistry Compression Rounded Pintail Surfboard

Chemistry Compression Rounded Pintail Surfboard

Here’s the best part about winter surfing, the waves. And with bigger and more powerful waves you can go ahead and set aside your small wave gear for the season. The Compression is made for big surf, though it is a bit smaller than your typical step-up board. It’s purposed to be just as maneuverable as your regular shortboard but with enough meat to get you into those larger set waves with ease. It also boasts a five-fin setup for superior speed to help you outrun those larger than normal sections and make those racing icy barrels. Just hope someone’s filming on the beach.

Purchase: $575

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