Surfing with cold feet sucks. It feels like you’ve got a pair of big old flippers down there and, if you haven’t progressed to the completely numb phase, it can be pretty uncomfortable, if not painful. Not really knowing where your manky, frozen feet land means you’ll plant them in awkward places, dig rails and generally not be going where you want to go.
Ironically, the main reason people don’t want to wear surf boots is because it feels bad. I totally get it when we’re talking about surfing in warm water and the boots are for reef protection. It’s often worth the risk of going bootless, just for the extra sensitivity and control that naked feet provide.
But cold water surfing is a vastly different affair. If your paws are numb after 15 minutes out there, then you’ve pretty much wasted a whole lot of pain and effort, possibly squeezing into an icy wetsuit, getting brain freeze as you paddle out and then kooking it on your second wave because your feet are all over the place.
This was my predicament, so I perused the selection down at the local surf shop and settled for a product that sounds like it is straight from the embryonic bath tub in The Matrix.
Enter the NeoGoo Boots by Quiksilver
What do you get if Neo takes too may blue pills? NeoGoo! Yum!
NeoGoo 3mm Boots – Specifications
After construction at the Quiksilver factory, these split toe boots are dipped into a steaming cauldron of liquid neoprene, giving them a complete waterproof seal. They have a super grippy sole, which can actually be a bummer if you want to adjust your footing during the course of a ride. But with practice you’ll learn how to ride with boots.
If you like facts and numbers, then this section is for you:
Split toe (toe separator)
Pull-on, simple design
Thickness: 3 mm, which is fine for all but the coldest water surfing
Fully dipped in liquid neoprene for lightweight warmth and no leaks
Moulded webbing for structural support
The boots are easy enough to pull on and take off, with a flexible entrance that can be rolled down to allow for easy foot insertion. They’re comfortable to walk around in and you can feel that they have been designed to cushion the foot, rather than just being quite literal boots (some competing models are like this). The sole is thin enough that you don’t feel you’re wearing your Doc Martens in the ocean, and they’re pretty grippy so you will probably be buying less wax over the winter.
The boots are not completely waterproof because seepage will, of course, run from your legs down through the mouth of the boot, collecting around your toes. Unless you have a brand new wetsuit, this will always be the case – and will be the same with all winter surfing booties. However, the NeoGoos have no seams for water to escape, meaning what gets in will stay in until the end of your session. So enjoy your foot soup, because you’re kind of stuck with it for the long haul. Personally, I prefer the warm foot soup to having frozen phalanges, all yellow and lifeless. No-one likes a dead phalange.
All winter booties take time to get used to. While I’m trying to compensate for what feels like a rubber sponge beneath my feet, another guy boosts a massive air, wearing boots, gloves and a hood. It’s all relative and if you’re keen enough, you’ll learn. The bonus is that you’ll be given the gift of more water time, so you can stay out there a lot longer than the naked feet guys.
You also get the added bonus of suddenly knowing Kung Fu, which is a treat the Quiksilver crew have included in the NeoGoo purchase price, thanks to their obsession with all things Matrix. Simply pull them on, tuck ’em inside your wetsuit legs (never outside, please!) and you’ll be throwing kicks like Jackie Chan. Your mouth will start moving in slow motion, with a bad dubbed soundtrack. You’ll scream “kayyyyah!” as you launch your superman spin-kick air. You’ll tell the Red Hot Chili Peppers that they can bring it on, you don’t give a freak whose beach this is. You’ll be confused about who you are, have an existential crisis. You’ll swallow a handful of blue pills and follow the woman in the red dress down the crowded street.
Then, you’ll wake up and realise it was all a dream, because you’re covered in… you know what. But at least your feet will be warm.