How to Prepare Your Body, Mind and Equipment for Winter Surfing

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Yes, please! It’s that time of year. The time of year, when the tilt of the earth’s axis points away from the sun resulting in…winter. This means fewer hours of sunshine, a drop in mercury levels and, of course, more waves. Greater swell sizes, an increase in swell consistency and most likely, an increase in swell period. Can I get an ‘amen’ from the crowd!? 

For the layman, cooler temperatures and less sunshine spell less fun, whereas for the surfer, it’s where all the fun begins. Before you dive in with arms wide open, it’s pertinent that you head into winter prepared. Get your equipment ready for big barrels, late drops and a drop in temperatures. Get your body ready to take a couple winter-inspired beat downs. And get your mind ready to swing when the set wave of the day approaches your doorstep. Here are our tips to get you ready for winter.

Prepare your body for winter surfing

Invest in the Burpee

Is there any exercise that could you prepare you for surfing better than the devilish burpee? It’s the type of workout you’d be reduced to in prison. But oh man, is the burpee a necessary evil. An evil that only leads to what is good. Developed by physiologist Royal H. Burpee, burpees target some of the largest muscle groups in the body, such as shoulders, glutes, quads and hamstring. Burpees burn a ton of calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. Every single time you paddle for wave and pop to your feet, you’re completing a form of burpee. Furthermore, your strengthened quads will come to your aid on those elongated bottom turns when the waves are overhead. 

What’s great about burpees is that you don’t have to do many for them to have an effect. Simply do 30-40 burpees over a 15-minute period. Spice up said burpees with a 40-60 second plank, 20-30 crunches and you’ve got yourself a daily workout that will get your body ready for winter.

Curate a stretch routine

The modern homo sapiens live a relatively sedentary existence. We spend the majority of our days behind laptops sitting on chairs responding to emails. This results in a hull that isn’t particularly supple or ready to take on a roaring ocean that will bend and contort you into awkward positions. Thus, before the first of winter’s swells come rolling into town, it’s important that stretching is part of your daily routine. Great stretches for surfing include the cobra pose, the seated hip stretch, the spinal twist, the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch and lying knee roll-over back stretch.

Purge your fridge

Once you’ve got a solid stretch routine down and you’re completing your daily burpees along with crunches and planking, the next obvious step is to compliment your physical tuning with the right diet. Therefore, rid your fridge and pantry of all that is unhealthy. If it’s high in sugar or high in carbs it’s time to bin it. That means beers are now on the back burner – if you’re a fan of malted barley and you simply cannot do without – then perhaps it’s time to delve into the world of lite beers. And when your friends make you the butt end of their jokes, don’t fret, because you know who’ll be having the last laugh. Slim down your beverage and food intake to that which is low in sugar and low in carbs, so that when the day of reckoning arrives, your body will be ready to take on all the ocean throws at you.

Prepare your mind for winter surfing

Surf when it’s small

Surfing when it’s small, will ensure that your body is loose, light and firing on all cylinders. Nothing prepares your body, mind and soul more effectively than simply surfing. The ocean has a certain rhythm to it and much of surfing is tapping into the ocean’s rhythm. The only way to do that is to go surfing. Not only will surfing when the waves are subpar keep your body loose and limber, it’ll ready your mind for when the first winter swell rolls into your hood.

Watch surf movies

Instead of queuing up your favourite series on Netflix, spend that time watching your favourite surfers’ surfing waves of consequence. Engage your mind, take note of the takeoff, note the paddle in and note the lines drawn in bigger surf. Let your mind subconsciously absorb all the information so that when that first set wave of winter approaches and doubt threatens to take hold, you can calm the storm within because you are fit and mentally prepared. Check out our favorite surf films for inspiration.

Prepare your equipment for winter surfing

Equipment plays an especially important role as the waves grown in size and power. When the waves start looming and the wind is howling, the last thing you want to do is second guess your surf equipment. Here’s how to order your equipment for winter.

Low entry rocker

Want to know how John John Florence can surf 8-10ft Pipeline and Sunset on such small equipment (well, besides the fact that he’s one of the world’s greatest surfers and grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii…), it’s because John Pyzel, JJF’s shaper, shapes his boards with low entry rocker. Instead of plowing water on a banana-like gun, John’s boards have low entry rocker complimented by volume which is placed directly under the chest, resulting in a surfboard that gently glides over the surface of the ocean and into waves with the greatest of ease.

Volume is your friend

If you forget everything you’ve read here today, then remember this one poignant point: volume is your friend. If you want to surf waves of consequence in winter, then get a board with a couple extra litres to get you paddling faster. A board with a couple extra litres is like having a car with extra horse power. It doesn’t make too much of a difference, except when you’re overtaking another vehicle on the highway riding 120km/h – then, suddenly, that extra horse power might just save your life.

Keep that leash thick

Once you’ve said goodbye to summer, you can also say Auf Wiedersehen to your thin comp leash. When it comes to winter swells and leashes… thicker is better! The last thing anybody desires, (especially you) is to find yourself stranded behind the breakers sans surfboard, waging war on a rip current. No, sir/ma’m! That’s the things nightmares are made of. Also: make sure there are no cuts in your leash and that your leashes are stored in a shady area away from sunshine so that they stay stronger for longer.

Get yourself a cosy wetsuit

Treat yo’ self! Winter not only means longer boards and thicker leashes, it also means thicker wetsuits (presuming you don’t live in the tropics of course). Not only do you want to feel nice and cosy warm in winter surf, you also want the added protection afforded by a thicker wetsuit. Purge that old holey wetsuit and invest in a fresh piece of neoprene this winter.

Get yourself a surf buddy 

Nothing gets you more excited and mentally prepared to take on winter than having a reliable surf buddy. Ideally, you want to have someone that is on a similar surfing level to you, has a similar surfing agenda and of course, a matching work schedule. The last thing you want is to be dragged out to a big wave spot when all you want to do is surf the local beach break. Nor do you want a surf buddy that messages you to surf at all hours of the day while you sit at your desk waiting for the clock to strike 4pm with your boss breathing down your neck. No thank you! Find someone who’s on the same page as you. Someone who will have your back when the waves get gnarly and the wind picks up. Someone who will hoot for you when you make the barrel of your life or will call you into that slightly heavier wave than usual. A good surf buddy is like a good leash: it never snaps, is with you through the epic barrels and heavy beatings and always has your back.

Raise your glasses (containing a low carb, low sugar beverage of course), here’s to winter!

Winter surf gear recommendations

At Surfd, we’re always on the lookout for the best surf products. We’ve compiled a selection of our favorite winter surf gear to save you time and effort. Stay warm and focused on doing what you love most—paddling out into ice-cold waves.

1. Patagonia Yulex® Front-Zip Hooded Wetsuit

2. X-cel Boots 3mm

3. Wacaco Nonopresso Journey Winter Ride

4. FCS Surf Wax Cold

5. X-cel Infiniti Five Finger Glove 3mm

6. Patagonia Fishermans Rolled Beanie

7. Outerknown Hooded Puffer

8. Fubuki NISEKO 2.0 Low Boots

9. Creatures of Leisure Reliance Reef Large Wave Leash

10. FireWire Twice Baked Surfboard