Surfing during the cooler months on Delmarva presents unique challenges that could plague even the most advanced surfer.
Before you go, here are some tips to ensure you are prepared to hit the winter waves:
1. Make friends. The No. 1 rule of surfing is to never go out alone. This is doubly important in the winter, when cold temperatures are likely to sap your energy faster and make you more susceptible to injury. Plus, friends can annoy you into going out when you lack the motivation on particularly cold days.
2. Watch out for wind. It’s not the air temperature that will make you miserable — it’s the wind. In many ways, 20 degrees feels the same as 70 degrees in the right wetsuit, but having the wind whip across your wet, exposed face can feel like a thousand needles during the winter months.
3. Wax your board. It’s always important to make sure your board is properly waxed so your feet will have the necessary traction for popping up and balancing. In the winter, be sure to get a wax appropriate for colder temperatures to ensure you don’t slip into the icy depths.
4. Don’t take your gear off in the water. For starters, you’ll find it very difficult to get your gloves, boots or hood back on while you are being pummeled by waves. The bigger issue, though, is because your gear is keeping you nice and warm, it’s easy to forget how freezing the water actually is. Take off your gear in the water, and you’ll remember pretty quickly.
5. Keep your chin up. Going under water is an inevitability in the summer, but it should be avoided at all costs in the winter. Taking the plunge in freezing temperatures knocks the wind out of you and makes it difficult to stay out in the water afterward. Exercise more caution than usual to keep your head above the surface.
6. Pee. Many winter surfers swear by this as a means of getting warm in the chilly ocean. Think it’s gross? Try accidentally going under water, and you may change your mind.
7. Bring a large Thermos of hot water. Your wetsuit does well to protect you in the water, but peeling it off in the cold wind afterward can be unpleasant. Pouring warm water down your front and back before taking off your suit can help ease the transition and prevent you from turning into a Popsicle.
8. Bring lotion. Winter temperatures already have a tendency to dry out one’s skin. Couple that with salty ocean water, and your hands are likely to look reptilian. Keep some lotion or coconut oil on hand for a post-surf rubdown of dry extremities.
9. Bring a warm beverage. Towels and car heaters help with the exterior chill after getting out of the water, but it takes a warm cup of coffee or tea to really raise your internal temperature. Plus, it’s a fun way to reflect with your fellow surfers after the shredding is done.
10. Pack it in. The cold will sap your energy faster than warm water. Everything feels heavier: the water, your suit and your arms, and it makes moving around that much harder. It’s especially important in the winter to listen to your body. Before you get too worn out, call it a day.