Winter is well and truly here - and with it some icy weather and equally icy water. Ocean temps last week hovered around 14C, which by PE standards is full-on polar bear stuff. So how to survive the chill? Here's a few handy hints to keep you from shivering to death in the surf.
Start warm! Crank up that heater in the cabbie, have ya beanie on. No good hoping to stay warm in the surf if you ain't even warm in ya car. This is not the time to be a CarPark John wannabe and stand on the boardwalk for half and hour trying to decide whether or not to get in. Longer you stand shivering out there the less likely you are to get in. Commit.
Start dry! Have a dry suit. Nothing sucks more than having to yank on a wet wettie. If you only own one suit and you surfed the day before, no problemo - here's how you get it dry for tomorrow's surf. Rinse it out when you get home and hang it up. Best bet is to hang it on a plastic hanger folded in the middle - this means it dries quicker cos the top half is draining out the wrists and the bottom half at the ankles. Versus the whole thing having to drain down through the ankles. Lekker logical like.
This also saves the wetsuit shoulders - cos when it's wet, it's heavy - and if you just stick the hanger into the shoulders it's gonna wear through them real quick. Ever wondered why your wettie wears thin there? Now you know!
After about 20 min's go give the arms and legs a squeeze - starting at the thighs and working down towards the ankles, and shoulders down to wrists. Do it again 20 min later. By getting all the excess water out of the suit it allows it to dry soooo much quicker. Try leave it somewhere well ventilated cos that'll aid evaporation of the remaining water. You can even grab your fan and aim it at your suit for a while - guaranteed dryness.
No chance it's gonna dry whilst scrunched up in the back of your boot overnight. So don't do that to yourself!
K, so you're off to a good start - you're warm, and you have a (semi) dry suit. Now what? Helps to keep as warm as you can whilst you change. Using a changing mat keeps your feet warm - reducing heat loss through your toetsies is a must, and a changing robe or poncho helps cut down the wind chill factor to the bod (and stops you flashing your butt to granny in the car next door).
You can buy those funky artificial grass changing mats - Island Style make em, or just buy an el cheapo doormat. Changing poncho's you can grab from your nearest surf shop. Let the force be with you Jedi Knight.
Have the right gear - invest in a decent suit for winter - 4/3 will be enough for the coldest days at JBay - as long as it's decent quality, preferably with liquid seam seals, and lekker furry stuff inside on the chest, and that slickskin rubber outside on the chest and lumbar panels - this is way more effective than normal neoprene at keeping the wind chill factor at bay. If you can bend yourself like a koeksister then zipperless suits are the way forward.
Be like a chick and accessorize darling! Hoodies, booties, gloves if you have too. Keeping the extremities toasty goes a long way to maximizing water time. Plenty of truth to the old wives saying that you lose most of your head through your head. Most effective hoodies are the hooded vests. You get double bang for your buck cos the vest is generally lined with nice furry stuff, which adds another layer of warmth, and then get the one's that have the extra lil neck flap that fits over your wettie neck - that way you get zero flush through your suit when you duckdive or wipeout. Makes a massive difference to keep that water out.
Make the effort to try on a few different types, cos some can feel a bit claustrophobic, others have the face string thingy's in annoying places.
Keeping your feet warm helps loads too. Booties can stop your feet turning into 2 lil stumps. Make sure they fit tight. When you try em on in the shop they should be a bitch to get on. Too easy to get on in the shop means gonna be too big when they wet. Water sloshing around in your bootie ain't the way to go.
Cold hands post session can make getting them off quite a challenge, so hook one of those plastic shoe horns. Get em from the shoe repair places in the shopping malls. Else you gonna stand there struggling to get em off cos your fingers refuse to co-operate.
Now you're all geared up and ready to hit the icy water. Get out there and keep moving. Keep busy - paddle about hunting waves, cos sitting there chilling is gonna get you chillo's real quick. Once you start getting the shivers you're a goner. That's the signal to head back in, and go grab a warm coffee.
Remember to hang the wettie up and do the quick dry trick so you good to go again the next day! Roll on summer!