While the surf media has their eyes trained on the sunny, warm waters of Hawaii, dedicated surfers in the North East are busy chipping the ice off their windshields and scraping the frost off their 5/4mm fullsuits. For this week’s installment, we’re paying homage to those of you who won’t be spending December in boardshorts. To help keep you warm, we’ve consulted with New York’s own Balaram Stack to gain some insight into staving off frostbite this winter.
Put Your Suit On Before You Leave Your House. It’s almost like an adventure getting all of your gear on and jumping in the snow and then jumping in the ocean. I love it. It’s crazy to think that we do it for fun. When I can, I’ll put my suit on at my house before I even get to the beach; it can be pretty brutal not surfing near home and changing in the snow. It’s also a good idea to invest in a few different suits. Two to three suits are pretty much necessary. Putting on a wet wetsuit in the snow is no fun.
Keep Moving. When you first hit the water you’ll feel the cold air on your face but the real shock of the temperature comes on the first duck-dive. You’ll feel a really sharp brain freeze right in the middle of your forehead. If you have to duck-dive more than three times in a row, you’ll feel like you’re gonna throw up from the cold. The trick is to start moving and get a couple waves right off the bat so you can get your blood flowing.
You Can’t Afford Not To Invest In A Good Suit. I never really wear anything thicker than a 5/4 with 7mm boots and 5mm gloves. It’s impossible to go in without it. You’ll start feeling the effects of hypothermia and possibly frostbite pretty quick if you don’t have a good suit. A good suit is a must.
Consider Going Thicker And Wider For Your Winter Boards. Some people will get their boards a bit wider and thicker to accommodate all the extra rubber they’re wearing in the winter. I don’t personally change up my dimensions too much because the suits have gotten so good and light. But it’s definitely something to consider.
Know Your Limits. In December, the water can get around 32 degrees and that’s pretty intense. It can be pretty dangerous if you’re not prepared for it. The longest I’ve stayed in the water with those conditions was around three hours, but the waves were pumping and you have to be constantly staying on the move. But no matter what you do when it’s that cold, your hands and feet are going to freeze up and give out on you.
Bring Hot Water To Warm Up. I always try to bring a gallon of hot water with me if I’m not near a hot shower. Otherwise, you’re gotta just sit in the car and blast the heater for about 30 minutes till your hands thaw out and you can actually drive.