When you’re surfing in cold water, booties become a necessity, but I’ve never understood the people who claim to love booties (you know who you are, you sick f–ks). What is there to love, exactly? Sure, they provide better traction, but, historically, they also disconnect you from your board, making it harder to feel where you are in the wax and nearly impossible to move around once you’ve planted your feet. They never fit quite right, either making you feel like you have the bound feet of a 14th century Chinese concubine or like they’re floating around inside a pair of overfilled water balloons. Not to mention the fact that booties all inevitably emit the same smell: the stench of concentrated evil, like what the room they tied the possessed girl in “The Exorcist” must have smelled like after all that vomiting.
Well, Solite’s booties offer a different kind of bootie experience, one that I actually in no way hate…even if they can’t do anything about the inevitable smell.
So what’s different? Solite boots are unique in that you don’t surf with them right out of the box, but rather you go through a process of custom fitting them to your feet first. Basically you put the boots in the sink, put a kettle full of water on the stove, and once the water boils you pour it into the boots like your making a cup of bootie tea (thankfully this occurs before there are any nasty aromas inside waiting to be unleashed). You let those puppies steep for 5 minutes, dump them, give ’em a quick rinse with cool water to you don’t scold your feet, then put them on and walk around for 5 more minutes. The rubber becomes highly suggestible in that warmed up state and your feet coax it into the shape of a sort of second skin. Because of how malleable the boots are when heated, Solite recommends you size down one full size from your street shoe, if not two full sizes for what they call a “pro fit”. Once they cool completely, you’re ready to dance.
When I first tried my Solite 3mm Customs (their entry level boot, which goes for $64.95 on their site) on a particularly chilly morning in La Jolla, I realized that 90 percent of what I hated about booties stemmed from them just not fitting quite right. Solites are absurdly comfortable for a pair of booties, and with that second-skin fit, there didn’t seem to be as much of a disconnected sensation with my board—no surprise feelings where you start a turn and bog as you realize your feet are in the wrong place. This is also helped by the fact that they chose a light, almost imperceptible texture for the bottoms, which allows for good connection to the wax and the ability to move your feet around on the deck without too much trouble. Vans is another brand that has actually made great strides in the actually-feeling-your-board-through-your-soles department, but in terms of fit, Solite has to be the best I’ve tried.
Am I a convert? Do I now identify as one of those weirdos who love their booties? Well, no. There’s still nothing like having skin-to-wax contact, and I’d wear a hood rather than booties to keep my core temp up, but oftentimes you just don’t have a choice, and Solite just might be the least of all evils.