Finding the Best Wetsuits for Cold Water Surfing
Mar 01, 2023
Surfing is now an all-year-round sport that’s no longer confined to the warmer months. Thanks to technology, cold water surfing is a reality because we already have wetsuits that keep you warm even in the ice-cold ocean. These winter wetsuits allow you to stay on the water longer while keeping you comfortable.
Surfing in Colder Conditions
Serious surfers choose colder seasons because of the bigger waves and quieter beaches. Winter offers the best and biggest swells to challenge your skills and enhance your surfing abilities. Since it’s not peak season, there won’t be a massive crowd on the beach, and in some cases, you can have the area all to yourself. Surfing during colder months also allows you to discover new places like the beaches in Northern Europe, which offer the cleanest and largest waves.
In the past, surfing in cooler climates was limited to those tough enough to brave the cold waters. Surfers didn’t have the luxury of modern-day wetsuits when water temperatures were frigid. These days, even amateur surfers can take advantage of waves even in the winter months if they wear winter suits and use proper accessories.
Wetsuits keep surfers warm and toasty so they can surf longer and surf in any season. They are made with closed-cell neoprene foam that insulates a surfer’s body, keeping it warm and protecting it from sunburn. Other suits use sustainable materials like Japanese limestone neoprene and Yulex, a natural rubber derived from Hevea Trees.
Wetsuits are excellent heat insulators that trap body heat, preventing it from escaping the cold air. Since they fit snugly, they can trap a small amount of water between your skin and the suit itself. Water traps body heat and creates an additional insulation layer. It’s like having a mini jacuzzi warming your skin as you surf.
What mm Wetsuit is Good for Cold Weather?
To successfully surf in cold weather, you should get a wetsuit with the right thickness. Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters (mm) and can range from 1mm to 7mm. Full wetsuits are thicker in the torso area to keep your core warmer and thinner in the arms and legs to give enough flexibility. These differences are stated as a fraction. For example, a 4/3mm wetsuit is 4 mm thick in the body and 3 mm thick in the arms and legs.
A thick wetsuit gives you the most warmth but limits flexibility, while a thinner wetsuit provides maximum performance but sacrifices comfort. Most surfers strive to select the thinnest possible wetsuit that can still protect them but not hamper their style. When choosing the right thickness, you should factor in your tolerance to cold while maintaining maneuverability.
Take note that water temperature isn’t the only consideration. You should also consider the wind speed, air temperature, activity level, how long you want to surf, and if the sun is shining. All these factors can affect the temperature when you surf.
3/2 mm Wetsuits
A 3/2 mm wetsuit is ideal for slightly cold temperatures. Suits with this thickness are often called spring suits because they are suitable for spring temperatures. While we all have different cold tolerance, 3/2 mm wetsuits are ideal for 55°-64° F water temperatures.
The DR2 Fullsuit is an excellent premium wetsuit that uses premium neoprene with glued and blind-stitched seams. This comfortable suit is a collaboration between Dane Reynolds and Ryan Buell. It’s a no-BS full suit that also comes in 4/3 mm thickness for colder waters.
Female surfers would enjoy the RB1 Accelerator 3/2 Fullsuit. It’s lined with soft Ultraspan flex-fabric material keeping you warm and cozy as you conquer icy waves. It has a chest zip entry to ensure a tight seal and maximum warmth and comfort.
4/3 mm Wetsuits
4/3 mm wetsuits are best for temperatures 50°- 58° F. Booties are optional but highly recommended. A premium 3/2 mm wetsuit also works well for this temperature range. Suggested wetsuits to consider are the RB1 Accelerator 4/3 Fullsuit for Men and RBZ Stealth Mode 4/3 Fullsuit for Women. For junior surfers brave enough to surf in the freezing water, there’s the RBZ Stealth Mode 4/3 Fullsuit for Juniors.
The RBZ Stealth Mode has an easy back zip entry and the same ninja neoprene v-foam used in other Buell wetsuits. It’s an affordable option that still uses the wetsuit technology Buell is known for.
5/4 mm Wetsuits
If you’re inclined to surf at water temperatures ranging from 42°- 50° F, you should have a 5/4 mm winter wetsuit. These fullsuits come with hoods, and accessories like booties and gloves are no longer optional. The RB2 5/4 Hooded Fullsuit is Buell’s warmest and most watertight wetsuit. It features a slant zip entry that creates a one-side water seal pushing the limit of your suit’s warmth potential. It’s still made from the same cutting-edge ninja neoprene material and has glued and blind-stitched seams, including a power-lite “Sizzle” seam on the outside. It’s available for male, female, and junior surfers.
6/5 mm Wetsuits
For freezing weather with temperatures below 42° F, a 6/5 mm or thicker is recommended, along with other wetsuit accessories like booties, gloves, and hoods. These wetsuits were once dreaded because they add an extra 10 pounds and up while drastically limiting movements. However, with the right neoprene materials, these suits are no longer as heavy as they once were. The RB2 Hooded Fullsuit also comes with a 6/5/4 mm thickness for men, women, and junior surfers. It has the same slant zip entry and easy-access key pockets. It also has embossed Supratex Tuff kneepads and internal thermal insulation in the chest and back.
Hooded wetsuits are a must for freezing temperatures, especially in windy and chilly areas. They are handy when surfing in temperatures colder than 54° F with an added wind chill factor. If you start surfing below 45° F, hooded wetsuits must be used.
Hoods prevent surfer’s ear, a condition where the ear canal closes because of the blowing cold wind. They also keep your head warm so you can focus on the game. Hooded wetsuits are an excellent investment, especially if you will be surfing in a lot of icy waters. The RB2 4/3 Hooded Fullsuit is a solid buy that keeps your entire body warm and cozy even in the coldest environment. It also comes with a 5/4 mm and 6/5/4 mm variant.
However, there are moments when the water is cold, but the sun is shining brightly, creating warmer weather. In these instances, you may find that hooded wetsuits cause your head to feel warm, creating an uncomfortable scenario. A great alternative is to invest in a non-hooded wetsuit and then purchase a separate hoodie that you can use when the air temperature drops. These hoods are tucked in the neck area and offer the same protection as a one-piece hooded wetsuit.
Women's Cold-Water Wetsuits
With more women surfing, wetsuit manufacturers have created an extensive range of rubber with ladies in mind. And as female surfers developed nerves of steel to conquer icy waters, cold-water wetsuits designed for women also abound. Now, ladies who wish to surf in the spring and even winter months can choose from a wide range of spring and winter suits.
Since we all have different tolerance to cold, one women’s winter may be another’s summer. Choosing a wetsuit thickness largely depends on what will make you feel comfortable without sacrificing performance.
Ladies surfing when spring starts can feel cozy with just a bathing suit or rash guard, but as soon as temperatures drop, a 2mm or 3mm spring suit will help you stay on the water longer and catch more waves. If you want to keep surfing even as temperatures drop from 63° F to 52° F, a 3/2 mm or 4/3 mm winter suit will be comfortable. And if you continue to surf in near-freezing waters, consider a 5/4 mm or even a 6/5 mm hooded winter suit. Wetsuit accessories like booties and gloves will also keep you warm.
Kids' Winter Wetsuits
We don’t usually bring kids to swim in the winter since most swimming activities are reserved for the summer but, in the rare instances when you find swimming during spring or colder months enjoyable, a kids’ winter wetsuit would protect your child from the cold. On some beaches, the water temperature could also drop, even if it’s still summer. Remember that kids have less muscle and fat than adults, so what might be tolerable for you may already be cold for them. A winter wetsuit provides extra insulation so they can enjoy the water longer.
Wetsuits also protect your little one from the sun and any harmful elements in the water, like jellyfish and mites. It can also keep them safe from rock abrasions. When buying kids’ wetsuits, ensure that you buy a quality one with the right fit and thickness.
The RBZ Stealth Mode offers a 3/2 mm and 4/3 mm winter wetsuit for kids. It’s a full-bodied suit with a black and white bones design. It’s made from the same wetsuit technology used in all Buell wetsuits guaranteeing maximum comfort and warmth when in the water.
Wetsuit Accessories for The Winter
Surfing in near-freezing waters is virtually impossible without a hood, gloves, or botties. For people with a low cold tolerance, using wetsuit accessories even when temperatures are slightly warmer provides adequate comfort that keeps them moving in the water for extended periods.
However, there has been much stigma against these accessories, especially if you surf in an area where they are not commonly worn. They can also cause slight discomfort for those who are not used to them. But if you believe these wetsuit accessories can help improve your performance, get them by all means.
As mentioned, hoods protect your ears and keep your head warm, especially when surfing in chilly and windy conditions. You can easily keep them handy when winds change and tuck them away when the weather improves. By having them with you, you will be able to surf in whatever condition the beach is in.
Surf gloves keep your hands warm when surfing in freezing temperatures. Like wetsuits, you can find them in various thicknesses like 2mm, 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm. Just keep in mind that the thicker the gloves are, the more hampered they can be for your performance. However, keeping your hands protected is way better than suffering the dreaded claw fingers. Extreme cold can cause your hands to lose color and curl up as your body conserves heat in your core, leaving your extremities unprotected.
Buell’s 5 Finger Gloves are made from the same premium Ninja Neoprene that gives your hands a luxurious feel and fit, keeping them warm without sacrificing performance.
Just like your hands, your feet also deserve protection from the cold. Surf booties keep your feet warm and come in different cuts and thicknesses. There are low-ankle and high-top winter surf booties designed to keep your feet warm and protected from jagged reefs. They also come in round-toe or split-toe variations.
Buell’s Split Toe Super Bootie has a covert design to prevent your leash from getting caught between your toes. It has cuff and ankle stabilizer cuffs and ultra-soft soles for a superior board feel. You can choose from 3mm, 5mm, or 7mm variations.
Enjoy Cold Water Surfing with Buell Wetsuits
Don’t let the changing weather seasons stop you from harnessing your skills and enjoying the best waves. Surfing no longer has to be confined to the warmer months, thanks to superior wetsuit technology capable of keeping you warm as you conquer icy waves. Buell’s wetsuits and wetsuit accessories are made with premium neoprene materials guaranteed to provide maximum warmth and comfort while giving you high performance.
Check out our wide selection of winter suits today and start conquering those waves.