Surfing in the winter: it’s on! How you can be prepared

So you’ve recently taken up surfing and used this past summer, spring, and fall to improve — getting comfortable on your board and taking your skills to the next level!

Does the fun have to end there until the spring rolls around again? Definitely not!

It is a common misconception that surfing is a summer sport and can only be practiced under the hot sun in warm weather that rolls around in June, July, or August. This is not the case!

Surfing can be maximized during the winter months and with the right equipment and gear, you can be well prepared to have fun in the changing temperatures. Now you can even shop HOKALI’s latest selection of wetsuit offerings!

As far as surf lessons are concerned, as long as there are still waves to surf, you can still get quality lessons.

Surf schools operate year-round so you can expect to score some great waves should you decide to book a lesson.

Though ocean temperatures can vary anywhere from 44ºF to 77ºF in North America (excluding Alaska) this simply means that you need to choose the proper wetsuit for the occasion and the water temperature.

So, you ask yourself, what do I need? A full suit? 10 inches of insulation? Booties and a cap? The answer is… well, it depends.

Here is the low-down on wetsuit for temperature.

In warmer climates (tropical waters, or around 65ºF – 75ºF), a thin wetsuit, wetsuit top, or a spring suit will definitely suffice.

In places like Hawaii, the water temperatures stay relatively warm year-round, and a full suit is never required to be comfortable.

You probably won’t be able to surf in spring suits (aka “shorties”) or strictly wetsuit tops elsewhere in the US during the coldest winter months (November through January).

It is another common misconception that you cannot book surf lessons in Hawaii in the winter because the waves get too huge. While this is generally true of the North Shore of O‘ahu, it is still possible for beginners or first-timers to surf and book surf lessons on the south shore throughout the winter and have good conditions.

You can even book a lesson on the north shore of O‘ahu during the winter with a professional instructor who can show you beginner-friendly spots and make sure the location and conditions are suitable.

In Southern California, certain spots are colder than others during the winter and water temperatures do vary.

Typically, if you’re booking a surf lesson in Los Angeles during winter or even spring, you should opt for a full suit that’s 3/2 to 4/3mm (more on wetsuit measurements below).

Booking surf lessons in San Diego you can expect temperatures to be similar but may prefer a 4/3mm suit during the winter.

(Want to learn more about wetsuit care and maintenance — read our blog post here).

Wintertime surfers in Northern California, San Francisco for example, should wear at least a 4/3 or even 5/4 mm wetsuit, as the temps can be in the 50’s.

A hood, booties, and even gloves are also advised. Anywhere in California, booties and a hood can be a good idea to have on deck as you might find your feet get colder the longer you’re out on the water. You can choose to wear or not wear them as you see fit.

Sunny Jacksonville, Florida is a great place to book a winter surf lesson.

Water temperatures hover in the mid-’60s (ºF) during the coldest months, being December – February. A full suit that’s 3/2mm will suffice.

Remember that it is possible to be TOO warm. You want to be comfortable but if you are wearing an unnecessarily thick suit you may just feel restricted and too hot.

Believe it or not, people even surf in much much colder temperatures than any of these stated locations — Alaska for example!

This is perhaps a very extreme case! Some people are expert thrill-seekers, adrenaline junkies, or proud members of the polar bear club! But this just shows you that it can be done with the appropriate gear!

Secondly, you may be asking yourself, what do those wetsuit measurements mean? Why are there two numbers? How am I supposed to know what that means?

The first number indicates the thickness of the neoprene at the chest portion of the wetsuit, and the second number is the thickness throughout the rest of the suit, including the arms and legs (in mm).

An extra mm or two of thickness on your chest can make a big difference in terms of insulation and staying warm since this is where you tend to lose heat. So for example, a 4/3 wetsuit thickness means 4mm of thickness on the chest and 3mm throughout the rest of the body.

Looking for a new wetsuit to keep you warm and toasty in the water all throughout the winter months? Lucky for you, HOKALI has just launched its online shop, bringing premium surf gear to your doorstep! Check it out!

Another great advantage to surfing during the winter is that due to the season and some of the lack of knowledge about the sport, the lineups tend to be much less crowded!

As previously mentioned, fewer surfers will choose to surf regularly in the winter; summertime is when most people think is the “right” time to learn how to surf.

However, this is good news for you. Less crowded lineups are optimal for the people with the right gear to find uncrowded zones that become packed in the summer months and score some great waves!

Winter is also the preferred season for certain breaks, where the waves really turn on. Some of the most popular spots in California in the winter for beginners include El Porto, Dana Point, and La Jolla.

Be sure to ask a local surfer or check online for the spots that are good during the winter months and suitable for your level!

So thinking about booking your next surf lesson in the coming months? What are you waiting for!

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