Surfing through winter is tough, but with modern day equipment as good as it is these days cold water and weather shouldn’t stop you. Here are our top tips to surviving winter gleaned from years of battling the elements.
There’s no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes
Any fool can be uncomfortable. Don’t be that guy shivering on the beach. Buy the best three quarter length waterproof and windproof jacket that will keep rain and wind chill off you in the worst storms. It’s your first line of defence in cold water surfing.
Keep yourself warm and dry with a decent hoody. Your aim is more insulation while standing around waiting for tides and winds than temperature stabilisation while being active so sherpas are best.
Check out the Carve sherpa here
Keep a lid on it!
90% of heat blah, bah, bah… You know this…
Check out our range of beanies here
Use a changing mat
There are loads out there and they are well worth the money. Not only do they keep your suit less gritty, more importantly they reduce heat loss from your feet while changing. Don’t think they will make much difference? Try one. You’ll change your mind. These insulted matts by Northcore
RipCurl are the best we have used.
Use a technical changing robe
They cut down windchill and help you get changed in comfort. You will have seen a lot of surfers using DryRobes last winter. Check them out. We use them and swear by them.
Check out changing robes here including the SurfLogic quick drying changing robe Billabong Camo Changing robe
Slow release carbs are best. They give you more energy and keep you warmer longer. And Take a flask
Hot chocolate, or soup is a luxury after a surf. It will warm you up from the inside out meaning you will be ready for a second session fast. Buy the Northcore flask here
Dry your wetty
Getting into a wet wetty saps your initial body heat. Sure sometimes it has to be done, but new products like the Dry Bag Elite mean you can dry your wetsuits inside, in the office or out on the road.
They work really well. We use them in conjunction with Northcore magnetic ‘Hook it up‘. Just hang it on your boot, inside your van. Easy!
Stay on top of the tides and forecasts
That means scanning weather charts every day, looking at local wind forecasts, and comparing them to automated surf forecasts. Knowing which beaches to hit when cuts down waiting and wasted time out in the cold. Ideally you want to turn up as it turns on, hit it, then retreat, warm up and get ready to go again.
Take a hot water shower with you!
The new Surfing Madness Pressure Shower allows you to take a hot shower the road. Fill it at home. Pump up he pressure, hey presto hot shower when you get out. Or warm up a wet wetsuit for a second surf … which is one of life’s little luxuries when the wind chill is minus 20!
If you can’t get the water every day do some supplementary exercise. Surfing in winter is tough, you get beaten, and this saps energy. If you aren’t fit enough to take those beatings then you will enter into a downward spiral and get less waves, your surfing level drops and it will deplete your enthusiasm. You have to stay on top of things. Do twenty press ups every day at a minimum. 10 Burpees a night.
If you want proper programme check out our Surf Fitness guides “Surf fitness – the complete guide” and “Advanced Surf Fitness”
If it swells ride it. Funny old double entendre but so true when it comes to winter. You have to surf everything. Think about it. One weekend out could mean you don’t surf for two weeks. Two weekends and that’s three weeks between surfs … It’s hard to come back from that in January.
How to survive Indonesia…
The glittering chain of pearls strung across the Indian Ocean. Where Asia ends, Australasia begins and continents divide. A seemingly infinite amount of islands home to waves of such quality, such class and, occasionally, such crowds it’s heaven and hell all at the same time.
If you call yourself a ‘surfer’ you’re not really a ‘SURFER’ until you’ve busted your Indo cherry. It’s adventure, intrigue, excitement, culture, flawless waves and more all topped up with lashings of banana jaffles and nasi goreng. Now’s the time to think about a main season mission so here’s some pointers.
WHAT TO BRING
The main thing with any tropical travel is travelling light. Essentials only. Reason? You’ve got to carry the damn stuff. It’s hot and sticky so you don’t need heaps of clothes. A selection of boardies to rotate and comfy pair of walk shorts and you’re good to go. Couple of vests, couple of tees and maybe one smart shirt, one long sleeve tee and some thin linen trousers in case you’re a) wanting to visit a temple b) are going anywhere malarial. It’s easy enough to pick up cheap clothes in Indo so don’t bring the farm. If you’re doing a Mentawai run you don’t even need clothes. A tee to travel there in. One for the way home. Then some boardies. On a boat it’s just boardies and top off for the whole time. Unless you’re the kind of hipster that wants to surf in an open shirt of course.
Board wise two boards is the minimum. A groveller for the small days and a something you’re happy on for the good hollow days. One board and you’re asking for instant snappage first sesh. More is good but there’s a moving around to consider and coffin bags are an arse to travel with. A good tight triple is ideal. Spare fins, spare leashes, luggage straps, too many fin keys and strip your wax before you go as you’ll need warm water wax not the cold stuff. Apart from that don’t go crazy, a mozzie net if you’re going deep, a first aid kit aimed mainly at repairing cuts and your own syringes are always a good idea, sunblock, any medical essentials and anti-malarials if you’re going anywhere past Bali.
Do you need a lappy? Depends if you want to spend your time on the other side of the world staring at the internet. They can be handy for watching films etc on flat days but it’s a weight and a risk. An iPad is the perfect travel companion. Light, battery lasts forever and you can get your fix of online guff.
WHAT NOT TO BRING
You have to be an utter muppet to even begin to think about bringing any recreational drugs in to Indo. Fancy the death penalty? Then don’t be a tool. When there also don’t dabble. Street sellers are often in league with the police so seconds after you score you’ll be tapped by the rozzers and in a whole world of trouble. Ice cold beer and surf fuelled dopamine are the only chemical recreations you need in Indo.
DON’T PLAN TOO HARD
It’s good to have an arrival plan. Book something for the first few nights if you’ve got a tip from an experienced mate. Have an idea of where you’re staying or at least the street/lane name so the bemo driver can drop you off. Coming out the airport confident is good wherever you go. Rip off merchants can spot a green neophyte in an instant so act confident and like you know where you’re going. Bemo wise agree a price for the fare as the traffic can be wondrously terrible.
From there on out being fluid in Indo is good. You can adapt to what’s happening with the swell then. No point having a rigid structure then missing the swell of the decade because you were up a volcano or drunk off your gourd in the Gili Isles. You will meet people, things happen, a crew for a G-Land mission or a boat trip down through Lombok and Sumbawa can come together in a day so. So be adaptable. Be mobile. Base everything around the swell. Because…
IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOOD
This isn’t something you want to hear obvs. But, friend, we’d be remiss if we painted a picture suggesting ‘best ever’ waves every day. Sure Indo has better waves on a vastly higher ratio to anywhere else in the world but it still gets bum every now and then. Funky winds are an occasional issue, like the back end of last season thanks to El Nino weird. Thankfully you’re sat in one of the most interesting places: culturally, geographically and biologically on earth. If the surf is going to be arse for a few days then hit the volcanoes, the nature parks, go see a Komodo Dragon or orang-utans and yes go to the Gili Isles get drunk (not on Arak unless you don’t mind going blind) and chase backpackers. Hang out with the locals. They cool. Your eyes will be opened when you’re sat in a wooden shack in Sumbawa with your friendly local moped taxi rider and his family as they bring out the biscuits and weaponised strength coffee. You’ll see a happy, family centred, chilled out bunch of people that don’t give a fig what’s happening on Facebook. Living close to the land and all the better for it. Of course every island is different. Bali is garish and so modern in parts now you’d be hard pressed to know you were on the magical island that’s been such an integral part in surf lore for forty years.
WHERE TO GO
Look at a map of Indonesia. There’s surf on pretty much every island that faces into the Indian Ocean. Some of it well known and documented, surfed and crowded since 1974. Other parts you could still well be the first person to draw a line.
There are plenty of waves outside of the well known hotspots of Bali that are classy and uncrowded. For a short trip Bali is all you need. If you’ve got the time then other islands need exploring. The shortest hop from Bali is over to Nusa Lembongan, an island not too far off the east coast. The classic mission from Bali is to Java and the legendary G-Land which with the fast boats is not the 24 hour ferry/bemo hell mission it used to be. The longer run is down to Lakey’s in Sumbawa but Lakey’s is best in the shoulder seasons in April when the trade winds are not so dominant. The other option is to really explore and avoid the classic spots entirely. Sumatra and Java are huge, wave rich islands, you could spend years just exploring there and there are waves equal to Lakeys and G-Land to find. It all comes down to how much adventure you want. Bali is easy. A green run. Lombok and Sumbawa a red and past Sumbawa and Java/Sumatra and the outer isles a black run. Much more potential for things to go wrong but also a richer, deeper experience and no Starbucks or McDonalds to fall back on.
Whatever happens any Indo voyage is going to be one that’ll give you stories for years to come not to mention upping your surfing game. It’s rightly considered the best surf zone on Earth, you owe it to yourself to find out why…
Words & Photos Sharpy
So Big OW has been back into sea after recouping from his head injuries suffered at Pipe. He is still in the early days of getting back on his feet, so he is right back to basics, from elite Chopes charging pro to foamy king, just like that. It must be a huge source of frustration as you can imagine. Not being able to surf sucks at anytime but at least we can surf.
And this is the point. Owen’s latest Instagam post below (www.instagram.com/owright if you want to follow) highlights why we all love surfing. Sure we beat ourselves up for being so kooky, we all want to rip like Owen, pull big airs, get barrelled but at the of the end of the day, when we forget all around and immerse ourselves in the ocean, and just go surfing, it is then we have the most fun.
No hooters, no points, there may not even be any spectators or anyone else around, or you could just snag one in the middle of a metropolitan crowd. It could be one foot, it could be ten, onshore, or offshore, 30 degrees or minus 10. You may have a Firewire Tomo or the latest custom sled, you could just as easily be in rag tag third-hand board shorts riding a piece of wood until your belly drags on the sand on some far flung corner of the earth. But you are, gliding along a wave, performing the greatest activity, art or sport on earth – surfing.
And in that moment nothing else matters, you are lost in the stoke.
Those long hours being battered, practising, hoping, dreaming all coming to fruition in one heady mix of adrenalin and endorphins. And there lays the truth in surfing, on any given day any surfer of any ability can feel gloriously victorious. You can hoot, scream, high, five or just smile but at the one minute moment in time you feel you are invincible…
Of course five minutes later you could be face planting, chewing sand, or pulling the nose of your board out of your ass which can generally make you feel like an inglorious bastard for a week. And this is where the genius of Owen Wright’s observation lays, “…self improvement is necessary but to focus on comparison of what used to be, what others can do or why you’re not good enough is detrimental to the now; negative emotion in your self will hinder improvement and happiness.”
Wise words. Just go surfing. Get stoked. Live in the now.
Get well Owen, you are legend whether you can surf one foot or ten.
Here is his enlightening post.