Know Your Oceans: Atlantic

Know Your Oceans: Atlantic

Watergate Bay, Cornwall. Photo: Sharpy

Feeling like you need to learn something about our global aquatic playground? Then read on…

The world, as we well know, is dominated by the blue bits. Yes, that’s right, the oceans, otherwise known as our playground. A whole 71% of the surface of the earth is covered in blue. Which means there’s an awful lot of the salty stuff around.
Which is a good thing, all that salty blue stuff is where waves are born, grow and eventually die on some distant shore with us riding them in their death throes.

The Atlantic is our ocean (Carve being a British magazine and all).
It’s on our doorstep, it laps our shores, fuels our mild climate and has played an integral part in our history.
It is a complex and interesting beast.
For starters, if you stepped out of a time machine 130 million years ago it wouldn’t have been there.
You could have rocked up to Fistral Beach and walked a few yards and been in what is now Newfoundland, Canada. Whilst wondering where the sea and the cafe had got to you would admittedly have been dodging volcanoes and dinosaurs. On the plus side at least you wouldn’t be getting bent over and porked by the council for parking.

It’s quite random to imagine that “The Pond” hasn’t always been there. The break up of the old supercontinent of Pangea led to the formation of the Atlantic, which initially would have been a narrow surf free gulf like the Red Sea is today. As the millions of years passed the wonders of plate tectonics at the mid-ocean ridge pushed the two continents further apart and made flights to New York all that more expensive.

The mid-ocean ridge is still active (see Icelandic volcanoes for proof), the Atlantic is still getting bigger and we get further away from the Yanks a few cms every year.

The Atlantic now covers 41,100,000 square miles, is the second largest ocean and covers roughly 22% of the Earth’s surface. The name comes from the mythical Greek fella Atlas who carried the heavens on his shoulders. The deepest point is the Puerto Rico trench (8.6km deep) and it is the saltiest major ocean. It’s also the most tempestuous, dangerous and downright interesting ocean we have.

Gearoid Mcdaid, Ireland. Photo: Sharpy

Every school kid knows it was Christopher Columbus that first crossed the Atlantic and found the Americas … well, he didn’t. Those horny buggers the Vikings were there 500 years earlier.
Recent archaeological finds in Canada at L’Anse Aux Meadows show concrete evidence of a Viking settlement similar to those documented in Norse myths sometime around 1000AD. So *puts a thumb on nose and waves fingers in the general direction of the Italians/Spanish* you’ve been owned by a race of oh-so-violent Nordic gingers.

In early times the Atlantic was thought to be the only ocean. Once you got outside the Med’ the Atlantic was all there was until it dropped off the side of the flat earth. A view still held to this day by some people. Columbus thought when he sailed across he’d be rocking up in Japan, hence the strictly bizarre naming of the West Indies as such, he though he was heading to India. It took a long time to realise he hadn’t.

William Aliotti, Supertubes, Portugal. Photo: Sharpy

Surf wise the Atlantic is home to the richest, most varied surf cultures the world has and some of the finest waves: Mundaka, Thurso, Hossegor, Supertubes, Skeleton Bay and Safi are all world class.
There are scores more from Norway to Africa (with a good chunk of ocean based good times in our own England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland).
It’s here we should get a little smug, we got the right side of the Atlantic, we get the lion’s share of its swell, we also get the warming effect of the Gulf Stream which means northern Europe is temperate, habitable and not routinely like the snow and ice bound mess it can be on the left side of the pond.
Without the Atlantic, we would be screwed. Simple as that…

Words & Photo: Sharpy

Griffin Colapinto, Hossegor, France. Photo: Sharpy

Craig Butler chats with Sunny Garcia…

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Sunny always popular with damp paparazzi. @Sharpysurf

Craig Butler speaks to Sunny Garcia about life, depression and suicidal thoughts.

In 2011 when it came out about Sunny and Jeremy Flores beating up that guy in Australia, being an opinionated teenager I messaged Sunny and told him that he is a sham and a bad bad guy who only deserves the worst. We got into a heated exchange and I could sense that I had touched a nerve inside of him and upset the guy. Six years later, after reflecting on my own behaviour I realised no one is perfect, felt bad about our exchange so I messaged him and apologised for starting a ‘keyboard warrior’ fight with him.
He accepted my apology and we got to talking. He opened up and I also opened up to him. I came to the realisation that a lot of what you hear about him in the media is sensationalism at its finest. He told me about his amazing charity work with kids with the Mauli Ola Foundation and his struggles with depression.

As an ex-hater of Sunny Garcia I can now safely say that the guy has become a great gentleman and role model for younger kids. We all have problems in life, some more than others. We just all have different coping mechanisms to dealing with our problems. He may of used the “bad boy” image for years, but when you actually get to know him or like when I was researching for this interview I talked to people who have met him you get a different story.

Being 48 as opposed to 28 you just learn what you like and don’t like so I’ve learned to make training part of my everyday life and I train hard because I hate losing more. But as far as slowing down goes, yeah the last couple of years I’ve slowed down especially after my car accident and hurt my neck and back. I still have problems with my neck so when I start to feel myself go forwards I end up taking a giant leap backwards so that’s been frustrating but I keep working through it. Well travelling as much as I did all I can say is I have lived competing and just learned to evolve and deal with losing halfway around the world and take that anger and try harder in the next event but there were so many times that I did want to give up and throw the towel in but I just loved competing and wanted to be a world champ so I kept going.

I’ve always hated losing and yes I still do. But that’s what drives me even till today I hate losing at anything I do. Judges … what can I say! Most of them are kooks who don’t belong there and I don’t say this out of anger it’s just a fact. When you see them out drinking and partying during a event and you know they are judging you the next day with a hangover and you get a bad call how can anyone not lose the plot? I’m not saying they all do it or they do it all the time but it happens and how can you have respect for them? I think they should get new judges every so often and it has gotten better over the years especially lately. But back in the ’80s and ’90s it was pretty bad.

In 2000 when I finally won a world title. Everything seemed to just fall into place and I started off winning the first two events and just kept doing good in events and the guys chasing me seemed to just fall apart when I had a bad one and couldn’t capitalize on my mistakes. In 2000 the guys to beat were Jake Patterson, Luke Egan and Taj Burrow.

I suffer from depression and probably have for a while but really started noticing it after winning a QS event at Sunset in 2012 I have unfortunately thought about taking my life more than a few times but I kept reminding myself that I have a great life and too many people that love me to leave so I just keep fighting to find my happy place. No one likes to talk about depression but for sure guys on tour suffer from it and I feel it’s good to talk about but people need to know they are not alone and more people suffer from it than they know.

Still being alive and living the dream everyday is the greatest moment of my life lol. I’ve had so many great moments that I think about waking up everyday and it is great. I think my days of competing have unfortunately come to an end but I’ll still compete in specialty events and have fun but the kids nowadays are just incredible and it’s time to sit back and watch events and go on surf trips and have fun chasing all the waves I never got to surf while on tour. I would love the chance to go to Ireland. My grandfather on my moms side is half Irish and I’ve never been to Ireland but would absolutely love to make it there one day.
I also try and do my best for charity. The Mauli Ola foundation basically takes kids who are sick out surfing so they can have fun and put a smile on their faces. It’s a good group of people using surfing as a natural treatment for sick kids. I am happy to say that I have been a part of the foundation.

Jail was just some time to get to know myself because I had lost all my sponsors and my wife served me divorce papers the night before I went in so I completely hit rock bottom. So I took that time and just trained everyday and made the most of it and came out stronger than ever. I had some good friends in jail and they kept me busy and training everyday in there and I just kept it up when I got out.

As always it only takes one person to say a bad thing about me and then the story grows. But I don’t have any problems with the LGBT community or never had and some of my best friends are gay as well as some family members, so no I’m not homophobic lol. The only thing that I’m concerned with is to do what makes you happy and as long as it’s not hurting someone you’re all good. If I have hurt people in the past I hope they can forgive me because I was once young and stupid and it’s not a excuse just part of me becoming who I am today and I continue to grow and try to become a better person.

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Meet The Foam Blowers

Words & Photos Sharpy

When you order a new board you think about the shape, dimensions and possibly a fancy spray job. As long as it paddles well and gets you where you want to be on waves then your shaper will be happy.
While researching rocker, tail shapes, concaves, fin systems and volume do you ever give a thought to the meat in your fibreglass sandwich? The foam blank is the heart of your board, and not all foams are created equal and did you know you can ride blanks made here in Cornwall?
ProFoam, previously Homeblown, is now headed up by Martin Mynne who took over from Tris, and we went for a look at the process of taking chemical soup to a ready for shaping blank…

First up what the hell do you do here?
Make surfboard blanks from start to finish. We blow the foam on site, try and source everything as locally as we can and really try hard to head down the green path as much as we can. We’re talking to chemists at the moment and we’re developing new formulas for a whiter, greener foam, so we can have barrels of chemicals without skull and crossbones on them…

Has the main chemistry changed since the ‘60s?
Not for most manufacturers, for us it has, as the company was originally started with a different formula. An MDI versus a TDI technology, one is basically a lot less volatile than the other. The MDI (methylene di-phenyl di-isocyanate) which we use, which took a lot of time to perfect, is safer for the end user, safer for us blowing it and it doesn’t become airborne like TDI does. So the shapers aren’t getting exposed to anything bad either. TDI (toluene diisocyanate) is toxic as hell, carcinogenic, volatile and explosive, a total nightmare.

There must have been a lot of cul-de-sacs with regards to trying different chemical mixes?
I’ve only been involved less than a year. I’ve come from a composite race boat background, so I’ve got lot of contacts in the chemical industries, so I’ve been pulling strings with people there. It’s an avenue that wasn’t open to the old owners. We’ve been working on new stuff for six to eight months so we are bench testing new formulas now.

Must be a long process to experiment with blanks?
You can’t just knock something up and put it out on the market. It’s a lot of work, a lot of testing before you can even blow blanks. But when we do we’ll give out some free blanks to the shapers to try then get feedback from them and get their riders to try and destroy them.
We’re working with quite advanced chemists so they’re giving us mixes to try. It’s subtle changes. They’ve been here on site so they know what we are trying to achieve. The problem they’ve had here over the years is the yellowing of the foam. The trade off with the safer, less polluting method of production is the blank goes yellow quicker. They all do eventually due to age and UV exposure whatever the method. The only way to get a pure white board is to spray the foam before glassing. Which makes a lot of sense, there’s no point messing with the chemistry of the whole blank for a superficial surface effect. Whiteners affect the reaction for the whole blank so it’s a tricky one to work with. As surfers we’re vain and want pure white boards, if we were happy to ride patchy brown boards we could make really environmentally sound foam. Polyurethane foam without additives isn’t the nicest colour but it’s the safe and more environmental option.

Is most of the foam used in the UK blown in the UK?
No. We’re the only UK manufacturer of blanks, so there are still plenty of imports. We are here to compete with that. The advantages of us being here are obvious. We are down the road, you need a specific blank, say you want to work on a gun blank, we can work with them on that and share the costs of moulds, you want to do a custom rocker we can do that. Order turnaround is fast. You’re not waiting on a container ship to chug across the Atlantic. Our foam is as good as any other foam on the market and it’s non-polluting, responsibly sourced materials.

Clark Foam is the historically famous US blank manufacturer, did they close because the EPA was on their case?
They used the TDI chemicals, nasty airborne volatiles, you wouldn’t have been allowed in to to take photos of the blowing process. It’s nasty stuff. Full respiration suits and all that to work with it. To do that process you’d need a site bigger than our whole operation just for the filters and scrubbers.Breathing that stuff in isn’t any good for you. Understandably using those chemicals is prohibitively expensive for good reason. Our process makes the health and safety side a hell of a lot easier.

Before you started ProFoam what was your path?
I’ve gone full circle. My first job was actually on this estate: polishing windsurfers and surfboards for Limited Edition when I was 15. From there I learnt to sand, laminate and then went away and did some boat building for a few years. Then Chops Lascelles called me to come run his factory as he wanted a rest. That turned into an eight year stint. We were so busy, putting out a 1000 boards out a year. Then I went back to the racing yacht building side of things. America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean race stuff. Worked on five different Volvo boats and recently been working with Hugo Boss on their Vendee Globe boat.

How much is an America’s Cup boat?
Five mill for the full package. It’s pretty nuts. They’ve just released a new ruling so its back to monohulls as the catamarans were more about the tech not about sailing. So now it’ll come back to more real sailing expertise. I keep my finger in that world with maintenance contracts still.

Where’s the material research happening?
F1 is glamorous but it’s a production line laser-cutting carbon, boat building is a lot more creative, so for what we do the boat side is more relevant. They are the avenues I have to draw technology from. It’s not a fast process. There aren’t any other guys to compare notes with it’s a niche operation. But our foams are used outside of surfing, tooling, signs, model makers, so we’ve got other guys to create for.

How long does it take to make a blank?
From wet chemicals it’s 10 minutes to pour, 20 minutes to expand in the mould, then we cure them overnight. It’s like something out of Wallace & Grommit as you’ll see in a minute. It’s a mad machine with a computerised pouring head. One thing with our method, our foam is constant density all the way through, which makes the shapers lives a lot easier. Imported foam gets softer in the middle with a harder crust. It’s also closed cell which is waterproof so handy if you ding it.

Finally what do you want people to know about ProFoam?
We want to push it to surfers, we’ve got a massive carbon footprint, wetsuits, boards, leashes and travel. And people are paying over the odds for shadow shaped imports. Buying your blank and board from guys down the road is a start at least. Shipping miles are reduced and it’s supporting local shapers, Markie, Skindog, Luke and loads of others are doing boards equally as good as anyones. Make a relationship with someone here. And they’re now working with foam that makes their life easier. Consistent density foam is so much easier to work with than the alternative. The boards go well which is the main thing and we can make their work easier. We’re working on a new gun blank with Luke one that the guys surfing Mully will be riding, rather than working from a cut down longboard blank. We just want to innovate and be at the heart of people’s boards in the future.

2P or not 2P…

My girlfriend read something I’d written on t’interweb the other day and reacted like a proper Daily Mail reading shocked of Tunbridge Wells:

“You really piss in your wetsuit?” she exclaimed in horror.

‘Err, yes. Everyone does, what of it?’ I replied.

“So you mean to tell me that even Kelly Slater pisses himself when he wears a wetsuit?”

She, like most humans I know, has a bit of a soft spot for The Jedi™ and whilst he may be the King he still needs a wee now and then. Although as we all know he pisses excellence…

This got me thinking. Surfing has a dark damp secret. One that is curiously absent from the mainstream media golden-tinged, Endless Summer ideal of what surfing is. Surfing is not all VW combis, beach parties, sunshine, attractive tanned people, wild sex, longboards and ukuleles as London ad agencies would have you believe.

Far from it, but then again the more realistic version, the one you will actually see in Britain and Ireland’s beach car parks on a daily basis is as far from that rose-tinted ideal as possible.

Namely: cold, pale-skinned people, wearing rubber suits, gleefully urinating on themselves, as they nearly freeze to death … While enjoying it. Which is wrong on so many levels. It sounds like a water sports website that even lovers of all things kink would find a bit gross.

From early childhood we are taught that peeing your self is wrong. Wetting the bed is evil and will get you sent straight to damp pissy hell. In fact if you still piss the bed at a late age they consider you a mental. Pissing in public will get you a caution from the boys in blue and if you do it again, unavoidable after 10-pints of fight strength lager, you will get arrested. Not so in the more libertarian France where you are positively encouraged to slash outside, anywhere, at any time.

So how it is that whilst in a wetsuit it is considered totally fine, nay, encouraged in the winter to have a good, long wee? Or am I talking completely out of left field here? Hands up who never pisses in their wetty. Thought so…

Jeez, I make sure I drink heaps before going out in the winter just to make sure I have enough in the tank for a couple of those delightful warming episodes.

So. Who else pees for fun when engaged in sports? I guess swimmers have sneaky ones, they kind of take it for granted they are swimming in a soup of water, chlorine, skin flakes and other folks urine, they might as well make the pool water yellow and be done with the pretence. Canoeists, windsurfers and all our supposedly related surf disciplines like kiters and wakeboarders will all be pissy boys (maybe that’s why they wear boardies outside their wetsuits? To hide the stains?) Cyclists and marathon runners must have something taped to their bits cos stopping for a leak is gonna ruin your world record attempt? F1 and rally drivers probably just put a carbon bolt in the end or something technical.

We are pretty unique. Hell, I’d even say we are more advanced, we aren’t repressed in relation to our bodily functions. A pee in the winter when the sub-zero temps are really starting to bite is a magical thing.

The only problem is modern wetsuit technology. It is getting too good. Time was a duckdive or good beating and you’d get a decent injection of cold North Atlantic brine to flush out the fetid urea flourishing within. These day wetties are so warm, so well cut, so ruddy tech that hardly any water gets in … or more crucially out. When I take off my hooded 6mm I steam. The wetsuit lining fabric is not wet, only damp patches from sweat, and the aforementioned downstairs mistake.

So. This leads to an unenviable dilemma. When getting out from a winter session, when you have most definitely gone to the toilet on yourself, do you pull the neck out and go for the bracing flush of ice cold Atlantic water. Or do you pretend you haven’t then hope no one smells the overpowering stench in the car on the way home? As long as everyone’s gone for option B then it’s fine. No one will mention it as everyone will be equally embarrassed. I tend to go for option A, but I am a masochist. Keeping hydrated is key. Drink lots and your wee is clear. Don’t drink enough and it’s like snotty honey. Which ain’t healthy.

The other question is when is it okay to wee? Some people think if the suits on then its toilet time. Be it in the car park or walking down the beach. But beware, I was ankle deep about to go out in Ireland a year or two back and just doing up me chest zip which broke terminally. I couldn’t get it done up so retired peeved to the car. Regretting the piss I had done on the walk down. As I had to sit in the car for two hours marinating in fresh wee waiting for everyone else to finish their session.

Going back to the disgusted partner of mine, who by now is looking at me like she really doesn’t know me anymore, she had to ask:

‘Do you poop in your wetsuit as well?’

My answer: ‘Not intentionally.’

Not that I have. But I know people who have. Everyone does. When people are ill, it can be unavoidable, a shart in a wetsuit is probably the best place for it … and that’s a warmth that really does last.

By Sharpy

Jo Dennison: The WaveGarden Goddess…

You never know where you’ll end in this surfing life. Pembrokeshire pro Jo Dennison swapped chasing tour points for a nine to five with a difference.

What’s your official title?
Water Operations Manager.

How did you score the job?
I was visiting the prototype near San Sebastian in 2014 with my coach Martin Waltz who was running a project on the wave for his master’s degree. I found out that they had already started building one in North Wales and it instantly fuelled my interest. Could you imagine the first ever Wave Garden opening in your home country and being involved? I mean, it could have been done in any of the already famous surfing destinations of Australia or America but instead it was in the valleys of North Wales.

Were you nervous about moving from West Wales to the North?
I actually had been living a bit of a nomad life up until that point. After finishing university in Swansea I started chasing the summers for endless sunshine and waves. I spent eight months in France competing in any of the WQS events I could. And in the winter places like Australia, Morocco, Canary Islands, Sri Lanka surf training and travelling, living the dream some would say. Making another move wouldn’t be a problem, however moving nine miles inland for effectively an office job definitely made me nervous.

Jo mid-shoot for German TV, we can’t say much more but the end result should be entertaining…

Is part of your job making sure Surf Snowdonia’s wave is surfable every morning?
Every morning starts with a risk assessment and surf check. It is very important to know the facilities are safe before letting the customers in … You may have noticed the staff surf sessions in the morning!

Would you agree in the world of the surf industry you are one of the few people in the world pretty much guaranteed waves every day?
I have had to change my mind set a little bit because I used to spend six to eight hours in the water a day. That’s 40 plus hours a week. I currently surf about four or five hours a week now, but actually the amount of waves I ride is higher. It is so reliable and consistent it actually feels like a gym session or a proper training session. Sometimes I get 37 waves an hour, really giving me the opportunity to ‘train’ manoeuvres. I would have to say I am one of the luckiest people in the surfing industry to have a Wave Garden as my office.

The whole operation seems to be running like a well-oiled machine, are you always worried something is going to break with the tech?
I think that everyone was really quick to judge when we first installed the machinery and ran into some unexpected problems. Due to the scale of the project and it being the first commercial Wave Garden in the world, it is natural that it takes some time to find systems that work both operationally and mechanically. The engineers do a really good job, doing daily checks/dives to finding any potential issues before they happen. It is literally like running a massive car: giving it regular MOT and checking your tyres but on a grand scale.

How is it going back in the ocean now, do you have to adjust?
When I go back in the ocean, it definitely takes time to adjust, over time I have turned into a wavepool surfer. My equipment is completely different, the rules are different and also the timings. It is more difficult to practice a specific move in the ocean, getting two or three waves in an hour is more likely than the 37 I am now used to!

Can you still remember how to duck dive?
I recently went to France, I forgot how much paddling and duckdiving is involved The energy output to just getting those few waves is incredible and remembering the unwritten rules of giving way to locals, etc. is such a game of chess. I’ve always struggled in crowds. However, I do enjoy the feeling of being free and the unpredictability of the ocean. It’s worth the duckdives for the more soulful surf and ultimately my happy place.

Just how did you break your favourite board? And have you broken any others in the Welsh hills?
Well, I had a very nice invitation, almost a golden ticket if you will, from O’Neill wetsuits. It was to participate in a night surf at Surf Snowdonia with Jordy Smith and wakeboarder Nico Von Lerchenfeld. O’Neill had booked out the waves for a few hours, set up different colour lights on the pier, as well as smoke machines. We all had an hour each to perform an expression session. It was so much fun and also the first ever night surf and first wakeboarder to ride in the lagoon and launch over the waves. It just so happened on one of my waves, riding into the dark I landed a chop hop, rotated into the flats and ran into the dingy. This impact ripped an entire fin out. My 5’4” Rob Vaughan broadsword was transformed into a twinny, I’m just happy it wasn’t a camera man!

Seems like a good crew of staff there, do you have a big staff party at the end of the season in your own bar?
Well all my staff have to pass my vigorous recruitment program so they aren’t a bad bunch. The team spirit is really nice actually but we all have surfing in common. As for a party that’s a question for managing director Andy Ainscough? Please?

What’s on for the winter break?
I spent the last two winters in Indonesia, one on a boat trip in the Mentawi with some of the WQS girls (Sarah Beardmore, Paige Hareb, Kim Mayer, Claudin Hagoncaves) which was the best trip of my life, as well as the best waves. Another winter in Sumbawa at Lakeys which is like a natural wave garden. I would like to stay closer to home in Europe this year, let me know if you’ve got a space on a trip!

Winter Surfing Survival Tips

There’s no escaping the fact that it’s not summer anymore. That fleeting window of surfing in our damp islands in a mere pair of shorts/bikini has gone. Did you miss it? Hmmm. So did we.(Don’t scoff it DOES happen … occasionally). Luckily as British and Irish folk we are more than used to the loving confines of a rubber suit. Not often you can write that and not be writing for a special interest magazine.

Winter is looming. Boots and gloves are being dusted off. The key to surviving and surfing right through winter is having a plan and the right gear. That a decent attitude and a love of hot beverages. We’ve endured decades of winters so here’s what we’ve learnt on the way…

Get the best winter wetsuit you can afford. It’s not all about the top of the range most expensive suits, economy models with the right feature set, fit and good seams will see you right through. The fit is key, as a well fitting suit, particularly in the vital neck/head/hood area will power you through until spring. No flushes equals more warmth. So buy from your local shop and try on suits until you find the keeper. You’ll know as it’ll fit you like a glove.
Have two. Sounds extreme but two winter suits is the way forward. Then there’s one that’s always veering somewhere toward the realm of dryness. There’s nothing more off putting than the thought of wriggling into a near-frozen, piss-stinking, muddy wetsuit that you forgot to take out of the car. Most folk will buy a new winter suit every couple of seasons, and with modern wetsuits being so good that old one should be good as a back-up for those weeks when it’s really pumping.
If you’re rolling one suit then the pre-warm can be a good solution. Get an old gallon container, like the one your winter screen wash comes in, give it a really good rinse out. Then just before you set off for a surf fill it with hot water. Wrap your suit around it and wing it in your wetsuit bucket (standard DIY bucket from most big supermarkets or DIY stores for the price of a pint) or one of those more tech dry bags. It’ll give your suit a pre-warm then before or as you put it on you can douse the rest to take the chill off. If you take two you can use one a welcome warming post-surf shower too.

Figure out if you’re a built in hood or not kinda guy/gal when it comes to wetsuits. Some folk love them some prefer the adaptability of a hoodless suit and twat cap. For real deep winter a built in hood that fits right is the go. Same deal, try on different brands and find the one that works. Make sure the neck movement is not chafing. No one wants to look like they’ve been to an aggressive love bite orgy.
Heat is key. Get good winter gear, it hasn’t got to break the bank. Thermal underwear, yep, long johns and that, are winter essentials, teamed with a micro fleece, down jacket and a waterproof shell and you’re fit to handle anything the UK can throw at you. Decent waterproof boots, hiking or fishing will keep the tootsies toasty. If you stay warm you stay motivated. Beanies and gloves to keep the heat loss areas warm for deep winter are kind of obvious to mention here too.
Carrying on the heat theory: make your surf checks short and sweet. Call the session on and get going. Don’t wait for set after set and ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aaah’ about it. Make a call. Yes or no. Every minute in near-freezing temperatures saps your willpower to wriggle into a damp suit. Figure out winds and conditions the night before so you’re not faffing.

Speed: if faced with a cold, damp, frankly evil wetsuit you’ve got to commit. Get it the right way round and dive in. Dilly-dallying will just make things worse. A DryRobe will also be your friend in this situation. They make winter changing a treat. Unless you have a van of course in which case it’s also nice and warm.
Get a big van: look at getting a small woodburner in there. With a fire slate underneath and a flue it’s not that hard to add an actual fire to your van. Seen them in standard VW transporters and it’s next level for winter. Obviously installation wise make sure it’s up to spec carbon monoxide wise and all that. There are other heating options, like ceramic heaters as used by truckers for the really committed.
Hot beverages: a flask of tea, soup, or hell, even Irish coffee if you’re not driving, keeps that warm on the inside. As does a good breakfast before a big day. Winter is all about prep. The more prepared you are the longer you’ll last. If you’re doing multiple sessions somewhere remote and there’s driftwood to hand a lunchtime beach fire is also handy. As always be responsible and tidy when beach firing. For mega coffee heads it’s feasible to have a car inverter giving you a standard AC plug and whacking a Nespresso machine in there. We scored one for £25 from the charity shop. Either that or be mates with someone with a van. Or take a little gas burner and kettle for on the go brews.
Surf: tricky depending on where you live and surf but a simple winter thought is this: avoid the duckdive. Surfing reefs, points or beaches with defined rip channels will keep you in the brine longer than fighting your way through walls of closed out beachbreak.
Bits: alongside your suit your wettie boots and gloves need careful selection. Some folk like mittens, others gloves, and the mm thickness of your boots will depend on your coast of choice and your hard factor. However you roll make sure they fit good.
Post session: get the suit and bits rinsed and hung up. A good hanger gives vital space to let the interior air and not get fuggy and you can whack them up anywhere. Sooner its drying the better. Leaving it to stew in the bucket in the back of your car will bite you on the ass next session.
Obsess about the weather: our weather changes on a dime. Keep track of the long range, mid-range and daily forecast. Target your surfs for maximum quality. Be aware of those late and early sessions before the wind swings. Windows of opportunity are key.
Dawnie: winter has one benefit … nailing the dawnie is easy. There’s no tearing yourself from that wonderful dream at 4am. No. Winter is your friend. Rock to the beach at 8am and dawny the hell out of it.
Snow: if you’re looking at proper snowy winter session with extreme weather on the horizon make sure your car has the recommended supplies. Food, water, blanket, sleeping bag, torch etc. You never know when you might get stuck. A car phone charging cable is another essential. We like to have a box with camping gas burner, water, soup, Super Noodles etc so you can get a warm feed if stranded. Who knows one year we might get the Snowpocalypse the press predict every single season.
Share: winter is more fun with friends. And in the event of it going teats up you can huddle together for warmth.
Words and Photos by Sharpy