When surfing you want to stay warm, comfortable and rash (it happens!) free. So we have our top tips for what to wear in warm water and cold water conditions.
Surfing in Warm Water Conditions
Surfing in warm conditions is by far the most preferred option by most surfers! So clothing requirements are generally very minimal — but not too minimal (heh). The only surf clothing you really need are bathers/board shorts and a rashie if you prefer.
“Boardies” help stop you getting rash on your inner thigh from the board and wax. They are generally worn in warm weather conditions over bathers and come in all different lengths, colours and materials. As you are spending a lot of time in the water, boardies are designed to be comfortable, without rubbing, and to be durable, without falling to pieces as salt water can cause material and stitching to deteriorate.
From being kids in an Aussie summer, we know rashies are worn in hot sunny conditions to protect against sunburn, but when surfing body rash can occur on your chest and stomach from the rubbing of your body against the wax on the board.
Rashies in winter is generally worn underneath a wetsuit as it’s primarily designed to stop you from getting wetsuit rash on your neck and underarms. They can also provide protection against the wind!
Rash vests are typically made from lycra because it’s stretchy and wears well in the water, but they can also be made from titanium, and other materials, providing even extra warmth.
When buying a rash vest make sure it fits close to the skin, but is not too tight or too loose. If it’s too loose it can cause water to get underneath it, making it heavier and making you colder.
Always check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to care and look after your rashie. These are generally the same as for caring for your wetsuit — always remember to rinse in fresh water after surfing.
Surfers often wear booties in warm conditions to protect their feet when surfing over coral or rocky reefs. These booties are different to cold water booties as they’re made from neoprene and are usually no more than 2mm in thickness. Styles can vary with different toe styles and extra protection and flexibility where it is needed.
Helmets can be worn in many different surf conditions and they are used to protect your head against injury from your own surfboard or other people’s surfboard.
When surfing over reef, helmets protect your head from damage cause by sharp coral or rocky reefs.
They’re made from hard, durable plastic and have added features including shatter proof visor, water proof lining and adjustable audio vents.
Surf caps can be worn in the water when surfing and are designed to keep the sun off your face and protect you from sunburn. They also assist in keeping the sun’s glare out of your eyes. They are made from lightweight water resistant and/or flexible materials. Some have mesh on the sides of the hat to let water through.
Surfing in Cold Water Conditions
Surfing in cold conditions, which you will be in Australia, requires much more protection from the elements. The main clothing item you’ll need is the wetsuit, and you may also want to wear booties, hoods and gloves to further protect you from the cold.
Wetsuits act as a layer of skin keeping the body heat between you and the wetsuit while it allows a thin layer of water to enter. Your body heat warms up the water and this further helps to keep you warm.
Whilst wetsuits are designed to help keep you warm, they still need to be flexible enough so you can move around comfortably. Technological advances in wetsuit materials and design centre on surfers staying warm in all sorts of weather conditions as well as having maximum flexibility.
Wetsuits come in varying constructions and materials depending on how cold the water, how warm you want to be, and the degree of flexibilty required.
Wetsuits are designed to cover the body. The more body coverage, the warmer you’ll be in the water. The most popular designs are:
Steamer - or full suit - is used in extreme cold to cold water conditions
Spring suit - or three quarter length - is generally used in cool to mild temperatures
Vests are for mild to warm temperatures. The water may be warm however there may be a cool wind blowing
Wetsuits are made up of panels of neoprene (a rubber material that allows the wetsuit to stretch and fit close to your body) stitched together and usually have a zip at the back to allow you to get in and out. The more panels in a wetsuit, the more flexible the wetsuit will be.
Booties are worn to keep your feet warm and are made from neoprene with added rubber soles and Velcro sealing around the ankle. The quality of neoprene can also vary from less flexible to more flexible.
The bootie fits above your ankle allowing the long legs of your wetsuit to fit over the top, which helps to prevent water getting into your booties.
There are many different styles of booties with different toe configurations such as split toe, hidden split toe, mid toe and round toe booties. Thicknesses can also vary from 1.5mm to 5 mm.
Your choice of booties will depend on how cold conditions are and your personal preference.
Gloves are worn to keep your hands warm. They are made from neoprene and come in different qualities (flexibility) and thicknesses.
Just like booties and gloves, hoods are designed to keep your head warm and are made from neoprene and also come in various styles and thicknesses. Your choice of hood will depend on your personal preference.
These can be worn in both warm and cold water conditions, but primary in cold water conditions to keep your hands warm while also helping you paddle more effectively. They have a rubber web skin between each finger — the more surface area you have with your hands, the more water you can pull through and the faster you will paddle.
Webbed gloves are made from light weight neoprene and designs include full fingers or mitt gloves without the finger tips.