Wainui Beach Gisborne witer surf

Tips For Making The Most Out Of Winter Surfing

Here in Gisborne, as in much of Aotearoa, some of our best surf conditions appear in the colder months.  This is the time to sort out your preparation so that you can make the most of these great surf conditions.  Winter surfing can be very rewarding, but there's things you can do to improve your experience drastically and also prevent serious problems like hypothermia.

First I will cover equipment, then will cover more general things you can do to improve your winter surfing experience.

Thicker Rubber

This is pretty straight forward, as the mercury drops on land and in the water you should move to a thicker wetsuit.  Most people around here find a 4/3mm steamer more than adequate to get them through winter surf sessions.  Some feel the cold more so if that's you then you might want to consider a 5/4mm steamer.

O'Neill Fire X wetsuit imagery

The Best Wetsuit You Can Afford

Sealed winter 4/3mm wetsuits start around $350 and can go above $800, so there should be something for everyone.  A sealed 4/3mm wetsuit is generally what you will need and even the lower priced ones will enable you to surf in the winter.  However, as you go up in price you are paying for more expensive rubber and more features.  These features generally provide you with more warmth and better performance which will enhance your overall winter surfing experience.  If you are a very regular surfer and you can afford it then it is worth looking at the higher end suits.  If you are not such a regular surfer or on a budget then there should also be something for you at a lower cost.  Check out our wetsuits here priced from high to low to get a feel of what is out there.

Mick Fanning wearing the Rip Curl Fusion wetsuit in a barrel

Use Wetsuit Accessories

In cold water your body is constantly trying to keep your core temperature at around 37 degrees celcius.  If it drops below 35 degrees then you can develop Hypothermia which can be life threatening.  With prolonged exposure to cold water your peripheral blood vessels will constrict so your blood flow is focussed in the core to maintain this temperature.  If you keep your extremities warmer this will take a lot longer to happen.  This will keep you warmer and prevent the loss of coordination that develops as early signs of Hypothermia.

Wetsuit Boots

Rip Curl Flashbomb wetsuit boots

These are often the first accessory that surfers add as the water temperature drops.  This keeps your feet warm and keeps the blood flowing.  If your feet get too cold you will start to lose feeling and coordination which makes it very difficult to surf.  Surf boots generally are 2mm, 3mm and 5mm.  Most surfers around Gisborne find 3mm boots are more than adequate.

Wetsuit Hoods

O'Neill Hyperfreak Fire Wetsuit hood

Personally this is the first accessory I add for winter surfing.  They get rid of the dreaded "ice-cream headache" that can be pretty tough to deal with if you are having to duckdive a lot.  Most of our body heat is lost through our head so by adding a hood you can make a huge difference to your body temperature regulation.  Hoods generally come in thickness from 1.5mm-3mm or more in colder climates.  You can get a full hood, a cap style hood that doesn't cover your neck, of a thermo vest/hood combo

Wetsuit Gloves

Rip Curl Flashbomb wetsuit gloves

Obviously to keep your hands and fingers warm.  Generally gloves are the last item a surfer decides to add as the tempertaure drops but again can make a hure difference to your cold water tolerance.  We stock gloves from 1.5mm-3mm which covers surfing around here.  One of the early signs of Hypothermia is the inability to do fine movement of your fingers, so gloves can delay this for quite some time.

Suit Over Accessories

Tuck the top of your wetsuit boots and the wrists of your gloves inside your wetsuit to prevent extra water going into them.  This should keep the whole system as water-tight as possible.


Hooded Change Towel

Gizzy Hard premium hooded towel in black

Here's a relatively simple piece of your equipment that can go overlooked.  Keep yourself warmer whilst getting in and out of your wetsuit in those howling winter winds and frosts.  Using a hooded change towel rather than a standard towle keeps your hands free to get your clothes and wetsuit on and off.  Check out our men's hooded towels and women's hooded towels.

Go To The Beach Warm

A common mistake is to think if you go to the beach cold then you'll be prepared for the cold water.  This is a big mistake.  Even though you will be entering cold water, you want your body to be in a warm state before this happens so the onset of your body temperature dropping takes longer.  Get those heaters pumping in your car, wear a jacket/hoodie, beanie, long pants and footwear....whatever it takes to get you to the beach warm and ready to shred.  Besides, your surfing performance will be better if all of your muscles are already warm and supple.  Doing some pre-surf movement can also help as your muscles generate heat and promote good blood flow when they are contracting and relaxing.

One thing to note, wearing jeans to the beach can cause a problem after your surf if you are losing fine control of your fingers.  This can make it difficult to do up buttons and/or zips.  Elastic waist pants or trackies are great for winter surf apparel.

Prep a Dry Wetsuit

Its hard to get your wetsuit bone dry in the winter if you are a regular surfer.  But hanging it in a warm, dry place with good airflow both inside out and then the right way round will give it a good chance to be dry for your next surf.  Some wetsuit models like O'Neills Fire Series and Rip Curl's Flashbomb series have quick dry thermal lining giving the inside of your suit touch dry feeling in 20-30 monutes when hung correctly.  Getting into a dry wetsuit rather than a wet, cold one also prolongs maintaining your body heat.

Eat and Drink Hot

Its not a bad idea to eat and/or drink something hot on the way to the beach to help lift your core temperature before your surf.  Also doing the same after your surf can help reboost your body temp and help you recover more quickly.

In The Water

Keep moving!  Don't just sit out the back waiting 20 minutes for the bombs.  Paddle around, chase some peaks, stay dynamic and catch more waves.  All this extra body movement helps to produce heat from muscle function and keep you warmer for longer.

Hot Water Post Surf

Some surfers like to have a bottle of hot water sitting in their car for a quick rinse post surf while taking off their wetsuit.  This can help you recover form the effects of cold more quickly.

Time To Get Out

If you start to experience any signs of the onset of Hypothermia, don't be a hero, its probably time to get out of the water and go warm up.  Hypothermia can be life threatening.  Your surf can go from being fun to a near tragedy really quickly if not managed correctly.

Sympoms of Hypothermia can include:


Slurred speech or mumbling

Slow, shallow breathing

Weak pulse

Clumsiness or lack of coordination (you might first notice this when your fingers stop being able to do what you want them to do)

Drowsiness or very low energy

Confusion or memory loss

Loss of consciousness.

People experiencing these symptoms can be unaware because of the confusion.  So keep an eye on those around you when you are surfing a very cold conditions, you could save a life.

Loan surfer sitting out the back at Wainui Beach in Gisborne


Surfing in winter in New Zealand can be a very rewarding experience.  Pumping waves, less people in the water, adrenaline and exhilaration.  Wetsuits and other equipment have come a long way.  Its no longer such a problem to go from your summer to winter rubber because the stretch of the suits is so good.  Contact our friendly, helpful staff at Blitz Surf Shop if you need any advice on winter wetsuits and other surfing equipment. 

Be smart, suit up and follow the guidelines in this blog and you'll be out there frothing for longer in that awesome winter surf.




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