The essential guide to staying warm on and in the water
How to stay warm on the water. The accessory issue.
Did you discover a new watersport this summer and would love to continue with it through the autumn and winter but not sure what to wear to keep warm?
Whether you are surfing, swimming, paddleboarding, kitesurfing or windsurfing, with the right wetsuit and accessories you will be well covered to continue your new favourite hobby all year round (and you will be most likely rewarded with great conditions for them too!)
In this post we will focus on the accessory side of things, for our tips on how to choose the right wetsuit, head over to this blog post.
The essentials: Boots
It may sound obvious but keeping your feet and toes warm will extend your time in or on the water. Which ones to go for though?
If you are swimming, your goal should be to keep the flexibility in your foot and toes, so rather than going for a soled neoprene boot, choose a neoprene sock. These will keep your feet warm without hindering your swimming (too much).
If you are surfing, paddleboarding, kiting or windsurfing, a neoprene boot is the obvious choice, you just have to decide between round toe, internal split toe and split toe. Each have advantages and often it is down to personal preference and not just to how warm they keep you.
There is also the option of going for a neoprene sock with kevlar sole such as O’Neills Ninja sock. The Ninja sock will not give maximum warmth but it will extend that bare foot feeling later in the season and for those that have to get their feet in and out of straps they work amazingly well. This model sock/boot hybrid comes with a split toe as standard.
Split toe boots will keep your big toe separate from the others and therefore give you a better feeling for the board under your feet and so better balance on the board. Unless you go for a very high end model boot you will be compromising warmth in comparison to a round toe boot. A good compromise is a boot with an internal split toe which on the outside looks much like a round toe boot, in practise gives you a good feeling for your board and keeps your toes a bit warmer.
Minimum thickness during the Winter season in Ireland is 5mm, but if you feel the cold we stock boots in 6/5/4mm and even 7mm.
Depending on your budget, you can pick up an entry level 5mm round toe boot for around €32 and if you want to step it up from there, you have the choice to go for strapped boots (better hold on your foot, not great for footstraps though), boots with drylining/firewall lining and boots with higher grade neoprene that are extra stretchy, warm and dry faster. A high end boot will cost you around €60 from any of the major brands.
Top tip: If you have never worn a split toe boot before, we strongly recommend trying them on in a shop before you buy, as they just might not be your thing.
The essentials 2: Hoods
It’s a fairly straight forward choice for surfing, go for a full hood with peak to give you maximum protection from cold flushes on your head and down your neck and go with 1.5mm thickness until it’s time to step it up to 3mm in deep winter.
Kitesurfers, windsurfers, paddleboarders and swimmers will often choose neoprene beanies over full hoods. Beanies won’t be quite as warm, but will keep the wind out of your ears without being too restrictive. Most versions have a little leash at the back to attach to your wetsuit so you won’t lose it mid session.
If you do decide to go with a full hood for swimming, make sure to get one without a peak as that is a hindrance for swimming. Choose a dive hood without a peak.
If you are a kitesurfer or windsurfer and want to go for a full surf style hood, we would recommend choosing a 1.5mm model to maximise freedom of movement.
Headbands are also a thing – they give great freedom of movement and will keep your ears nice and toasty.
Essentials number 3: Gloves
Gloves are the last of the three essential accessories (having said that, if you invest in a very high end suit like this one (link to pyschotech 6/4) you might not need them at all), but it can be tricky choosing the right ones.
For swimming and surfing it is fairly straight forward. Go for 1.5mm or 2mm as long as you can bear it and bring out the 3mm/4mm/5mm gloves for your deep winter sessions. You do compromise flexibility when going for the thicker ones, but if the choice is between getting out on the water or watching from the car then it is worth putting up with a reduction in flexibility.
If you are a windsurfer or kitesurfer, you have less options and so the choice is easier. Full surf gloves can cause cramping when holding onto the boom and to some extent the kite bar so a good alternative are open palm mittens that will keep the wind off without affecting the feeling in your fingers and arms. They might not be as warm as gloves, but will make a big difference in the depths of Winter.
Paddleboarders will have similar issues with gloves, you tend to stay warmer when paddleboarding because you are constantly moving but if you are really feeling the cold then your best bet is a pair of the thinnest surf glove such as the 1.5mm Psycho DL Glove.
These thermal tops and bottoms are ideal for those that don’t have a 6/4 deep winter suit in their wardrobe to move on to. A thermal layer can transform a 4/3 or 5/4 suit when the weather gets colder. Most of them also feel super cosy thanks to their fluffy material and even when wet are comfortable going on where a wet wetsuit can make you grit the teeth.
Choose between short or long sleeved and add a pair of thermal shorts for extra warmth. Of course, you could also step it up and go for the next thicker wetsuit if you feel the water temperature is getting too cold for your current one.
Also called rigging jackets, neoprene jackets or neoprene hoods – these guys are mostly for windsurfers and kitesurfers or paddleboarders that are out on flat water/touring (wakeboarders use them too in the winter time). They are a great add on to keep the wind chill off either when you are on the board or to keep you warm before and after your session.
These will not strictly speaking extend your time on the water but they sure are the business and our top must have accessory for whichever watersport you choose.
There are plenty of changing robes to choose from with Dryrobe offering the ultimate in warmth and Mystic and Northcore having released their own similar products offering a waterproof outer shell and extra cosy interior. They make changing at the side of your car or van a breeze no matter what the weather and are ideal for those lucky enough to live a quick drive from their break. Throw your Dryrobe over your wetsuit and voila a wearable waterproof car seat.
If you don’t have the budget for a Dryrobe, any towelling changing robe will make changing at the beach/reef in the winter time so much more comfortable. With prices from €36 for adults, there really is no reason not to have one.