Ocean City Today

Winter wetsuit options discussed

Surf Report
By Dave Dalkiewicz | Nov 09, 2017

(Nov. 10, 2017) Wetsuits have become an integral part of surfing.

It’s nothing new as such, but they seem to get better and better all the time even if the advancements are small. I’ve often thought that in the winter a good wetsuit is as important as a good surfboard. When it’s really cold, maybe even more important.

So far the fall season has been quite mild. So much so that it might be hard to think of needing much more than a typical lighter 3mm/2mm full suit. Time’s coming though even if we’re enjoying a delay. Just a few days ago I saw a swimmer, sans any wetsuit gear, taking a refreshing dip in the ocean. Seventy-degree air and 65-degree water in early November can tend to do that.

By this time of the year the “uniform” is usually a 3/2 with boots on the verge of needing gloves. As of late, the “uniform” has simply been a 3/2 full, no boots, no gloves needed. This is all subject to change of course.

By the time this issue comes out we will have had a number of days with air temperatures not getting out of the 50s. Two years ago I was able to go to mid-December with just a full suit and boots. No gloves.  That had never happened to me before in roughly 50 years of surfing. Only time will tell.

At any rate, just what is needed to get through a Delmarva winter of surfing? More than a few combinations can be used and most everyone seems to have their favorites. One’s wallet will tend to dictate but a full suit with boots, gloves and a cap or hood will be a minimal requirement.

Regarding thickness, most everything is measured in millimeters. The full suit should be at least a 4/3.  Boots and gloves anywhere from 3mm to 7mm. A cap or hood can be had in the 2mm to 5mm range.

More thickness should equate to more warmth. Less thickness will mean more mobility. The goal is a compromise between the two extremes. Thick enough for warmth, thin enough for mobility. Fit is important as well with the coldest conditions demanding the best fit. Better to have a thinner suit with a proper fit as opposed to an ill-fitting thicker one.

Various pieces of layering can be used to augment any wetsuit such as vests, shorts, or even socks in neoprene, lycra, or polypropylene material. Pieces such as these can also aid in getting a suit on, and especially useful in removing a wet, cold wetsuit after a winter session.

For the coldest conditions, gear that will keep one from hesitating due to the lowest temperatures of air or water, a suit in the 5mm range with an attached, integrated hood is probably the best call. This provides the most complete cocoon-like coverage with the head and neck totally covered. Suits like these are what you see pictures of people surfing in places like Iceland, Nova Scotia, or Alaska in the dead of winter.

Crazy as it seems, one can enjoy and even revel in places that only penguins and polar bears dare to tread. Granted our winters are not nearly that extreme, but through the months of December through April one would be hard pressed to consider equipment like this as overkill. Make no mistake. We get our share of cold conditions around here.

With a little planning and a few dollars good wetsuit gear might get you to thinking that summer is a year-round season.

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