Cold Water vs Warm Water Surfing

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Coming out of 54° water is enough to make your teeth chatter, whether you’re a beginner surfing Cowell’s, an intermediate to advanced surfing Steamer Lane or a pro who drove up to Mavericks. It always brings up the age-old question of why surf in cold water? Are there any advantages to cold over warm?  Everyone knows most good surfers don’t have real jobs so why wouldn’t they just move somewhere to surf warmer waves?

Warm water surfing promotes more flexibility and maneuvering of the body.  Also, because one is rarely in a wetsuit in warm water there is a real connection between the board and its rider, which for some surfers makes all the difference. Warm water surfer Kelly Slater says, “Warm water makes you feel younger – cold is old!” Not that he hasn’t put a wetsuit on from time to time, but Slater prefers the tropics.

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Costa Rican surfer Federico Quedevo rarely surfs waters below 82°.  Costa Rica offers warm water surfing on both coasts, with waters that never fall below 77°.  The chilliest Quedevo has ever been was ascending Mount Everest, which wasn’t actually the mountain at all. Mount Everest was the championship game in the Mountain Poker Series, another favorite past time of this CR surfer. He also believes surfing in the warm water allows him to train longer, making him a better surfer by far.

So why surf cold water?  Canadian surfer Pete Devries states, “You put more effort in cold water to score great waves.” One has to keep moving to stay warm so cold water surfing can make you a stronger surfer. Irish surfer Fergal Smith is used to surfing big waves in water that averages 45°. He believes cold water surfing is better as you never overheat when really going for it, which he does all the time.  Also, constant hot air and warm water can really sap your strength and leave you exhausted at the end of a session.

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Some of the biggest and best waves on the planet are cold water locations; Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Nova Scotia.  There are fewer in the lineup in cold water, making it more ideal for getting more waves, but it is not for the faint at heart. Water that cold requires not only a 5/4 wetsuit, but booties, hoodie and gloves. It can get pretty restrictive and you have to worry about your muscles seizing up in some pretty rough water.

Overall, California has it pretty good whether you’re a warm or cold water surfer.  San Diego has Trestles which can get as warm as 74°;Rincon, on the central coast, ranges between 59-67° and Mavericks still never gets colder than 54°.  Best of all, nothings more than a day’s drive away or a millimeter more of thickness.



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