winter surf accesories for california

Warm Winter Surf Accessories

If there’s still is any question, webbed gloves are not cool. All the rage back in the 80’s, this accessory is one that you can do without. Surfing, like many sports, is best in its simplest form. Just wait until you get that perfect session in the warm water tropics wearing only your boardshorts or bikini. So don’t over accessorize. Keep it simple.

In Southern California, booties are a critical accessory for those cold winter days and for surfing places with rocks. They can be your best friend, or your worst nightmare. The key to booties working properly is that they fit snug, extremely snug. If booties are too big, they balloon up with water, making it nearly impossible to get your feet in the right spot on the board. Wearing booties can be hard to get used to. The alternative? Not being able to feel your board because your feet are getting numb and “prickly” as they enter the first stage of frostbite. Sounds fun.
For the best fit and board feel, look for a “split-toe” style. The most critical factor - the booties should have some type of strap that goes over the top of your foot. This keeps them as tight on your feet as possible. Try on sizes smaller than your normal shoe size. Once you get in the water, they will stretch out a bit and you’ll gain some room.

Side note: Booties never really completely dry out so they have a tendency to develop a stench the likes of you have probably never encountered. This is normal.
With the right pair of booties, your water time will be extended and your comfort level dramatically increased. Any brand will work if it fits right, but some of the best booties I’ve had over the years are from Xcel, O’Neill and Hotline.
Gloves (non-webbed version) might be helpful on the very coldest days, or for people whose hands get cold easily. Effective paddling with gloves is extremely difficult, so most surfers don’t use them unless absolutely necessary.
A hood is great for increasing your warmth and avoiding those ice cream headaches while paddling out in the winter. They also help keep the wind out of your ears, which helps to slow the development of Surfer’s Ear (excessive bone growth in your outer ear canal that develops as your ear attempts to keep itself warm and dry). The downside: A hood greatly reduces your ability to hear what is going on around you, thus affecting your balance and orientation. For some surfers however, a hood is an absolute necessity.
Rash guards and fleece tops. The normal lycra rash guards can do a good job protecting you from those painful under-arm rashes. But they are not a necessity unless you ARE experiencing rashes. They’re also a great way to keep the sun off your back on those scorching days. The normal lycra rash guards don’t do much to keep you warm, but there are fleece (PolarTech or M-tech) rash guards like the ones made by Mysterioso that can greatly increase your warmth and comfort level. These must be very snug and are worn underneath your wetsuit as an additional internal heat barrier. For beginners, this can be a good way to get through the winter with your 3/2 and booties, as opposed to buying a new 4/3.

And there you have it. Other than these things...just keep paddling to keep warm!