Unfortunately the best storms come in the winter. This is a fact. Whether you surf or kitesurf, sooner or later you will have to shake off the common place for which the season to go to sea is summer, because we all know very well that this is not the case. The best conditions if you are kitesurfing, but even more if you are surfing, they meet more frequently, statistics in hand, when the mercury column drops.
So? Do you really want to give up some nice outings and hide yourself in front of a screen just for fear of the cold?
I guess not, and trust me if I tell you that it looks much worse than it is. And if a chilly person like me tells you, you can certainly make an effort and for this winter instead of putting aside the equipment, come and enjoy the wind and wave season. You will not regret.
The important thing is to prepare well, with the right equipment and obviously go a little more cautious when it comes to assessing the weather conditions, because you know that in winter with sea and wind you joke even less.
But let's see some advice on the equipment to choose to go out in the winter without risking freezing!
1. A good winter wetsuit.
Obviously if we want to go out in the middle of winter we cannot think of doing it without a good wetsuit. What does GOOD wetsuit mean? Simple: a good wetsuit is the one that keeps you warm and does not prevent you from moving, keeping you as in a straitjacket.
To go out in the lakes of northern Italy you will most likely need a drysuit, while for the Mediterranean waters a normal wetsuit will be sufficient. The wetsuits differ from each other in various details.
The first and most important factor to consider is the thickness of the neoprene expressed generally with a fraction e.g. 5/3 or 4/3 (A 4/3 wetsuit is made up of 4mm neoprene panels on the back and 3mm on the legs and arms). However, neoprene is not all the same. There are many varieties that differ in the raw materials from which it is made and intrinsic properties so, for the same thickness it happens that some wetsuits are more elastic, others warmer and so on. Did you know that there are also non-petrochemical neoprene? Read our guide to eco-friendly wetsuits here
Are you wondering if you need a 4/3 or a 5/3 for the winter?
The answer is it depends. It mainly depends on where you go out and how chilly you are but not only. At the same temperature there are wetsuits so warm and performing that they keep you warm with only 4mm of thickness. Generally if you choose an entry level model you will need a 5/3. If you opt for a top of the range, a 4/3 can suffice. The reason is that in addition to the thickness of the neoprene there are many other factors that count, such as the linings and other details.
In fact, neoprene is almost always used by coupling it with other fabrics, sometimes on one side only, sometimes on both sides. The linings of suits are more and more hi-tech and really make a difference. Seeing is believing. If you have to buy a new winter wetsuit, don't look at it only externally but check the inside if it has thermal fleece linings, fleece or similar materials and the more it has the better!
Clearly it is important to check details such as seams, zips etc. If you have any doubts I recommend you read this guide to winter surfing and kitesurfing wetsuits. and choose the right size. Getting the size of the suit wrong is quite common, unfortunately, even trying it on. The fact is that when they try it in the store, if they find it hard to put it on or if they feel a little tight, they immediately choose the size above, but most of the time the size above is too large. And if the wetsuit is large it is a disaster because water will flow in from all sides every time you do a duck dive or fall into the water. In every wet suit some water enters, but normally we speak of a veil between neoprene and your skin ... if instead of a veil it is a flood river, you have no hope of staying warm!
How to understand if the size is right? First of all wear it well. Bring your legs up so that your knees are in place and continue pulling on your suit a little at a time. Close it and check. The suit must adhere well and not wrinkle, or almost. Look for example at the armpits. Does it make many wrinkles? It's big.
My advice: Do not save on the winter wetsuit: it must be good and above all you must absolutely change it when it has run its course. Do you want some advice to choose your new wetsuit? Read here which are our favorites.
How long does a suit last? 1 years? 2 years? 5 years?
The truth is that the wetsuits are not eternal, depending on how much you use them and how the traits can last a single season or 2 or 3 seasons. Besides, it is really difficult for a winter wetsuit to continue to do its job well. So if your wetsuit begins to have more than two seasons on your shoulders, check well in what condition it is. Do the seams hold up well? Is neoprene hardened or worn out? Check in particular the area of ???
Another false cliche I would like to dispel is that wearing a lycra or neoprene top under the wetsuit is a good idea. I see him doing it continuously, so much so that I confess that I have tried it on various occasions. The result? Very bad. Wearing a lycra under the wetsuit does not help to stay warmer at all. And that doesn't change if instead of a lycra try on a neoprene shirt. Adding the two clothes will only make your outings more uncomfortable. Rather, use the right accessories and if anything, wear something above and not under your wetsuit to protect yourself from the wind while you wait to enter the water.
2. The essential accessories: shoes, hat, gloves
Our extremities are the part that most disperses body heat, so it is essential to keep them well warm. There's no use spending 300 € or more in a super cool winter wetsuit, if your feet and head freeze so much that you can't even speak anymore !. And if you believe that wearing shoes has a negative impact on your perception of the board, I assure you that, on the contrary, they offer excellent grip, especially on paraffin. And surely the perception of the table is better with shoes rather than with two insensitive ice cubes instead of feet!
So invest a few tens of euros for decent shoes, gloves and a good neoprene hat.
3. A nice windproof jacket Windchill Jacket
If you do kitesurfing in my opinion this is an indispensable accessory, one of those little things that make a difference. In winter, the air is often colder than water. And if there are 20 or more knots of wind and you have a wet suit, even worse. In winter it is difficult to chat on the beach, but sometimes it happens that you want to go out 10 minutes to rest. The problem is that as soon as you get out of the water it gets cold and then you hardly come back. Carrying a nice windproof jacket helps a lot in these cases. It also keeps you warm as you prepare to go out and when you need to take your equipment apart. Of course, an old jacket may also be fine, but if you want to give yourself a gift, I recommend one of the neoprene ones that many brands have been offering for some years now. There are some that you can also wear on your wetsuit while kitesurfing! Pretty cool! Okay, it will probably clutter you up a bit, but if you don't want to try maneuvers but get some relaxed edge they are really perfect. The latest models also have a trapeze hole!
4. Poncho and gearbox accessories
If you're lucky enough to have a nice van, getting changed isn't a big deal. However, if you have a normal car, putting on and taking off your suit inside is impossible, so you have to do it outdoors. A nice poncho will keep you warm while you change. Choose it wide, with a nice warm sponge that dries quickly.
In addition to this a must is the mat to take off the suit without covering it up and making it dirty. Those who then close themselves in bags are very comfortable, so the wetsuit will not wet your car.
Lately I got into the habit of carrying a soft silicone tub with me. I go in with my feet to change and then I put all the wet material in it. Then at home I use it to wash my wetsuit and various accessories. Really super practical and cheap, as it is also found on amazon for a few euros.
Ah, don't forget a nice wool hat to wear when you get out of the water, to keep your head warm even if your hair is wet.
5. Don't underestimate heating and security
Obviously we are talking about warming up the muscles. In winter, even more than in summer, warming up and preparing the muscles before entering the water is very important to avoid trauma, tearing etc. In this, surfers are generally quite diligent, a little less kiters ...
Five minutes before entering the water can be enough to activate the muscles a little and prepare them to face the session better. Furthermore, if you warm up a little earlier, you will also have less cold entering the water.
To conclude a small reflection on security.
In winter the weather is often extremely variable, the waves have force, the wind can be very gusty. The cold then in the water can in itself be a danger factor.
For this reason, even more than in summer, it is important to never go out alone, use impact vest and helmet, give up the exit if something in the weather does not convince you or if the storm is not within your reach.
In summary here are our tips:
If you go out into the Mediterranean for the winter you can choose a 4/3 top of the range or a 5/3. Remember that thickness is not everything: the best wetsuits keep just as warm with less millimeters, but they have linings etc.
If you go out to the lakes at least a 5/3 but I would also evaluate a watertight one
Socks are fundamental, as well as gloves and hat ... because it is from the ends that you disperse heat and it is from there that the cold enters your bones and you do not shake it off. With Feet, hands and head in the warmth is another story.
Well equipped to not get cold when you change with ponchos, jackets and why not a nice thermos with something hot to drink!