Winter is Coming
Luke Bender

It’s always sad to see summer go, it starts to get colder and the days get shorter, but that’s not going to keep us out of the water. If you can suit up and brave the cold, Winter offers some of the best days of surfing you’ll ever have. Big swells, offshore winds, and minimal crowds, here’s everything you need to know so you can score epic waves this winter.

What to Expect

It’s obviously going to be colder, so be prepared for chilly surf sessions, especially in the mornings and evenings. Remember to dress appropriately so you can warm up quickly after getting out of the water. Sweatshirt, beanie, and of course a mug of hot coffee. It’s also a good idea to prepare a jug of hot water before you leave your house so you can use it to thaw out frozen fingers and toes.

Winter is known for having much larger swells so be on the lookout. Huge storms that originate in the Northern Pacific send sizable swells to the West Coast and north-facing beaches of the Hawaiian Islands. Be prepared for harsher conditions in the water. The ocean is an incredible playground but we can’t forget the extreme power she has. Make sure you stay in top physical shape and know your limits.

Have The Right Gear

Cold temperatures and large surf call for a change in equipment, here’s what you’ll need. Grab your warmest wetsuit. You should use a 4/3 mm wetsuit at least, go thicker if you really hate being cold or if you live north of San Francisco. Get some accessories, booties, hood and gloves to help combat the chill factor out in the water so you can stay out there longer.

Your best board is going to depend on conditions and specific location. If you ride a shortboard you should have a board with a few more inches on it ready to go for larger swells.

If you ride a long board during the summer months you’re going to want to look into using something a little shorter for winter. When the waves are larger and steeper you’ll want a board that is shorter and has more rocker (the bottom curve of the board from nose to tail). Using a long board in big, barreling waves will prove difficult to duck dive and drop in.

Local Knowledge is Key

Know your local spots if you want to score waves this winter. Know how they work with large north swells so you have an idea of where you’ll go out when the waves hit. Each surf break handles tides and wind much differently. Most breaks prefer a low to mid tide, high tides can turn your favorite spot into a mushy mess. In addition to strong north swells on the West Coast, winter is also prime for offshore winds in the mornings, which occasionally last all day.

If you’re looking to get barreled, which you should be, this offshore wind is definitely going to help. All of these factors help you decide where to go and what time of day will be best. Which brings me to my next point- know what conditions are on the horizon.

Check the Forecast

Use Surfline to check out the swell, wind and tide forecast so you can prepare ahead of time. The Surfline free version allows you to see a 3 day forecast, the premium membership gives you insights 17 days into the future, up to you if it’s worth it. Other than Surfline, check out Magic Seaweed as well and see which one you like better. Both of these websites also have live video streams of the most well-known surf breaks around the world. It’s pretty nice to be able to check the waves from the comfort of your bed right when you wake up, especially when it’s cold outside. Get familiar with deciphering the forecast on these different platforms, it will allow you to make better decisions on when and where to surf.

PRO TIP: If you see Easterly wind that’s offshore, that’s good news for you. West or Northwest wind, that’s onshore, means you might want to just stay in bed.

Mornings often offer an offshore (easterly) flow during the winter, if it’s not offshore it’s almost always glassy. This makes mornings the best time to surf for the most part, afternoons tend to get breezy with onshore wind. During the winter look for the occasional glass-off sessions in the evenings. Also be aware that it gets dark early during winter so time your sessions accordingly and stay updated with the sunrise and sunset times.

There you have it, everything you need to prepare for winter surfing on the west coast. We hope this guide helps you stay warm and get barreled this winter! Share your surfing adventures with us on Instagram by using #adventureaide! If you have any questions leave us a comment below.

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