The Best Cold Water Surf Gear You Can Buy This Season
It's nearing the official end of summer, which means "beach season" is coming to a close. But that, of course, means it's the perfect time to head out towards the shore if you're chasing waves; the latter half of the year brings a shift in swells that shakes the coastline awake.
Surfing is all about circumstance: being in the right place at the right time. And while you’ll never be able to control what the swells are doing and where the waves are breaking, you can put yourself in the best—and most comfortable—position for the perfect session and potential ride of your life. So before you drive to your local break, make sure you’re equipped with the best gear so you don't have to sweat the small things, like an uncomfortable wetsuit or unsuitable board.
Bluesmiths Spartan Board Shorts
Think of those extreme performance Swiss fabrics that are able to withstand whiteout conditions on powder-heavy mountain tops. Now take 'em down to the ocean and you got yourself a pair of multi-stretch, water-repellent trunks that are also fitted to be super comfy both in and out of the water. Plus, the naturally self-cleaning materials make sure you don't smell like a hockey teams' locker room.
Smith Optics Wayward w/ Chromapop Polarized Lens
Surf checks are a time to get mentally and physically pumped, not shade your face from the harsh glare. These sunglasses are more than just housings for those Chromapop lenses that let you see the world in all of its jaw-dropping vibrancy. They also comfortably wrap your face with hydrophilic megol nose and temple pads that keep the sunglasses where they're meant to be, on your face, without pinching your noggin' into sure-fire migraine mode.
Quiksilver Storm Watch Jacket
It's always smart to have a jacket on hand, and this is a great one. All the makings of a rain jacket with the comfort (and style) of a city jacket—or, one that you would actually wear. Throw your phone, wallet, or keys in the chest pocket for easy access.
These are basically open-toed water moccs—so you'll be comfortable walking around, no matter how wet the conditions are. These have the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association seal of approval, which really should be enough. But to take them a step further, they have adjustable straps (like those Chacos you had in high school) that ensure a snug fit to minimize the list of potential things you might trip over.
Patagonia R2 Yulex
If you're able to get away with board shorts, then obviously wear boardies. But the waters are cooling, and you might be more comfortable in a wetsuit. Problem: wetsuits are pretty expensive. This one is no different, price-wise, but there is a world of difference in what makes it worth it.
Neoprene has been the long-favored rubber for wetsuits, but it's goddamn terrible for the environment. Like, human-fishing-equipment-destroying-marine-life terrible. So instead of the synthetic polymer, Patagonia decided to employ the reusable guayule plant, a shrub found in the Southwest. It wears the exact same as the wetsuits you're accustomed to, but doesn't come with all the nasty toxins. If you're not ready to spring for a new suit, then go to an outlet store where last season's will be 50% off.
Be sure to try it on though! Nothing is worth than a leaky suit...or chaffage.
Supporting your local shaper is always a top priority, but it isn’t always high in the way of accessibility. So do what is right for you. From board shape (depending on skill level and the type of waves you'll be surfing) to price range (brand-spanking new, or those on Craigslist), simply make sure that you're comfortable with it, both in and out of the water. Always see it before you buy, to double-check for dings and anything out of the ordinary. Also, when possible, see if there are alternatives to buying straight foam, such as mushroom boards. Like wetsuits, surfboards haven't always been the most environmentally-conscious endeavors, but things are changing.
Non-Surf Surf Gear
Bobber Floating Hand Grip
Want to capture video footage to get amped about over that evening's drinks? Take a GoPro into the lineup. Not only are these great for POV shots, but work really well for normal shots as well. With all that in mind, don't go out without the Bobber. POV or normal, it'll make sure you're enjoying edits at home rather than scouring the endless expanse of ocean for your sunken camera.
Slyde Starburst Hexflex Handboard
Occasionally, even though there are waves, they're simply not breaking right. All the surfable waves are blown out or the tide has them doing something funky. But that doesn't mean you can't surf. If you have a nice, heavy shorebreak pounding the beach, nothing is better than getting in a nice bodysurf session—after all, you're already out there! These hand planes ensure that you're not only getting thrown over the lip like a ragdoll, but actually catching a couple waves in between.
Whether employing the handboard or hand grip, fins are a godsend—like being reborn as a f*cking dolphin. If you don't want to be kicking around like a fish out of water, pull these onto your feet and you'll be dancing in and out of those waves with ease.
Transport & Protection
Dakine Cape Wet/Dry 38L
Whether you're pulling up to a break in your car, riding a bike, cruising a skateboard, or perhaps jumping a train, it's nice to have all your gear in one place. And with this all-purpose pack, the gear would include wetsuit in the waterproof roll top pocket, a couple cold ones in the insulated cooler with a stealth shoulder strap bottle opener, fleece-lined sunglass casing, and tarp-lined wax container. No necessity left behind!
Getting in and out of your wetsuit could be the worst part of surfing. These Mexican poncho looking things make the process a little more private. The water- and wind-proof outer shell with (synthetic) Lambswool on the inside keeps you warm and dry...you might even be tempted to skip the clothes after you're done taking off your wetsuit.
The coastline at your fingertips: tides, wave heights, conditions. Save favorites for easy access later, and get three day forecasts (a whole week for premium users) when planning trips. While the reports aren't always 100 percent accurate—and Magic Seaweed is arguably better for those traveling internationally—they are as good if not better than most, and if one of the HD cams is available at your break, you get to do the entire surf check from underneath your toasty comforter.
Rip Curl Trestles Pro Watch
Pre-loaded with local knowledge of 500 waves around the world, including best tide, wind direction, and swell size, you'll be set wherever you are (cell phone service or not). Also, there are sunrise and sunset times so you're always in the lineup for golden hour. And they'll be updating this with the Rip Curl Search GPS Watch later this fall, so it's only getting better...we're talking new-fangled tech that will have you equipped with local know-how, local or not.
Michael Woodsmall is the Deputy Editor for The Inertia, a digital surf publication based out of Venice, California. He loves to ride boards, bikes, vibes, and his unrelentingly obnoxious stream of consciousness. When not sitting in a lineup or on a chairlift, he's likely found somewhere quiet, a six-pack deep, listening to country.