As the warmth of the summer is now gone and the crisp air of autumn is now upon us, hang on autumn? Where did autumn go? It seems it has fast tracked to winter as it’s gone from summer to winter down here on the Surfcoast of Victoria on the season changing express train! There’s already been snow on the hills and although the water isn’t too bad yet, the air temp has been freezing, arghhhhh! But this is where the thrill of that chill comes in, and we can enjoy our winter solstice.
Now don’t get me wrong I love nothing more than surfing in warm water and bikinis, there’s no better feeling, especially when you live and surf in cold waters off the southern coast of Australia. But there is something about the drop in temperatures, both the air and water, which gets you excited! How? I hear you say when cold water means ice-cream headaches, blue lips, cold nose, numb fingers and toes and a quick stumbling changing, out of what feels like the Michelin man suit of a wetsuit, under your towel before and after surfing. Well there are a lot of reasons that see you enjoying the cooler months down here.
You see in my neck of the ocean, summer not only is warmer and the ocean warm at around 19 degrees, but it is hectic with crowds. Now those of you from warmer parts of the coast will know what I mean about instant crowds. And although it’s not exactly the same as say surfing the Superbank on the Goldy, it still is getting a little crazy. I’ve noticed over the years as surfing is growing in population the crowds are getting more and more. And it’s probably due to more people residing in Australia and wanting the beach lifestyle, (and well who wouldn’t want it because we are a chilled out bunch), wetsuit technology has improved out of sight so it’s warmer and more comfortable in the water, the roads and infrastructure to our beautiful coastline have improved making commuting times from the cities so much less, and of course surfing is just a growing sport due to becoming more and more popular. It seems the surfer’s lifestyle is the lifestyle to have, and why wouldn’t it be, as it so beneficial for a healthy mind, body and soul, and as surfers we know how true the famous Billabong slogan of, ‘Only a Surfer Knows the feeling’, really is.
From 4 weeks ago surfing with over 60 people at the one break on an average surf day, to last week surfing super clean waist to head high waves with only 4 other people is what surfers dream about. And although surfing in the cold waters serves you up ice-cream headaches that literally have your brain freezing and holding your head after every duck dive, shivering and cold to the point that it makes your ‘pop up’ more like a stagger up as your muscles are too busy trying to stay warm, and the loss of sensation in your toes and feet when you stand up due to numbness, have you thinking to yourself ‘why don’t I move and surf somewhere warmer?’. This soon dissolves in the background as you enjoy euphoric moments, as you catch a wave that has a gentle offshore breeze and is silky smooth, and of course you haven’t had to fight for the wave and there’s no one dropping in on you as you ride the wave for as long as possible. There is no better feeling and it will keep you smiling and going back for more no matter how cold it is, that is until you try to unlock your car door with cold numb hands, then you’ll start cursing the cold again!
The last few weeks I have really come to enjoy the quietness that rarely appears with the crowds in summer and really enjoy the calmness that is my Winter Solstice. Sitting there enjoying the rise and fall of the swell pushing through, the fresh offshore breeze blowing on my face causing what feels like icicles to grow on my nose and ears, and the enjoyment of just watching untouched, beautiful waves go unridden because the hustle and bustle of getting a wave to ride has diminished as the scuffle of catching a wave is at times non-existent in winter.
The Latin translation of solstice means ‘sun set still’, and the winter solstice is the great stillness before the Sun’s strength builds, and our days grow longer. It can be a time to rest, reflect and to set intentions for the year as it will gain momentum to grow and prosper with the sun. These intentions for surfing may possibly be to improve your paddling, duck diving, pop ups, wave selection and the list can really go on and on. But all these will serve their purpose because as the sun builds strength and daylight becomes longer you too will grow in strength and have you surfing stronger, longer, more powerful and faster and when summer is here it is you that will have the advantage as you will be surfing rings around those that didn’t get in the water overwinter!
To keep you surfing and motivated in the cooler months here are a few tips that may assist:-
- It’s really important to have a warm, flexible wetsuit and although they can be quite expensive I can guarantee you it’s worth the investment.
- Also I often get a new board in winter as there is nothing like the excitement of getting a new board and wanting to test it out no matter what the conditions. This will have you surfing any chance you can get.
- Having hot water in a bottle when you leave home inside your wetsuit will serve 2 purposes; one is the inside of your wetsuit will be warm when you put it on and two you’ll have warm water to pour over you when you get out of the surf, (this cannot be underestimated, as this has been my ahhhhh moment after many cold water surfs!).
- And have those ugg boots at the ready to warm those cold footsie’s up
Don’t let the cold, wet and miserable weather in winter deter you from surfing just get out there and do it. And if you are still struggling know that I am right there with you and every winter surf is getting you more proficient so that you are able to enjoy surfing not only in summer but all year round no matter what the conditions. :-)
‘Thrill of the chill’ has been written by Kim Byrne, our most recent addition to the VGG contributor’s team. Welcome Kim :-) When Kim’s not writing for VGG or in the water, she runs her own fitness/yoga business called www.saltwatervitality.com. Check it out ladies.