For most people, the realization that winter has come is met with thoughts of blankets, holidays, and gingerbread cookies.

For surfers, it’s another story. We picture icy wetsuits, duck-dive brain freezes, and a longing to book a vacation south for the winter. We’re at risk for trading our salty environment for a manmade one. But don’t retire your surfboard for the season just because the water’s chilly. Grab your wetsuit (and a pair of booties and a hood) and get out there, even though it’s cold.

Here are six reasons to keep surfing through the winter.

You’ll be a more versatile surfer

Many surfers avoid considering surfing at spots that are notoriously cold, but have incredible waves. Regions like the Northwestern US, New Zealand, Canada and the UK are often overlooked by surfers due to the chilly water temperature. When you surf in winter, you’ll not only clock on more overall experience but will be skilled in surfing in a variety of situations and temperatures all around the globe.

Crowds are too cowardly for the cold

Holiday goers, learners, and fair-weather surfers flee the water as soon as the temperature requires more than a 2mm wetsuit. Surfing through the winter allows you to score wave after wave at breaks that otherwise would be busy.

When you do meet other surfers out in the lineup on a frosty day, you’ll be comrades because you’re daring to surf in conditions that many chicken out on.

But don’t kick yourself if the icy water has you craving mellow breaks over the monstrous ones. It’s important to just get out there.

You’ll be paddle-fit for when a swell comes

Winter and the year’s best waves often go hand-in-hand. Though it’s easier to get motivated to surf when the swell of the season hits, you’ll be thankful for those average days when you braved the cold as soon as you have to paddle. Surfing all-year-around ensures that your body stays strong and that your arms don’t turn into spaghetti when the bigger ones roll through.

Surfing combats the winter blues

Lack of sunlight and not enough exercise in the winter has the potential to lead to a form of depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder where mood swings, anxiety, and sleep problems may leave you feeling down. Surfing helps counter this by ensuring you get out in whatever sunlight there is and keeps your body moving – something that releases endorphins, a natural chemical that makes you feel happy.

Cold water surfing also stimulates blood circulation, boosts your immune system, and energizes your mind. Many people link being immersed in cold water to thinking more clearly and creatively – all the more reason to surf before work or school.

It’s not that bad

For many, it’s the initial feeling of putting on a damp, cold wetsuit that makes it hard to get motivated to relocate from a toasty home to the frigid sea. Though with a little preparation, cold water surfing can be comfortable and just as fun as going for a warm water session.

Invest in a thick wetsuit with sealed seams and preferably a front entry in lieu of a back zipper to prevent water from coming in and joining the surf party. Toss a pair of booties, a hood, and gloves into the mix if it the temperature calls for it. Ears are extra sensitive and prone to getting surfer’s ear during winter, so ear plugs are also a good choice. If you’re in a really cold climate (hello, surfing Russians out there), go for a heated wetsuit or vest.

Before you head to the beach, pour hot water into an old laundry detergent jug for a toasty post-surf rinse.

Back at home, turn your wetsuit inside-out and set up a rack somewhere dry – likely indoors – to give it the best chance for drying.

Your social life (and wallet) will thank you

Winter activities seem to universally revolve around food, movies, and meeting people indoors. Save the money you’d spend on eating at restaurants and entertainment for an upgraded wetsuit, and opt to meet your friends for a surf instead. Surely there should be a saying about how friends who suffer through brainfreezes together, stay together?

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