The seasons are changing and the sun may be coming out, but for Mitch (also known as “The Scottish Surfer”), a day at the beach is just as likely in the middle of winter as it is the middle of summer. The water temperature is usually around two months behind the current air temperature, so even though we’re about to hit warmer June weather, we’re still a little while off of warm water. That’s why we thought it would be perfect to ask Mitch, one of our Gumbies Ambassadors and a self-proclaimed believer of the mantra “life’s better in flip-flops”, to give us an introduction to the world of cold water surfing!
Before we get started, though, let’s learn a little more about @scottishsurfer Mitch and what he’s been up to in his Gumbies:
Hi Mitch! Where are you living at the moment?
Hey! I’m currently living in Kirkcaldy in Fife.
Apart from wearing your Gumbies, what was the last thing you did that was sustainable?
I went litter picking! Picking up some rubbish left on our local beach.
Where was the last place you went in your Gumbies?
I genuinely wear my Gumbies year-round! I’m one of those flip-flops in the winter types. So my last trip out wearing them wouldn’t have been anything more exciting than going to the shop.
Where’s your favourite local outdoorsy spot?
A place called Braefoot, which is a stunning coastal location overlooking the forth bridges and Edinburgh.
What’s the longest journey you’ve taken in your Gumbies?
I once walked up a volcano in Tenerife while wearing them! They had no problems handling it, either.
What’s been your favourite journey of all time?
Trekking around the Outer Hebrides in the search for waves. It’s a stunning location.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen while wearing your Gumbies?
Probably seeing Commerson dolphins in the Falkland Islands, just before I caught a few waves with them!
Why do you love your Gumbies?
I refer to my Gumbies as off-road flip-flops. I spend a lot of time walking beaches to find the next surfing spot. Often, these have the most awkward access points and it takes a lot of long, arduous walks to get there. My Gumbies provide the comfort I require and they look epic while I do it.
Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about your #GumbiesJourneys, Mitch! Now, let’s delve into some top tips for starting out in cold water surfing…
It’s about the attitude as much as it’s about the equipment.
You can step out for a chilly surf with everything the sports site says you need, but if you haven’t got the mindset? You may as well stay indoors. As the saying goes: all the gear and no idea.
Conversely, you can cheap out and get the wrong kind of equipment, and then no matter how positive you feel, your extremities will certainly be in the negative. As the other saying goes: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing. You’re obviously not going to be wearing board shorts and a bare chest for a winter surf, but even a wetsuit can be unsuitable if it’s too thin. Many surfers will buy small sizes in order to avoid their suits becoming baggy over time, however this leads to the suits being stretched too thin over the shoulders and other areas. And while it might seem like the less trendy thing to do, make sure you’re wearing a hood, boots and gloves! Retaining heat relies on it not escaping from the top of your head or from your hands and feet. You can wear your flip flops once you've dried off and warmed up.
Preparation is key!
As with everything, don’t go into something without being completely prepared. Stay as warm as you can be in the run-up to heading out into the water. Get changed in a warm environment if possible, and keep the heat on high during your drive to the beach.
Make sure you stretch thoroughly beforehand, and keep that momentum going as you move into the surf. Movement while you go is the key to helping you stay warm - keep your blood flowing as you go for optimal warmth in the cold climate.
Moisturise, lubricate, and protect yourself.
Cold water and strong winds are not ideal for your skin and lips. Be really liberal with the moisturiser before a surf and after your post-surf shower. Make sure you lock the moisture in with a layer of a lubricant such as Vaseline.
As most seasoned surfers will tell you, even the darkest, most overcast day comes with UV rays. Water amplifies the way light refracts and hits your skin, so make sure that you’re using a strong, waterproof SPF sunscreen over the top of your moisturiser. We don’t want anyone coming home with a burnt face, especially after a surf during cold weather on a cloudy beach in the middle of Scotland. Imagine explaining that one when you get home!
Don’t go out there alone.
This one is not just about safety, although it definitely goes hand in hand. You don’t want to go out to sea alone at the best of times, but on a dark and stormy day or when the waves are particularly big? Forget about solo surfing.
The truth is, surfing with a partner is a million times more fun. It’s all about sharing the experience, helping each other out, and sharing a hot drink while you soak in that post-surf high. It’s also a lot harder to get all of your equipment on and off by yourself, so having that extra pair of hands really comes in handy…
Cold water surfing is absolutely worth it!
Surfing in the UK is well worth it, even in the coldest of climes. Following our top tips will not only keep you safe, but will also make it much more enjoyable and push you to keep going year round.
As we’re sure Mitch can attest to, surfing during colder temperatures brings with it an extra level of thrill as well as a level of chill. You’re wearing a badge of honour for even attempting it, but when you do it right, you’ll get the extra rush of adrenaline that all of us explorers long to feel. A real exhilarating experience that some wouldn’t even consider!
For more tips, make sure you’re following Mitch’s Instagram @scottish_surfer!