Pictured is Patrick Trevillion on a cold and clear mid-winter at Waikuku Beach, New Zealand, during a big Southerly storm which came through over night dumping heaps of snow and pushing in a nice swell. It's a nice beachbreak, with lots of space that picks up more south swell than the town beaches. Winter can get pretty cold but when the snow melts in spring and runs down the rivers... that's when it really gets cold. You'll need boots, gloves and a hood to be comfortable and surf your best out there.
The biggest issue here during winter is the lack of surfers to take photos of! During the mid-week I am usually the only one out there, and after working hours the sun gets down below the trees so there is too little light for good shots. It was so icy this day that two of the boys' surf boards got stuck to the roof rack with ice!
Antarctica / Neko Harbor
Antarctica was amazing - the most beautiful and unusual place on our planet. A freak wave like this was such a gift. It is actually a little "tsunami". We spent a few hours at Neko Harbor when suddenly there was a massive gunshot-like noise followed by loud cracks which echoed around the bay as part of the glacier fell into the bay. Next thing we know, the water rises and causes a mini tsunami. I quickly captured the entire sequence of the glacier falling in different stages and the consequent waves.
Nova Scotia / Cow Bay
Shot at The Moose, one of the more frequented spots in Cow Bay. It's a reef break. Haven't actually spent much time on it, but the few time that I have, had a tonne of fun. Occasionally it chucks some barrels. Nova Scotia winter surfing is insanely cold. by mid-January the water temperature is about 1 degree C, occasionally showing up as 0 degrees C. Air temp is all over the place. But on the worst days that I can remember from last season, peeps were going out in -25 to -30 with the wind-chill. Pure cold makes its very challenging. Fingers like to freeze and finger gloves just don't cut it. Blowing snow and rain reeks havoc on the gear. Ice covered rock beaches make wipeouts in insulated rubber boots a given. But most of all, the position of the sun. Mostly back-lit and short days. Nothing I can recall in the water. But I did get trapped on the bad side of a tidal lake in running shoes. The tide came in while I was shooting this shot and covered the rocks I had used to cross the stream. Ended up a foot and a half deep in frigid water - I purchased insulated rubber boots that very same day.
Massachusetts / Cape Ann
This particular spot is one of the few sheltered beach breaks located amongst the very rocky North Shore of Massachusetts. It works almost all year long but the swell is certainly the best with Northeasterly weather conditions during the fall and winter months. It offers a good combination of punchy lefts and rights and even the occasional barrel section. It is also notorious for producing powerful rip currents and unpredictable board-snapping closeouts. It is still one of my favourite spots and it has proved to be a great training ground to prepare for all kinds of surf conditions.
New England winters host some of the coldest water and weather conditions in the world! Summer is generally flat and our best waves usually arrive when the water temp starts to drop into the 30's and 40's (degrees Fahrenheit). Icebergs are regulars in the line up and icicles commonly appear on the visors of our wetsuit hoods and any exposed facial hair. Wipeouts and duck dives are definitely the worst part of the whole winter surf experience. Cold water makes everything a bit more dramatic and dangerous. Ocean water temps can actually drop below freezing in some spots and if your hood isn't cinched tight or your wetsuit happens to blows out, you're in for a world of hurt when that cold water rushes in! It's weird, your body just stops and you literally can't function when it's that cold! Most locals in this area don 5mm wetsuits, lobster claw gloves, booties, and a hood just to survive a session. And yes, the learning curve that comes with wearing that much rubber in big, chilly surf is harder than you may think… especially for all of you that only surf in warm water!
Our biggest challenge with shooting footage during the winter is definitely the cold! First, it is nearly impossible to entice someone to volunteer to stand on shore in sub-zero temperatures with a camera and wait patiently as everyone else they know is scoring some of the best waves of the year. This forces us to film from the water a lot more and the cold creates a lot of issues there as well. Ice water is debilitating at times and wearing 5-7mm of rubber on your hands, coupled with the almost constant shivering, doesn't make operating the cameras an easy task. Thankfully, wetsuit technology these days is amazing so we can stay warmer and last longer than ever before but I usually call it quits after an hour or two when the unprotected portion of my face is too numb to a muster a smile and my upper body is covered in a fresh, crunchy sheet of ice. This brings me to another problem we have which is ice and snow build-up on the lens. When the temp goes below freezing and the wind is howling, it's only a matter of time before your camera becomes a giant ice cube! You'll notice it on lots of our winter shots.
I still think the look on people's faces when they see surfboards on the roofs of our cars during snow storms is priceless. Also, ordering your morning coffee in a full 5mm wetsuit gets a few laughs… The most disastrous thing that has happened to me while winter surfing has to be the few close calls I've had with frostbite. Cold water literally starts to kill you the second you get in and your wetsuit is only buying you a few hours before you become a human popsicle! Exposure to the even smallest amount of ice water can become catastrophic and end your session, possibly your life in a hurry.
My name is Collin Goodrow. My business partner David Stowell and I own The New England Surf Company located on America's original North Shore and if you like this article you'll love our site.
The New England Surf Company
Oregon / Lincoln City
Me and my bros chilling on the log "no pun intended". Scoping some of the winter goods. The break itself is a rivermouth set-up. The water on this day was probably 48 and the air was 32 degrees. So its actually warmer in the water than on land. Shooting in a cold weather environment poses a number of problems: snow on the lens and moisture being blown off the ocean. I think the worst one is the batteries don't want to work at their normal charge when they are cold and it slows that camera down. Also the metal body can be tough on the hands. Never ideal but very rewarding. This spot is know to be very sharky - a local was attacked on Halloween two years ago. When the shark expert examined his board he reported that the shark was a white in the 18ft range and probably weighed about 2000 pounds.
Lake Michigan / Milwaukee
Taken in Milwaukee at Bradford beach just before we headed out. I think the air was about 19 degrees Fahrenheit that day water was 33 but you had to jump off a bit of shelf ice and walk through slush. It's a straight-up beachbreak we have a sandbar out there they great pretty good. Not the cleanest but it all depends on the wind direction we have had some really clean long lefts, with some strong s.e. winds. average face height when we do get waves is just like 3-4 ft but they can build up to 7-8 ft and still get pretty glassy for the lakes. This stretch isn't my favourite you go north a few miles it is really nice a lot of shallow rock breaks which builds them up and can get super clean.
Air temperature drops down to the single degrees and if it drops lower it's going off we would all still head out. The water gets to the freezing point, literally, We have to walk on ice and jump through slush to get out. it is just frigid. even summer we wear 3/2s a lot. We are suited in full 6s and 7s mm. oh and most days there are waves its not like sunny and mild out its snowing or sleeting and just crazy winds its well its an adventure.
The few people that venture out in the weather are going to be surfing and no one ever wants to come take photos - that's why you never see great photos of the Great Lakes as the few people daring enough to go out will not waste time not surfing. I think during this exact session I got squished between a few sheets of ice while walking out that wasn't that pleasant. After two hours we were getting pretty numb.
Ireland / Lahinch
This particular wave was spotted on one of our little boat trips on the Irish coast, it was pretty cold and digital cameras don't like that so keeping it warm under your jacket is always a good idea, this place is really exposed to wind but as a bonus that makes it exposed to swell, seen it's so exposed this also means don't bother paddling to it and if you do head out on a boat or ski wrap up warm for the trip, winds blowing over the icy water will be bitterly cold, there is massive rips all around it and keeping the boat in the same position is hard enough as we found out when we drifted a bit too close to the end section and almost coped it on the head! The reef rises up fairly quickly out of the depths below which when the grunt of a swell hits the take of zone jacks up out of nowhere and gets a bit of a mutant triple lip thing going at this size (4 times overhead!!), so make sure your gonads are packed, once you've survived the drop the race is on to get down the line before the Teahupoo looking barrel swallows you whole, barrel of a lifetime. Never seen anyone surf it successfully at this size yet, and don't worry, if you fall off as you'll only get rolled by the white water for about 300m!
Vancouver Island / Tofino
Surfers are Peter Devries and Noah Cohen and we trade off filming and surfing. Robbie Elliot filmed a couple clips later in the session too. It's at a beachbreak in the town of Tofino on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada. I think the buoys this day were 20 feet at 11 seconds that day, so you need a large swell to be able to surf there. It was only waist high with that too. Usually with a system like that the weather is warmer and we receive a ton of rain and wind but for some reason there were two systems last year that dumped snow and came with large seas. As far back as I can remember it's always been flat during a snowfall. The wind was blowing 50 knots at the lighthouse a few KM away but it was a little more sheltered where we were. The wave was great for our purposes though. It is just a little wedge that breaks close to the beach. We were standing in waist deep water shooting so we didn't have to wear flippers, which suck, because they squish your feet and make them numb. Then you can't surf when you are done filming.
We are both complete amateurs when it comes to shooting video that every session is a challenge. It's hard being on the other side of the camera and having someone flying down the line at you. Water droplets or in this case snowflakes on the lens ruined a couple clips. The hardest thing was motivating to actually go out and do it. When you are sitting in your warm house it's hard enough to motivate yourself for a surf when it's cold and snowing. We knew we weren't going out there to surf good waves, and surfing in the snow is just a novelty. The snowflakes hit your eyeballs when you are pumping down the line so it hurts and makes it hard to do anything. When it's snowing hard you have to put your hard in front of your face to block the flakes. Filming is a whole different thing though. Even setting up the walking shots going down to the water makes you cold; and then you are sitting in the water freezing your ass off trying to get a couple clips. Filming is way colder than surfing. It makes me have a lot more respect for all the filmers and photographers out there who swim in cold climates.
On the way home it was getting dark and Noah was filming us driving through town. The battery was flashing and about to die, but he managed to get the power going out and then coming back on a couple seconds later. It was a very rare clip to get. The wind was really strong so a tree was probably bouncing on a power line somewhere which caused it to go out and come back on. The battery died right after that clip.
The video was a project for Storm Surf Shop in Tofino. Noah and I have both been riding for Storm for years, and Allister, the owner, has helped our careers out from day one. From getting us sponsored to working for him and getting time off when the waves are good he's helped us out a ton.
Wales / Porthcawl
Guinness extra cold on a icy cold Welsh winter's day
Peter D Price
New Hampshire / The Wall
The Wall in Hampton, New Hampshire, a state where we have just 13.5 miles of surfable coastline. Pictured in the background is a bluff called "Boar's Head". Named for the two mile long concrete seawall that runs between the coastal road and the beach, is our most popular surf break. It is a sandy bottom break that handles under a metre to 3 metres (2-10 feet). It has the biggest fetch for all swell activity coming up our coast. Our best surf comes in the winter from "Nor'easters", strong low pressure systems that spin across our region and out to sea.
It gets really cold here, right down to as 32-35 degrees Fahrenheit in the water and air as cold as 20 degrees below zero with wind-chill.
While it is cold in the water, it is even colder while standing still and shooting. We often carry tripods and photo gear across rocks covered with snow and ice to get to the right spot. And then there's the wind that cuts through you even if you are wearing full on winter gear. Numb fingers are the norm. As well, few surfers paddle out in this weather when it is big so talent is at a premium.
I recall following the session my face being so cold I could barely speak properly and just pressing the door open button on my car key was difficult. However, the sun was out and that is a blessing in the winter.
South Africa / Cape Town
Surfing a West Coast secret spot, two hours north from Cape Town, South Africa. It's a heavy dredging left point break that ends on a shallow slab. Works from 4ft plus and we haven't seen it max out yet, so it can hold some size.
Cape Town waters range from about 10C on the freezing days Booties and a are hood essential on the cold days when the wind is blowing! The photographer on this day was Johnathan Gould who was positioned on the roof of the 4x4 on the beach with a tripod and 250mm lens. Shooting from the water is not for the faint hearted and probably not possible at this size.
Worst wipeout of the day saw me travelling about 100m underwater after the lip landed just behind me and blew my legs out, I got caught in the front of the white water and bounced along like a pebble on a pond for quite a while before I could break the surface and start the "rag-doll" routine. But no-one got hurt. I'm Mark Edwards, unlinked, unsponsored and underground. Thanks to my mate Alex who's always keen to push the limits. It's getting hard to find friends who are keen to seek out the big stuff.
Iceland / Porlackshöfn
This photo was shot during my first trip to Iceland with Brandon 'the bru' Foster, Jake Boex and Timmy Hamilton back in 2004. The water that trip was really cold as it was early spring right on the tail end of winter. Jumping in your face would burn for a while as it was the only exposed piece of skin, and then go beyond numb. After about an hour or two max you'd start spinning out feeling a bit dizzy and know it was time to get out. Swimming about lost around big wave shaped chunks of ice like this, and exploring crazy cold, isolated coastline that trip are some of the raddest surfing memories I'm lucky enough to have experienced.
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