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Winter Surfing


If you winter in Green Hill Beach, chances are you’ll come across winter surfers. Until I wintered in Green Hill, I was unaware of the popularity of winter surfing in New England.

Just up the shoreline from us in Narragansett, the Eastern Surfing Association sponsors the the New England Mid-Winter Surfing Championships. This contest is the longest running cold water winter surfing competition in the world! The first one happened in January 1968 at at the Narragansett Town Beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Tips for Winter Surfing from Robbie Nelson:

Experienced surfers don’t skip surfing in the cold water months. Why? Because winter surfing means perfect surf and minimal crowds. What makes winter surfing possible is modern wetsuit technology.  Today’s wetsuits are lighter, warmer, and fit better, so winter surfing is comfortable and fun!

Get Good Gear

In the Northeast, where you have to walk through snow to get to the ocean, investing in good gear keeps you warm and toasty. Get the warmest wetsuit available and don’t skimp on the extras. In Green Hill Beach where the water gets below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) it only takes a few minutes for a session to turn from fun to freezing.  So, during the coldest months from December to April, wear a hooded, blind stitched 5mm wetsuit with all the bells and whistles. For boots and gloves, look for 7mm round toe boots and 7mm mittens. Mittens are best because they keep your fingers together and therefore warmer. And, to help get thick boots and gloves on and off, use a little water-based liquid soap, just on the inside at the mouth of the opening. This makes it 100% easier to get items on and off, especially when they are a little wet.

Take Care of your Equipment

After you’ve invested in the best wetsuit and accessories available, don’t leave it in the trunk of the car or in the bottom of the bathtub. Immediately after surfing rinse it thoroughly with cool, fresh water then hang it inside-out in a place where it will get lots of air. Don’t hang it by the shoulders on the hanger because it’s stretches out the suit and damages the seams, particularly around the shoulders. Hang suits in half over a bar or a thick hanger and let it drip dry.  Keep your suit out of the sun and away from heat sources or you’ll dry out the neoprene and ruin the seams.

Plan Ahead Checklist:  The Night Before

Know the weather & be packed & ready to go the night before . Here’s Robbie Nelson’s checklist:

  • Wetsuits and accessories.
  • An insulated container & 4 one-gallon jugs of warm (not hot) water.
  • Surfboards and accessories
  • Wax up before you leave
  • Backup leash.
  • Towels for the car seats and floor.
  • Hot beverages and snacks.
  • Coat to wear over over your wetsuit on the car ride there & Beanie for your head
  • Easy to put on clothes after surfing. Don’t change outside.

Cold water surfing’s popularity is on the rise globally; we’re seeing this trend in Green Hill Beach, Rhode Island. It’s exciting to try a new sport, but do your homework & look to partner with a friend with shared interests for this sport. Yet another case where the buddy system is all important!

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