We have to give all glory to Jack o’Neill who invented the modern wetsuit. If it wasn’t for that thick neoprene that we wear as a second skin, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the Ocean as our playground as much as we do. Well, at least in the colder waters.
We understand that everybody has a different tolerance to what ‘cold’ feels like. However, warm water areas of the country, such as Durban and the rest of the east coast – you guys have it so good. Especially in summer with not needing much apart from your speedo and some suntan lotion in waters averaging at 26 degrees Celsius. How splendid?
The east coast is still relatively “chilled” in the winter time (get it?), as surfers can get away with wearing a 2mm shortie or probably a standard 3.2mm if the south-westerly has been blowing for a while, making the sea temperature average at around 20 degrees Celsius. Which is still darn easy.
However, for the rest of us Ocean Dwellers situated on the west coast, closer to the (not-so-warm) Atlantic Ocean, we experience life a little differently. We rejoice when the sea has warmed to a mere 15 degrees from its usual 12 degrees. We start ditching the hoodies and airing out our toes from those ninja booties. Perhaps really living life on the edge and wearing our 3.2mm wetsuit we store in the garage for the seasonal trip to the Garden Route, as opposed to our everyday 4.3mm wettie.
This happens sometimes on the west coast in winter when those rainy westerlies have been blowing day after day, sending that icy Benguela current back down to the Antarctica. But, as mentioned before, it is winter time. So, the air is not as cozy as the sea – eek. Bring on the Ugg boots, K-way bomber jackets and hot chocolate in your mom’s coffee flask for the post-thawing sessions.
Summer on the Atlantic coastline is a different yet rather similar story. You drive to the beach in your plakkies and pineapple-patterned baggies wearing your uncle’s favourite bucket hat, and proceed to completely gear up like a Cape Fur Seal in blistering sunshine, ready to embrace that first ice-cream duck dive. With that windy Cape Doctor coming from the south-east direction which kitesurfers and windsurfers glorify during summer, and bringing along with it those f-f-freezing southern currents, sea temperatures can drop to a teeth-chattering 8 degrees Celsius. Did someone say, “Eish!”?
Wearing at least a 4.3mm wettie, it will sort you out for a few good hours in the Atlantic waters. If you are all about feeling like super warm toast in the surf, a thermal vest with a hoodie under your suit, or even a 5mm wetsuit would certainly do the trick as a Cape Town surfer. Some say that is a bit excessive. However, being a female surfer originally from tropical Durban now residing in the mountainous Cape – I would gladly want as much neoprene hugging my shivering body as possible.
Let’s just say one important final word: Surfing in the cold Cape is TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.
The waves here are wild and wonderful. It makes all the gearing up completely worth it. Your passion for getting out there in the cold ocean is really tested and only the true Wave Warriors come out strong.