Tag Archives: cold water

Keeping Your Head, Hands and Feet Warm In Water

With the high pressure systems becoming more frequent and the air temperatures warming up it won’t be long till the water temperatures around the UK start to catch up. This can only mean one thing! It’s time to brush off the neoprene cobwebs and prepare for the season ahead. But just remember have you got all areas of your body including your head, hands and feet covered with the right gear?

Due to the lack of warmth over the winter many waters around the country will still be well below 10°C, too cold for just a wetsuit alone. Don’t risk getting cold and cutting your session short with cold hands and feet. Let us give you the knowledge to understand the need and options of different gear for your extremities.

It’s widely known that when you get cold your body’s defence is to divert all heat away from your extremities to your core and vital organs, so just relying on a thick winter wetsuit is not enough in cold water. To give you a better idea of what gloves, boots and hoods you could get it’s important to know what time of year you will be going out in, how much use they will get and your budget.

Hoods & Beanies

Recent research has shown that heat loss through your head of around 45% is a myth and is actually around 10%, never the less it’s extremely important to cover your head in cold water. Despite this myth and lower figure, surfers still regularly wear a hood due to the increased chance of being submerged or covered by a crashing wave. This rapid change in head temperature can lead to brain freeze which no rider wants.

Full Neoprene Hood

Full wetsuit hoods vary in thickness from 2-3mm to provide a perfect balance of warmth and flexibility suited to any condition you may throw yourself into. Most hoods come with a peak this provides two functions; gives extra protection against the crashing waves/spray and gives added protection against the bright sun on those rare days.

O'Neill 3mm Cold Water Wetsuit Hood
O’Neill 3mm Cold Water Wetsuit Hood

Many people ask the question to tuck or not to tuck your hood? The real answer is whatever you feel comfortable with, try both ways and you will soon find out which is best for you and your style of riding.

Neoprene Beanie

When a full hood is over kill a wetsuit beanie could be an excellent alternative, suited to lower impact sports and warmer conditions. The possibility of losing your beanie out in the surf is high so many beanies now come with an attachment strap as standard giving you the confidence to take on some huge waves.

Beanies are generally thinner than full face hoods around 2mm due to being used in warmer water, as a result they have increased comfort and flexibility. For that perfect beanie visit (Link to wetsuit)


Whether you’re planning on spending hours in the water or having fun on the beach being equipped with the right feet protection is important. As a general rule of thumb if you’re wearing a full wetsuit a neoprene boot is best whereas if you’re walking around the beach visiting rock pools a neoprene reef shoe will be best.

Reef shoes are thinner at around 2mm but have a thicker sole perfect for walking across sharp rocks whilst keeping cool at the same time. For extra protection against the cold a full boot 3-5mm thick would be used in conjunction with your wetsuit providing a perfect seal against any water seeping through.

O'Neill Heat 5mm Round Toe Wetsuit Boots
O’Neill Heat 5mm Round Toe Wetsuit Boots

Split or round toe design? Is a frequent question asked by many water sport enthusiasts. The advantage of spilt toe design ensures your feet stay planted in your boot and reduce slipping which could affect your ability to surf. Whereas round toe designs are generally more comfortable and give extra warmth as all your toes are together.

You wouldn’t get the wrong size shoe and wetsuit boots are no different. Too small they rub and feel uncomfortable whereas too big can cause the boot to fill with water.


Head, check. Feet, check. Next is picking the perfect wetsuit glove which can be a daunting prospect with the numerous variations and styles out there! With an item such as gloves facing a lot of punishment, being either single or double skinned is an important aspect. Single skin gloves are generally smoother and repel water more efficiently but less durable whereas double skinned are much more durable and slightly stiffer due to the increased thickness a favourite for many people.

O'Neill 3mm Psycho Single Lined Wetsuit Gloves
O’Neill 3mm Psycho Single Lined Wetsuit Gloves

Another factor to consider is the neoprene thickness, this can vary from 1-5mm the thicker the glove the more warmth it provides but gives less feedback to the user, so finding that perfect balance is key. The Psycho Double Lined (DL) is the thinnest fully sealed glove on the market at just 1.5mm, perfect for most UK waters.

Having a glove that is too small can cause poor circulation and cold hands whereas gloves being too big won’t retain the heat so it’s important you follow our size guide link to help choose the right size for you.

Neoprene Maintenance & Care

As with any neoprene product it is important to clean and store them correctly. To ensure your boots, gloves and hoods stay mould free and last for years rinsing after use in salt water and thoroughly drying is a must! And finally store them in a dry environment out of direct sunlight.

This guide should help you pick all the right gear but if you’re still unsure why not pop into store or give us a call and speak to one of our experienced staff.

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Swimming In Cold Water

OK! So youʼre thinking of trying open water swimming in cold water, or perhaps you are looking at entering your first triathlon, what are the dangers?

Cold Water Immersion

One of the main things to consider, beyond ability and fitness, is temperature and the effects of cold water immersion. Most people have experienced the sensation of walking into a cold sea or stepping under a cold shower. This is called cold shock and will make you gasp. This is a reflex action beyond your control and is OK as long as your head is out of the water, because if your head is underwater you could aspirate water and may drown. Other things happen to your body including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Your system will begin to stabilise after a few minutes but you may continue to shiver and the water will begin to cool your
body temperature.

If your face gets wet another reflex may come into play and this one wants to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure, in preparation for diving.

Autonomic Conflict

If the two reflexes occur at the same time you have something called ʻAutonomic Conflictʼ and cardiac arrest is possible, especially if associated with mass start and/or competitive events.

Thatʼs the bad news! So what can we do about it? Firstly, avoid sudden and total immersion like jumping or diving in before a swim, even if you think it is warm enough. Enter the water gradually and keep your face out until the initial effects of the cold have stabilised.
Keep a log of your total swim times, the water and air temperature and how you felt after. Use this log to judge training times to the changing conditions. Swim and train with someone, not alone. Swim somewhere with lifeguards or some form of safety cover. If you
are at a race try and get a warm up swim before the start. If you are beach starting, wade in on your way to your start position, before running in. Unless you are a gold medal favourite consider walking in and taking a few minutes to settle. Once underway at a mass start event, remember to keep calm (anger can exacerbate the problems) and above all take full breaths, if you have to turn onto your back or slow right down this is preferable to getting into trouble. Once the chaos calms down you should be able to get into a rhythm and enjoy your swim.

This may all sound a little too dangerous but we need to keep things into perspective. With some insight and a few simple strategies we can increase the enjoyment and lessen the risk.

Information about other open water swimming hazards, please click here.

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