JUST BECAUSE IT’S THE DEAD OF WINTER doesn’t mean that you have to stop surfing. Surfing has spread far and wide enough these days to span all climates and temperatures. Cold water surfers are even more gung-ho: the 20-minute struggle to peel off soaking neoprene with spaghetti arms feels way more hardcore than a 3-hour session in tropical climes.

So keep your coral reef breaks, and hold the zinc oxide. Here we present some of the many lesser-appreciated cold water spots around the world that demonstrate that one’s love for surfing can transcend the thermometer.

This article was first posted on September 1, 2010. 


New Jersey

First, a shout-out to my home turf: the New Jersey shore, more specifically Long Beach Island. There are many more pluses to this part of the mid-Atlantic than MTV allows, but that's cool. We'd rather keep our beaches free of bar fights and tramp stamps and measure a man's strength by the art of his cutback versus the cut of his abs. Check out the new hi-def film Darkfall for more on Jersey surf. Image by Todd Binger



Considering the length of its coastline, the brutal water temperatures of the Pacific, and the relatively sparse population, uncrowded line-ups are ripe for the picking in Chile, but only for those not faint of heart. Pictured is the central beach town of Pichilemu, where the year-round temperature hovers around 13ËšC/55ËšF. Image by Christian Cordova


South Africa

The Atlantic frigidity running from windswept Cape Town to points west will forever provide the mother of all cold water breaks (unlike those embraced by Durban's Indian Ocean to the east). While the world-class drops at Dungeons bring in international talent, young Saffers need to start somewhere less intimidating. They break them in early to deal with temperatures that range from 10ËšC/50ËšF to 15ËšC/60ËšF. Image by Xavi Talleda


Northern California

South Africa has Dungeons, and the United States has Mavericks. On top of the hair-raising paddle out or the poop-inducing fear when you realize you're in over your head (true stories overheard), try wearing a 5mm suit while avoiding Great Whites and the jagged boulders at the end of the ride. Mavericks helped make surfing a spectator sport for this reason. Image by jurvetson


Central and Southern California

Not to be outdone by their Northern neighbors in terms of temperature, Southern Californians also weather the Pacific's wintery wrath. For some reason, non-West Coasters often equate California surf culture with Gidget and bikinis. Obviously they've never been to Cardiff in October. Pictured is Morro Rock, about 90 miles north of Santa Barbara. Image by Mike Baird



Word has unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you talk to) gotten out about the new darling of the cold water surf world. Supernatural landscapes combined with unsurprisingly sparse line-ups plus a weakened currency make it a fairly appetizing spot for those who don't mind bobbing around in the Celtic Sea. Image by dalli58


Lake Ontario, New York

Surfing's Biggest Fan Award goes to this lone dude paddling out into a snow-laced Lake Ontario to ride some windswell. Considering the fact that the lake's temperature doesn't budge much from 4ËšC/39ËšF, this guy is the real deal. Image by rengel134


Lanhinch, County Clare




Portugal has a deceptively cold coastline considering its association with the Mediterranean. The waves from Ericeira to the Algarve are saturated with color and, as with all the beach breaks, really fast. They are also competition-worthy, and only the truly brave go in with less than a 4mm suit on, even in the summer. (And while this is a bodyboarder, note that temperature, unlike surfers, does not discriminate.) Image by Pedro Simoes



The craggy coast of England's North Sea lends itself well to a variety of breaks, although the water temperature can go as low as 6°C/43°F. For surfers not looking to travel west to Ireland, there are plenty of alternatives in North Yorkshire. Image by Allan Harris


Vancouver Island

The open coast of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada is enticing for various reasons. Add the mixture of rock reefs and the storm swells originating from the Gulf of Alaska, and surfers get pure, cold Pacific beauty. It's probably the closest, aesthetics-wise, that cold-water surfing gets to Hawaii. Image by Pat Ong



When the only other alternative to their landlocked city is the generally flat beach of Sylt, Munich surfers will wait their turn for a ride on the manmade river wave at Eisbach, or “Ice Creek." The name says it all--water temperatures range from 1˚C/34˚F to 8˚C/46˚F--so wetsuits are required year-round, but at least post-session meals of currywurst and schnitzel are heartier than typical beach eats. Image by Rand Will


Lofoten Islands, Norway

Though they're technically in the Arctic Circle, where it's frigid cold and the days are short, surfers in the Lofoten Islands have got it figured out: ready-to-go hot tubs sit on shore for whenever you want to pop out to thaw. Image by Bigot Manual


Thurso, Scotland

Thurso, the northernmost town on the Island of Britain, somehow has an insanely good surf culture. They've hosted several cold water international surfing competitions, and it's a nice spot for sea kayakers, too. Image by Fluffykins Blackavar



Surfing is beginning to catch on in Alaska, particularly in the Yakutat Peninsula. The swells are pretty huge, and the surrounding scenery is unparalleled. Image by landrovermena

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