I’m writing this little article after having a conversation with a local Cornish surfer, whom I’d guess is in his 60’s and has been surfing since the age of around 7 years. It’s a bitterly cold February day here, outside the air temperature is 3 degrees Celsius and it’s blowing a hooley. We even have a bit of snow in the air too. Said customer came out with something that I’d pretty much agree with in that the sea temperature here in North Cornwall peaks late August to mid September. So few visitors to our county (and showroom) seem to grasp that fact and it’s a PAINFULLY IMPORTANT FACT.
The reason I say that is my experience of years of selling wetsuits on a bright, warm sunny Easter and / or May weekend. It might be 20C outside and feel far warmer in the sun and that is where the problem starts. In walks a customer with a young child of say 5 or 6 years old. “I’m looking for a wetsuit for my little Un”. We hear it so often. “So you’ll be wanting a 5mm full winter suit then” says I. “No thanks, it’s warm, just a cheap 3mm shorty will do”says Mum or Dad. Oh dear. The classic mistake. It feels bright and warm. The beach is sunny and the sea looks so tempting….HOWEVER…in March / April ? May the sea temperature is probably around 11 degrees. THAT IS COLD !! Your average bath temperature is between 40 and 45C. Now even in the peak of late summer at Polzeath, our local beach, the sea temp is only going to be 18C at any depth you might surf in and it could possibly 21C in the shallows where your little one is splashing around. And this is if the weather has been dry for a good few days (and I’ll tell you about cold water run off later!). So fitting out your child in a short arm / short leg wetsuit with a thickness of 3mm in the torso and probably 2mm in the arms and legs is not going to make for a happy experience for you loved one. BELIEVE ME. I SEE THEM CRYING ON THE BEACH WITH BLUE LIPS EVERY EASTER. It’s not about us selling you a more expensive wetsuit (a winter full suit will cost at least double the price of a summer shorty). It’s about your child ENJOYING their experience in the water and wanting to come back here and get in the sea again and again and again. Would you want their memories of Cornwall to be of FREEZING COLD WATER and tears ? That’s not what you came here for I bet.
This takes me back to the start of the conversation with the local surfer. So if you come into our showroom in late September, October or even early November and think you want a spend your hard earned cash on a 5/4/3mm winter steamer because it’s overcast or even raining with a cool breeze I’m going to talk you out of it because unlike that Easter day the sea has now had the whole of the summer to warm up and it’s going to be about 15 to 13C and warmer in the shallows if we’ve had no rain. You won’t need that thick streamer right now and you are wasting your money. Taking of rain ‘run off’ I’ll mention that if we’ve had a lot or rain then that cold rain water (it’s never warm unless you are in the tropics right) will lower the sea temperature, especially if you are near a river mouth, as all that cold rain water floods into the shallows and cools it down. So perhaps a full 3/2 wetsuit or even a 4/3 might work if you are staying in for a longer time and we’ve had wet weather.
Looking back to Easter and May if you are buying the right kit (that being a winter suit) you are going to need something for your hands and feet as your extremities get cold first, and, for most people I’d also recommend a surf hood or a neoprene beanie hat as you lose a huge about of body hear via your head. You might not look Uber cool but you will be WARM.
The great thing is if you buy the right kit at the right time, your the time spent in the water will be happier, you can stay in longer if you wish, and if you look after the kit PROPERLY (and we’ll happily tell you how) it will last you for years. Enough said.