Do people really surf during the winter in Nova Scotia, Canada?
Isn't the water ridiculously cold?
Not a typical walk to the beach to catch some waves...
Martinique Beach showing off some nice winter longboarding waves.
Canadian winters have become more than hockey and skiing!
In recent years, winter surfing in cold-water destinations has become increasingly popular. The primary reason is that for experienced surfers, the better conditions happen during the cold months. The winter isn't the ideal time for a family surfing lesson but if you have a few years of experience under your belt, winter is a welcomed season for Nova Scotian surfers.
During climatological winter in the northern hemisphere, the North Atlantic Ocean experiences stronger storms that produce stronger swells. Contrary to the more mellow summer waves, the winter swells often grace our shores with more wave height and greater ferocity. This doesn't mean that you'll be able to drive past a surfing beach every winter day and see large surf. Storms and their resulting swell (waves) come and go, so you still need to time it right to experience a significant winter swell.
That isn't white sand in the foreground...
Typically (not always) the best surfing conditions happen the day after a storm when the wind patterns shift northwest. This wind change usually plummets temperatures to sub-freezing. Improvements to wetsuit technology are largely responsible for the increase in winter surfers. With the proper wetsuit, booties and gloves it's now possible to be comfortable surfing around Halifax, Nova Scotia. The hardest struggle is getting changed before and after surfing as the wind bites into exposed skin. Surfers have all sorts of tricks from getting changed in their vehicles, to hiding behind buildings, to fancy surf jackets that they put over their wetsuits to wear home. But believe it or not, with quality wetsuits those winter surfers bobbing around in the ice cold Nova Scotian waters can be toasty warm!
How cold do the conditions get?
In late December through early April, the water temperature bottoms out around -1 to +2 degrees Celsius. The air temperature fluctuates between +5 and -15 degrees Celsius. Winter surfing in Nova Scotia is considered as cold as almost anywhere on the planet.
How thick are the winter wetsuits?
The winter wetsuits have attached hoods and are typically 6mm or 5mm thick. Winter surf booties should be 7mm thick and mitts at least 5mm in thickness. Halifax Surf School offers a full range of these products from Hyperflex. This article that we've written on wetsuit thickness broken down by month is very helpful: