Wingfoiling In The Cold, wetsuit advice????

May 12, 2021
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Aloha my winger friends. Headed up the north east coast in the spring and I'm taking my wing gear with me on this trip. Wanted to know recommendations for wetsuit gear. I know it depends on what month as well, looking at May possibly April.

Headed up to Mass to southern/central Maine.

:waving:
 

Kaser1

Tom Curren status
May 3, 2004
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Foiltown , Hawai'i
Fast forward to March 2022...landed in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I went with the warmest gear I could find first, then I'll tune in the lighter suits next. Pre-Maui I was using the Patagonia wetsuits that fit good and I liked, and opted for the R5 suit, booties, and mittens. Went winging a week ago and the air was 45 and water 40. The cold was non-issue at all. i was warmer in the water than I was on land. Almost too warm.

But I did learn a few things, I thought I'd left forearm pump in the past when riding MX. It's alive and well in wining with gloves on. The thicker the gloves the worse it is. I could barely hold on after each pass. I was given a tip about some thinner 1.5mm gloves with fleece lining and smooth skin to protect from wind. Won't be nearly as warm as my 7MM mittens, but need to be able to hold on for more than 15 seconds. I've yet to try them, but hoping they'll be an option.
 

juandesooka

OTF status
Jan 12, 2009
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Cold fingers is a real problem. We aren't as cold out here on west coast, but we do get cold snaps. I find you can keep core warm pretty easy, especially if you add an impact vest or something to cut wind chill. But fingers can be a session limiter / ender. For surfing we wear 5mm gloves, and I know easterners wear the mittens, but that leads to forearm fatigue. So you have frozen fingers or can't hold on, either way it doesn't work. Below 3-4c is now pretty much my limit.

Some options:

-- use of harness helps massively. You can lean back against it and get your fingers moving more, shake you arm to get blood flowing.

-- cold military training: they use a technique where they expose fingers to cold for 5-10 mins, get numb, then a quick warm up 5mins, after that you're good for 1-1.5 hours. But that warm-up costs you brief intense pain ("hammer finger" I call it, like getting smacked with a hammer). I have been told it's quite bad for your joints too, arthritis, etc.

-- webbing: my Ocean Rodeo wing has nice cushy handles, but they create arm fatigue with gloves. My old bagged out ozone straps were pretty much webbing and I didn't get fatigue, as you don't hold on to them, you kind of hang off them. I have thought about adding webbing below straps as a way to rest fingers/grip.

-- tubing: back in kiting days I played around with idea of putting in tubing from neck to gloves, to periodically blow on your fingers. Never bothered to follow it up and properly test it, but I think it could work.
 
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Kaser1

Tom Curren status
May 3, 2004
10,245
203
63
Foiltown , Hawai'i
Cold fingers is a real problem. We aren't as cold out here on west coast, but we do get cold snaps. I find you can keep core warm pretty easy, especially if you add an impact vest or something to cut wind chill. But fingers can be a session limiter / ender. For surfing we wear 5mm gloves, and I know easterners wear the mittens, but that leads to forearm fatigue. So you have frozen fingers or can't hold on, either way it doesn't work. Below 3-4c is now pretty much my limit.

Some options:

-- use of harness helps massively. You can lean back against it and get your fingers moving more, shake you arm to get blood flowing.

-- cold military training: they use a technique where they expose fingers to cold for 5-10 mins, get numb, then a quick warm up 5mins, after that you're good for 1-1.5 hours. But that warm-up costs you brief intense pain ("hammer finger" I call it, like getting smacked with a hammer). I have been told it's quite bad for your joints too, arthritis, etc.

-- webbing: my Ocean Rodeo wing has nice cushy handles, but they create arm fatigue with gloves. My old bagged out ozone straps were pretty much webbing and I didn't get fatigue, as you don't hold on to them, you kind of hang off them. I have thought about adding webbing below straps as a way to rest fingers/grip.

-- tubing: back in kiting days I played around with idea of putting in tubing from neck to gloves, to periodically blow on your fingers. Never bothered to follow it up and properly test it, but I think it could work.
Good info there thanks. I've yet to really dive into what I need to do to make it work. I've gone once and the main issue was the arm pump. I now have my harness belt so that should relieve some of the issue. I'm still waiting on a board, just got word last night it should be in route soon, and ordered a paddle to go SUP foil the no wind days.
 
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Kaser1

Tom Curren status
May 3, 2004
10,245
203
63
Foiltown , Hawai'i
Update...

Ok so I've been out a few times here in Main, water temps low 40's and here's what I've learned...

5mm wetsuit keeps you wicked warm (yea trying out my Maine'r pigin)
Thick booties are a plus, but may be able to go thinner ( have 5mm now)
5mm gloves not necessary, I switched down to a 1.5mm glove and hands stay warm from the heat conduction from body

So unless you're constantly getting dumped into the ocean, you stay pretty fing warm, almost hot when wingning as you're really not in the water much. And the air is (right now) about 10-15 degrees warmer.

So thinking that a 4/3 would be suitable for the rest of the year.
 

juandesooka

OTF status
Jan 12, 2009
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You can get away with a level lighter wetsuit for wing/sup vs surfing -- out of the water a lot more.
Same for gloves, some surfers use 3mm or 5mm year-round, most of the wingers around here are now using dishwashing gloves or heavy nitrile mechanics gloves. Just enough to take the edge off in the 5-10c range. Above 10c you don't need them. Below 5c I add some light neoprene diving gloves over top, which help a bit ... but there's still that problem of either frozen finger tips or unable to grip handles....below 3c is pretty much no-go zone for me now. Man o man Maui sounds nice.... :)
 
Aug 28, 2020
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I recently switched to 3mm 5-fingered gloves for winging as the water warms here in New England. I can tolerate the 5 mm lobster style gloves as long as the wind is consistent enough to allow copious harness use. My fingers still get cold in the 3 mm but I can tolerate it until I have a chance to warm them up. Ice climbers refer to that finger burn as the screaming barfies and it can get really bad. Once when ice climbing I thought i was going to puke, sh!t myself and pass out, simultaneously. No kidding. I never want to experience that on the water.

And welcome to the neighborhood, Jason. Looking forward to getting out with you regularly.
 

juandesooka

OTF status
Jan 12, 2009
310
246
43
I recently switched to 3mm 5-fingered gloves for winging as the water warms here in New England. I can tolerate the 5 mm lobster style gloves as long as the wind is consistent enough to allow copious harness use. My fingers still get cold in the 3 mm but I can tolerate it until I have a chance to warm them up. Ice climbers refer to that finger burn as the screaming barfies and it can get really bad. Once when ice climbing I thought i was going to puke, sh!t myself and pass out, simultaneously. No kidding. I never want to experience that on the water.

And welcome to the neighborhood, Jason. Looking forward to getting out with you regularly.
Screaming barfies...that's perfect. I call it "hammer finger" as it feels as painful as that. Yelling and swearing level.

I read some accounts online that there are strategies for soldiers in cold places like Eastern Europe (country names not to be spoken). You expose your fingers to the cold for 5 minutes or so, then back to warmth...you the screaming barfies, but then after you it passes you have an hour or two will full functioning, no pain, no numbness. I looked this up as I noticed it myself...some days I get out, the cold is so bad I can't stand it, but then after a few minutes on the beach waving my arms and running around, realize I am warm and good to go...back out there. It works.

though a friend told me he believes this is very damaging for your hands, with arthritis and such-like long-term. He may be right. But I want to ride NOOOOOOOWWWWWW. :)
 
Aug 28, 2020
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Yes, it's called the Lewis Hunting Response, check out this iKitesurf post.

I think if you do it right you can warm up your fingers before the barfies set in. But it works either way, if you're patient enough to take a short break and get the blood flowing.
 
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