Being a surfer in Scotland, I'm asked this question all the time. When I'm getting in (or out) of my wetsuit, when people see me getting in and out of the water, in conversation when people find out I surf or about North Sea Surf Shots.. they always ask.
Is it not cold?
So I thought I'd better address it! The answer is..
Mostly no, not at all. Every now and again yes, but by that time, it’s worth it!
In the water temperature that I spend most of my time in, I'm wearing a 5mm wetsuit, with a hood, gloves, and boots. The only part of me that isn't totally encased in thick rubber is my face!
Like hill walking, snowboarding or any other outdoor activity that requires you go outside amongst nature's harsh conditions, if you go prepared, you'll be fine!
I've actually noticed the cold a lot more whilst taking photos in the water, as when I'm out shooting I'm submerged up to my neck instead of sitting around on a surfboard.
But unless you're slightly crazy, you're probably not going to become a surf photographer anytime soon!
You might have seen me on occasion, excitedly waddling down to the water's edge on a cold spring morning, and thought that being covered in all that rubber must be like a straitjacket.
Well, whether or not a straitjacket would be a suitable accessory for me is a topic for another day, but wetsuits are advancing all the time, becoming warmer and more flexible. Even in my thickest suits, I've never felt restricted to a point where it was noticeable in a negative way.
Anyway, you hear stories about Aberdeen's first surfers getting into the water before wetsuits were even invented (1952, according to Wikipedia)! Now they must have been cold.
There are plenty of people in warmer climates whose lives revolve around the sea, and there's no good reason we can't have that in the colder parts of the world as well.
After all, the coastline in North East Scotland is stunning (the Moray coast was named amongst the most beautiful and unspoilt coastlines in the world by National Geographic.)
Why not take advantage of the spectacular nature we have on our doorstep?
Owning a wetsuit opens up a whole world to you
Surfing, lifesaving, open water swimming, kayaking, snorkelling, spearfishing, freediving, windsurfing, kitesurfing, standup paddleboarding. There are so many good reasons to get in the sea!
And as if you didn't need another reason, the fear of cold drives crowds away! Be brave and get out there anyway, and you'll find that you've got a whole beach to yourself and just a couple of friends.
There aren't many ways we can switch off and disconnect in this modern world, so the value of that really can't be overstated.
In some of the most idyllic surf destinations across the world, crowds are a problem, and locals can be pretty protective over their waves. It can sometimes feel like a competition in the water, which takes away from the experience.
I’ve never seen anything like that in Scotland. Being respectful of the places you visit and the people who live there goes a long way and I've always found nothing but friendly faces when I get in the sea.
Don’t get me wrong, wearing a worn wetsuit that needs replacing on an icy day in the dead of winter, I’m not exactly warm. But I wouldn’t expect people to start in the dead of winter, and most people I know that start never stop.
I think that’s a good thing, but I’ll let you make your own mind up!
Besides, we have it relatively tropical compared to some! As wetsuit technology improves, people are pushing the boundaries of where surfing is possible, and getting out amongst it in some truly cold conditions, like The Great Lakes, and Iceland.
So just give it a go and find out for yourself! Make sure you've got good gear and you won't be cold, I promise..
If you're in the North East of Scotland and want to see what the water is like in a wetsuit, check out Granite Reef Surf School or Sud’s Surf School to give it a go. Just don't blame me a year down the line when it's flat for a month and waves are all you can think about!