Winter Surfing: Hard Won Fun by Matt Ryan

The Nahant resident, a senior at Boston College High School, reveals what drives winter surfers.

Winter surfing. Courtesy of Matt Ryan
Winter surfing. Courtesy of Matt Ryan

I slip on my wetsuit, booties, and gloves to protect myself from the cold sea. My 5-foot 11-inch surfboard fits perfectly, like a puzzle piece, in the back of my blue Jeep Cherokee. 

Suited up and ready to go, I drive to a local surf spot where my uncle, multiple other dedicated surfers, and I are preparing to do what we love best, surf.

The bone-chilling wind, deep, cold water, and rough conditions do not stop us from surfing. We are persistent.

The biggest waves come during winter, which is the reason why surfers are so eager to go surfing in the cold. My face is the only part of my body that is exposed to the water, but every once in a while a wave will crash on top of me and force its way straight through my collar and into my suit. That’s the worst. When I get out of the water, my trembling hands and frozen face are worth it because the exhilarating rush of riding a wave is priceless. 

Californians are lucky. They have huge waves, relatively warm water, and consistent surf. In the Northeast, we have smaller waves, freezing cold water, and inconsistent surf that only leaves us with the hope that a swell will come in this weekend, but the lack of the perfect conditions is what makes each wave so enjoyable for us. 

Every wave is a gift from nature. When I jump off of one wave into the cold water, the anxiousness of catching the next builds the energy for me to paddle out past the break as walls of 32-degree salt water crash onto my entire body, stinging my exposed face. 

And I love it. 


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