Spring can be a weird time for surfing in Australia… Well, at least around Sydney.
While the air temperature starts to climb, water temps are often still at their lowest. And while those groomed groundswells with accompanying offshores are now a fading memory, the conditions are a far cry from the impending summer slop.
Another thing that changes in the spring is people’s go-to set-up. Obviously, in winter the line-up abides by a strict 3:2 full suit as the minimum, and in the summer it’s safe to assume you can drop in on anyone wearing anything warmer than a wetsuit top. In the spring, however, you see line-ups littered with everything from boardshorts, to short-arms, and even the odd full-suit and hood. To the unacquainted eye, it might seem like those surfing on a balmy spring day are picking their equipment at random. After a while, however, it becomes clear you can apply some hard and fast rules to an individual based on what they’re wearing while they surf.
Probably a full-blown psycho—do not drop in on them. Although they could also be a British backpacker (less likely right now with Covid) who considers 20 centigrade to be unbearably hot. You can always differentiate these two types though by whether they’re on a 6’6” blade and have a sleeve tattoo or are stuck in the whitewash on an 8-foot longboard. I don’t know if people wear boardies in September to assert dominance, but whatever the reason, it works. Surfing well always garners respect but doing it in your trunks when the water is only a smidge above 16 degrees is even more commanding.
Steamer, booties, and sometimes a hood
Unless you’re in Tasmania, I don’t think there’s any good reason to be wearing boots and a hood in the spring. The types of people that do are either some crusty local who’s been ‘surfing here since before your parents were born,’ (which is a decent excuse) or someone who claims that they surf better in booties (I know two people like this). So, maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps there are two good reasons to wear booties in the spring.
Short (Or Long) John
The long john is probably the least practical surfwear ever invented, its shorter sibling being only marginally more useful. This likely explains why those who wear them are often riding boards that are also highly impractical. You know the type: riding a log without a leash at a beachbreak, a 5’0 twin when it’s double-overhead, or maybe just skimming around on a finless when the surf is the best it’s been in months. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of the surfboards mentioned in the last paragraph. But combine them with a long john and you’ll rightfully be labelled whatever the 2021 word is for hipster.
The Spring Suit
The spring suit, like other outfits, is worn by two types of people. The first is someone who isn’t trend-savvy and hasn’t caught on that wearing a short-arm short-leg springsuit is considered a cardinal sin in surf fashion. The other is Gabriel Medina. That’s it. So, if you’re reading this and you’re not Gabriel Medina, then stop wearing short arm springies*.
The Short Arm
Anyone can go out and buy a short arm wetsuit. It’s not difficult. But for some reason, this suit is most often seen on with people that surf well. The alternative explanation is that wearing a short arm just makes your surfing look better, but I’ve seen footage of myself surfing in one. And, well, let’s just say it didn’t make my flailing arms appear more restrained. Stereotypes aside, the short arm is the best-suited suit (lol) to springtime conditions. Maybe all of us average surfers (and below) should band together and reclaim the short arm wetsuit from surfing’s elites. For too long we’ve been associating short arms with the sort of surfing Dane Reynolds was doing in the early 2010s. It’s about time we started associating them with sound-minded individuals who want the warmth of a steamer with the freedom of spring suit.
*Full disclosure: when I first started working at a surf mag back in 2018, I occasionally wore a short-arm springsuit. This behaviour was relentlessly (and rightfully) bullied out of me within a short period of time.