Fortunately air temp was a few degrees warmer this morning and there were no high clouds obscuring what was going to be maximum solar gain. Regardless I looked at it as a chance to go with my full winter warmth wardrobe.
|Photos may not be the exact rendering of the location surfed|
Boozer's was the spot call. This place is a kind of beach break/sand point that sits on a long arc of coastline that runs for a couple miles in either direction. It's unusual in that the waves break in a fairly consistent place on the point although you'll get waves bouncing around from here to there as beach break waves do. The water was full of wildlife. At least a dozen seals were leaping and diving, revealing their long, sharp canines as they barked at each other. Great whites inhabit these environs too, but...what else is new, besides the surf shirt that is.
Surf this morning was smaller and less consistent than yesterday, with steady offshore wind. Waits were fairly long which was a good test for the heated shirt. It's easy to get cold when you're not generating body heat paddling or surfing. I managed to grab seven waves in a little over an hour, three of which were very good. My third to last was the biggest wave of the morning and it was just what I like...a late drop with a very steep takeoff into a long fast wall all the way to the beach. Stoke! I thought I was in the perfect takeoff spot, a bit inside cuz the waves were pushing water and rolling some, but as I turned and stepped on the gas I saw the top two feet start to feather. I started my drop down the face and quickly accelerated, digging the feeling of free falling with speed and hanging by a fin in the steep face. I had a solid connection. A millisecond later that pitching wave top slapped me hard in the side of the face and threw me off my board for a tumbling beat down spin cycle in the froth. Arghhhh! Bitch slapped! But while I was bummed, I was stoked. It could have been an epic ride. You don't know until you go and it was a great opportunity to test the wetsuit ensemble and surf shirt. Also, every once in awhile we need to remember that OMO is in charge.
My Winter ensemble from head to toe: 2mil Excel Quick Dry Cap (not an integrated hood, they make my neck feel stiff and sore); 4/3 O'Neill's Mutant wetsuit; 0.5mil O'Neill Hyperfreak (that's me alright) neoprene/skins long sleeve top; Thermalution heated surf shirt; merino wool boxer style undergarment (surprisingly warm); O'Neill Heat 3mil split toe booties.
If you haven't noticed yet, up there under the blog title is a word that you, dear Reader, should note. Septuagenarian. Definition: A person who is from 70 to 79 years old. At 72 (73 in 11 days) I fit nicely into that category. And I might as well admit that I take great pride in that I'm still surfing fairly well into my seventh decade. In order to do that I really need to be warm. Thus the full winter regalia especially when the temps are in the 30's.
I've owned everything on that list for at least two or more years except for the Thermalution surf shirt which I added this season and it has made the difference between me surfing in the winter and having to give it up during the cold season. It's what keeps me in shape so when I return to Maui I can surf every day. But...it comes at a cost. They're retailing right now for $429 on the Thermalution website. Yeah, it's a hefty price to pay, but if it keeps me warm and surfing, it's worth it.
The Thermalution shirt (linked here is a lot more information which I've found to be accurate, no hype) is essentially a short sleeve rash guard with built in heating elements that rundown your back from your neck to your lumbar spine. This full coverage allows the suit to heat your entire spinal column and the major muscles of your back needed for paddling and surfing. This alone can keep your back more relaxed and limber as well as keeping you warm and in the water longer. The heat source is two slim lithium batteries that fit snugly in two side shirt pockets. When pulled over your head (like pulling on a regular rash guard) the batteries are situated far enough under your armpits and above your hips and are practically unnoticeable. The shirt is very comfortable to wear and has been well designed and engineered.
The surf shirt has a pigtail cord that attaches at the back of the shirt, with a switch which supplies heat to the heating elements. The switch has three toggle positions starting with the coolest setting, the green indicator light; then orange; and finally red, the warmest setting. Heating is very efficient and I haven't yet had to move from the green setting to anything higher. But it's comforting to know that I've got a lot of heating to pour on if and when I need it. When buttoning up my wetsuit in preparation for a surf I pull the cord out over my shoulder so that it hangs in front of my chest. I tuck a section of the cord into the front of the wetsuit, leaving about 6" to a foot hanging out. I then pull the neck flap over my head (the Mutant is a front zip suit). Before zipping up, I place the cord and the switch between the body of the wetsuit and the flap so that when I zip up, the switch is sandwiched in between the neck flap and the body of the suit. It is then easily accessible and out of the way. I usually turn on the shirt when I'm ready to leave the car. The shirt heats up very quickly and I'm nice and warm when I hit the water.
Apres surf, I leave the batteries on to exhaust the charge. The shirt keeps you warm as long as you have your wetsuit on, or some other insulating clothing, like a jacket. You won't stay warm in just the shirt alone, you need that neoprene or outer garment. I peel off the shirt and drape it over the rails of my boards, stored on edge in my van. When I get home I place the shirt over the edge of a padded chair, unplug the battery connectors from the shirt's heating elements and plug them into the charger. Charging takes a couple hours. Then I put the whole thing back together and hang the shirt on a hanger, ready for use.
Caveats: The heating elements are quite noticeable and are subject to damage if treated roughly. You can't wad up this shirt and throw it in a bag, the back of your pickup or your trunk. If you break any of the connectors the shirt won't heat anymore so you have to be careful. Also, while I rinse all my equipment after every use, I only rinse out the shirt every three or four surfs. When you do wash it, be careful and gentle. The second caveat is the connectors on the battery, surf shirt and charger. They are surprisingly small and fragile. Always use caution when connecting and disconnecting the wires. Damage to the connectors will render the shirt unuseable for heat. The connectors come with caps so the moral of the story is to never leave the connectors uncapped. They should always be plugged in to the shirt wires or capped. If you take care of your equipment, it will take care of you. And WTF? You just paid over 400 bills for this thing!
Overall I give the Thermalution surf shirt a five star (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) rating. On a couple occasions the shirt has been so effective that I've actually had to turn it off. But when it's cold out, don't leave home without it.