Many windsurfers escape the cold European winter to warmer destinations around the world. Some windsurfers conquer the cold at home and windsurf in freezing temperatures. One of them is our Starboard rider Mathias Vingaard from Denmark. Mathias knows no limits and hits the water despite freezing temperatures to practice his freestyle moves. His commitment and dedication are inspiring. However, during such cold sessions, safety is the priority. We asked him how he stays warm and safe in these extreme conditions.
Hi Mathias, tell us a bit about your winter windsurfing.
“Hi so basically I just love to go on the water, whether facing gusty winds, choppy waters, or cold temperatures. Sharing this passion with my close surfing friends only amplifies my motivation. In the photo from this session, I was out with my good buddy Kasper Gaj Nielsen, who also never turns down a good session despite a bit of cold.”
Where do you windsurf in the winter and how do you deal with the cold?
“When I’m on the water, I usually focus intently on the moves I want to work on. However, this changes a bit when temperatures drop below -5 degrees Celsius. Firstly, it can be challenging to find a spot that isn’t frozen. This situation, though, offers a fantastic opportunity for ice lagoons, especially near channels with strong currents. That’s exactly what we found during this session. The entire lagoon was frozen, but at the exit of Agger Tange, where the fjord meets the sea, the strong current had created a hole in the ice, allowing us to sail. However, the equipment quickly becomes extremely slippery and heavy as more and more ice forms on it. It starts with slightly slippery foot straps, and it becomes a challenge itself not to slip out of the straps during maneuvers and turns. After a while, you have to scrape off the ice so that the equipment functions again.”
What kind of wetsuit and accessories are you using in these extreme conditions?
“Battling the cold is not new to me. We’ve had several very cold days during the winters in Denmark. The coldest I personally have surfed in is -12 degrees. This session was not so far from it with the temperature at the end of the session going as low as -10 degrees. The neoprene I use and which works for me in extreme conditions includes:
- Wearing a relatively new 6/5 wetsuit (max 1-2 seasons old)
- Using closed mittens 2,5mm
- Wearing 8mm shoes with neoprene socks underneath
Furthermore, every 5 minutes or after a few falls, I swing my arms around to feel my fingertips again. It’s really effective and allows me to stay on the water for many hours. However, my toes and face can get quite cold, but it’s only the first 10-15 minutes that you really feel it. It should be noted that after the session when the body heats up, especially the face, can itch and burn quite a bit.”
Is it safe to windsurfing in such extreme conditions?
It’s extremely important to be vigilant about safety. We always keep a close eye on each other in these temperatures and never go out alone. It offers some fantastic and unique windsurfing experiences, and once you get going, the cold isn’t really that bad. However, changing, especially from wetsuit to clothes after the session, is quite uncomfortable.”