5-Finger, Lobster or Mitten - Oh My!
The right pair of boots and gloves can mean the difference between getting the wave of your life, or ending your session early. When choosing the neoprene to keep your hands and feet warm this winter, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of options and jargon.
Getting the right type, size and thickness of neoprene is paramount to your success in the water. This article is designed to decode and guide the cold water warrior to happy hands and feet all winter long!
In the summer in Tofino, 99% of surfers choose to go gloveless. As we sneak into fall and winter, we will all start donning our gloves at various points in September/October, depending on the surfer. Most of us will be wearing 3mm or 5mm gloves, with the coldest of surfers choosing a 7mm mitt. Within these options there are also 5-finger gloves, mittens and lobster claw gloves.
Here are the main benefits to each style:
The 5-finger glove is probably the most versatile and most popular form of glove. With each finger being separated, you will have unmatched dexterity, compared to the other glove options. Each finger being separated, however, means that each finger must fend for themselves for warmth. While not a problem at 3mm, a 5-finger 5mm glove can sometimes make the wearer feel like they lose dexterity by having fingers that are too thick. This can cause the fingers to rub against one another. The 5-finger option is likely the best first pair of gloves as they are the easiest to wrap your brain around.
The Full Mitts
For those of us who run cold, pick the mitten-style of gloves. These gloves can come in 5mm or 7mm and will be the absolute warmest option. Similar to ski mittens, having all your fingers in the same pocket means they can keep eachother warm. The main drawback is the lack of dexterity. It's impossible to install a leash string, as an example, with mittens on.
The Lobster Claw
For the "Goldilocks Surfer" who needs gloves that are not too hot or two cold, but just right. It can also be the best of both worlds when it comes to dexterity vs. warmth. Anecdotally, we have spoken to kite surfers who love the lobster claw gloves due to the need for "trigger finger" dexterity.
With gloves, like any neoprene product, fit can be the make or break factor. Too small and the glove will cut off circulation - too big and the glove will let in too much water. Similar to boots, we want to get you into the smallest pair of gloves possible. Meanwhile, we want to make sure that the gloves comfortably extend all the way to the fingertip and the base of the finger goes all the way down to your webbing.
Like gloves, many of us ditch our boots in the summer months, however, we typically break out the boots earlier in the season than gloves. We also typically need to go slightly thicker on our boots than gloves. Most of us rock 7 or 8mm with the bravest of surfers pulling their 5mm boots on, even in the deepest, darkest months of winter. You'll notice there are two options of boot, with extremely loyal surfers belonging to each camp.
Here are the main benefits to each style:
Probably the more popular of the two options, as it is most like the shoes we wear day-to-day. Just like mittens, there's a benefit to having all those toes keeping each other in warm company. There isn't much to talk about when it comes to round-toe boots - they just work.
Split-toe boot wearers are more loyal than your family dog. Split-toers swear it's the only way to go. By separating the big toe, some surfers claim to have more board feel. Meanwhile, other split-toers claim their foot to be more "locked in'' and less likely to shift around in the boot. Both of these are incredibly important factors to consider while choosing a boot. A round-toe boot wearer, on the other hand, would just say that the split-toe feels too weird!
Like gloves, we want to get you into the smallest boot that feels comfortable. Boots are organized in US mens shoe size for unisex simplicity. If you are between sizes, size down as you want the boot to feel like a sock. Ladies, take your US women's shoe size and subtract 1.5, the result is your unisex boot size. We want to make sure your toes are at the end of the boot, but not uncomfortably curled over.