The cooler weather that blew through the island Friday was yet another reminder that the beach water temperature won’t be getting any warmer for the rest of the year.

While the water temps along the seawall were still in the mid 70s as of Friday, this latest cool front will ensure that number keeps heading south. One of the facts of surfing along the upper Texas coast is that, as the opportunity to ride waves increases during the fall and winter months, you’re going to need a wetsuit to surf comfortably.

One of the greatest advancements in surfing over the past decade has been improvements in wetsuit technology. Decades ago, full wetsuits were stiff, bulky and leaked like crazy. Surfing in one was akin to wearing a tight suit and tie that was soaked through. It was restrictive, cumbersome and kept you only a bit warmer than you would have been had you been in just surf trunks.

Today, wetsuits — which are still mostly made of neoprene rubber — are extremely flexible with the seams taped to keep a surfer warm and toasty for hours, even in the coldest conditions imaginable.

Here in Galveston, the water temperatures can dip into the low 50s during the dead of winter. With an outside temperature that’s even cooler, you’re going to need a full suit to keep surfing. Some surfers here even wear neoprene gloves, boots and a hood to say warm. Others don’t like the feel of those additional pieces of rubber. It’s all personal preference dictated, of course, by the harshness of our winters.

One of the factors to consider when purchasing a wetsuit is thickness. Full wetsuits come in a variety of thicknesses, from 2 millimeters up to 6 millimeters. The thicker the suit, the warmer it will be. But that warmth comes at a price, both literally and figuratively. A thicker wetsuit isn’t as flexible. And the thicker the suit, the higher the cost.

Along the upper Texas coast, most surfers won’t need much more than a 3/2 (3 millimeters thick in the torso and 2 millimeters thick in the arms and legs). Some might use a 4/3 in January and February.

The cost varies greatly in wetsuits, running from $150 for the least expensive model with a zipper that runs the length of the back all the way to more than $500 for the thickest suit that can handle the most extreme water temperatures.

Each of the surf shops in Galveston have a wide variety of the newest wetsuit models in stock now. And the best way to find the right wetsuit for you — whether you want a basic, no-frills piece of rubber or a state-of-the-art, zipper-less version — is to try one on. It’s the only way to get the fit and comfort right for your individual needs.

If it’s been a few years since you’ve purchased a wetsuit, it’s worth a look at the newest models. The flexibility, comfort and warmth available today — even compared to just five years ago — is remarkable with manufacturers consistently searching for new ways to improve their products and keep us catching waves.

In the end, what matters most is getting a wetsuit that will ensure you’re warm so you can keep surfing all winter. We’re entering the season when surfing in Texas becomes a reality. It’s best to be prepared.

Stephen Hadley is a longtime surfer who lives and works in Galveston. If you have a suggestion for a surfing-related topic you’d like to see covered in this column, email stephendhadley@gmail.com.

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