Dec 2, 2015

Winter Surfing in Japan: Discipline Required!

Winter Surfing in Japan: Discipline Required! photo

One of my favourite things about surfing in Japan, is getting up early (usually around 4:30 am), getting my gear in the car (actually, I don’t like this part so much), and setting out for the beach whilst the rest of the country is still sleeping.  There’s a sense of romance about it; it feels like I’m stealing out of the city unnoticed, and making an escape to the wide open country (although that’s pushing it a bit - I’m only going to Chiba!).  

The problem now though, is winter.  Bloody winter!  It’s late this year, but it seems to be here. Now, getting up is a positively frigid experience, and strapping my board to the car roof with raw cold hands is the opposite of fun.  Still, once I get the old motor heated up and finally manage to desteam the windows, it’s quite nice to be all wrapped up and cozy in the car. Plus, it’s still dark outside (sun isn’t up until around 6:30 during Japan’s winter), and as my old banger wheezes up onto the elevated highway, I’m greeted with one of the more gobsmacking views; Tokyo, across the river, fully sprawled out, lights on, perfect!  Or a shade dystopian!

Winter Surfing in Japan: Discipline Required! photo
Weather conditions at my regular break in Chiba had been pretty comfortable up till mid-November, (a standard 3/4mm wetsuit sufficed).  I went for a surf on Saturday though, and there was a notable difference.  That first dunk of the head underwater was no longer suitable for the fragile of heart, and even with booties on, the 3/4mm struggled to keep in the warmth beyond 30 mins.  Then came the winter surf catch-22; too cold to move, but need to move to keep warm.  In the end, this surfer, as usual, did his pathetic balancing act between the two; insipid attempts to catch waves, followed by extended spells of board-sitting and teeth-chattering!
Winter Surfing in Japan: Discipline Required! photo

Winter surfing presents another great challenge, that of taking off the wetsuit.  A ball ache at the best of times, post-winter surf, it takes on a task of Sisyphean proportions.  Still, at least there aren’t so many people around to watch the physical comedy unfold.

A certain amount of discipline is required for winter surfing in Japan.  It can be hard work at times. However, with all the lightweights in hibernation, get up early enough and you could be at the beach for a sunrise surf (albeit a cold one) with all the waves to yourself!  Emphatically worth it!

If you’re interested in surfing in Japan, check out some of my earlier posts below …

The Hazards of Surfing in Japan

The Best Surf Shops in Tokyo

Surfing Near Tokyo

An Introduction to Surfing in Japan



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.