While wetsuit technology at last seems to be changing after some years of neoprene stagnation, it’s also good to know that a simple idea using relatively old technology can make it through the hype. Most people will have come across those sports injury heat packs containing a strange gel that solidifies and heats up when you press a small button on the pack. To recharge them again you simply put the pack into boiling water and the solid returns to gel. Aussie company Hotsuits have used this technology, shaped it appropriate to your general abdominal area, and stuck inside some neoprene. The result is a slow-warming heat-source inside your suit that lasts for an hour or so.
I tried it in midwinter Cornwall and it works – though it made the most difference right at the start when the pack was hottest and the water and my muscles were coldest. And having this belt around me made no apparent difference to my ability to surf – in fact I forgot I was wearing it after a while. It had an added benefit, too: these were my first few surfs since breaking some ribs, so I placed it in that general area. The extra warmth had a soothing, loosening effect which I think will be welcome by any cold-water surfer suffering from lower back, kidney or any other abdominal pain or stiffness. So it’s thermal and therapeutic and could really help get you out there on those freezing days when the waves are good but the body’s trying to chicken out.