Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose

Taking the (Cold) Plunge

Debra Rose

Cold plunges are all the rage, beyond the New Year’s Day Polar Plunge and post big-wave-pro-surfer programs of lounging in a tub of ice water.  Whether it’s at-home plunging or the proximity of the ocean all year long, more research enthusiastically supports the practice of the cold plunge.  Not surprising, winter surfers have instinctually known and embraced the benefits of the cold water, and even in a wetsuit, these icy sessions support health and over-all wellbeing.

Cold plunging is technically known as cryotherapy or cold-water immersion (CWI), where one is immersed in icy water around sixty degrees Fahrenheit for a varied amount of time.  Your blood flow will change, your body heat and internal temperature plunges; this practice dates to Hippocrates, whether it is diving in or keeping your head above water.  Surfing waves in these temperatures is standard in the winter, subject to duck dives, wipe outs and getting caught inside, providing plenty of opportunities for an icy bath.  With or without neoprene, research supports an improvement in immunity and decline in chronic inflammation of the body with CWI. When ice water constricts the blood flow and vessels, your body begins repair once you exit the water. Think of it as off-days from working out or lifting weights.  The body’s reaction to push blood back in the body speeds up repair and reduces pain, especially in symptoms from arthritis and orthopedic injuries.  The cold can be a distraction, may help you to fight infection through increased white blood cell production and can boost your entire immune system in the process.

Surfing in the cold puts your mind and body in survival mode, your body is working harder to maintain the core temperature and preform in all that neoprene.  When you recover you benefit from the increased oxygen and nutrients your body worked hard to deliver.  Some report feeling happier, invigorated, ironically, from freezing their brains and bodies.  Perhaps thriving from the hyper alert sense of accomplishment of surviving.  Add catching waves on a beautiful morning with your surf community, and stress seems to dissipate.  Rarely is there a surf session that is regrettable.

If you are low on the neurotransmitters that keep stress and emotional regulating in check, jump in the water and marinate in the dopamine surplus when you exit the cold.  Your metabolism will also benefit from your body working hard to stay warm, burning more calories without extra exertion.  Often soreness from winter surfing includes getting in and out of the suit (and hood), and ice water is one remedy for feeling stiff.  Happily, surf sessions have a magical formula of the perfect amount of time in an icy environment to benefit from the cold.  Between waves, allowing the neoprene to do its job, and paddling back out for just one more, intermittent immersion while surfing yields similar results as simply taking the plunge.  While we love warm days and seek out tropical surf destinations, jumping in the cold for some winter surf sessions fun and healthy.  Happy surfing!