Embrace the Chill: A Guide to Winter Paddling
As winter descends and most paddlers hand up their boards, a select few of us hear the call of the frozen waterways. Winter paddling is a unique and exhilarating experience, but it comes with its own set of challenges, the most critical being staying warm and safe in cold conditions. In this blog , we will dive into the essentials of what to wear for winter paddling, with nifty hints and tips from our paddlesports coach, Georgie. So you can continue to enjoy your favorite activity, even when the temperature drops.
1. Layer Up Like a Pro
The key to staying warm while winter paddling is layering. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Next, add an insulating layer, such as fleece or down, to trap warmth. Finally, top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer shell to protect against the elements. (I love using the Palm Vantage jacket, having the hood on the jacket is a miracle for me, it takes the edge off of the wind, which is great as my ears get very cold in the winter!) https://www.thesupco.com/clothing-c215/palm-vantage-jacket-p3062 Don’t forget to layer your lower body as well with thermal leggings or wetsuit bottoms.
2. Choose the Right Wetsuit or Drysuit
Your choice between a wetsuit and a drysuit depends on the water temperature. Wetsuits are excellent for moderately cold water, providing insulation by trapping a thin layer of water against your skin that your body heats. I use ONeill Hyperfreak as one of my regulars when I’m on the water coaching. https://www.thesupco.com/wetsuits-c6/oneill-hyperfreak-womens-5-4-chest-zip-full-p559. When deciding what wetsuit to buy, my biggest recommendation is always go for a front zip! When taking a plunge, back zips you tend to flush out your suit. It comes as a big shock, especially if you’re not expecting to! Whereas front zip suits, you have to remember to flush out, when the warmer months start coming back! Just make sure to stretch out the head hole before you try and squeeze your head through.. it doesn’t make the most flattering scenes, but does make a great video!
Drysuits, on the other hand, are a must for freezing waters. They keep you completely dry, and you can layer underneath for added warmth. I tend to change into my drysuit late November/ early December! I’ve tried many different combinations of clothes under my drysuit.. Trackies/ drysuit onesies. Two piece thermals, with my favourite being Palm Arun Longsleve and bottoms. These give me a lot more flexibility than others i’ve tried! https://www.thesupco.com/clothing-c215/palm-arun-longsleeve-womens-p3048
3. Don’t Neglect Your Extremities
Cold hands and feet can quickly ruin your winter paddling adventure. Invest in neoprene gloves and booties to keep your extremities warm. To prevent cold water from seeping inside, make sure they have a snug fit. Ive had several different pairs of gloves over my time, turns out coasteering with them on, means i need a new pair every couple of weeks! I struggled with straight gloves as my hands are quite small and gloves just felt clunky to me! Until i found The Pro limit curved neoprene gloves. https://www.thesupco.com/wetsuits-c6/gloves-hoods-hats-c168/neoprene-gloves-c169/prolimit-curved-finger-utility-3mm-gloves-p2791. They come in XS, which is awesome, especially for the smaller handed paddlers like myself! With the gloves being curved, they allow me to really feel the paddle when I’m off on my adventures!
4. Protect Your Head and Neck
Most of your body heat escapes through your head, so wearing a neoprene or wool beanie is crucial. Additionally, consider a neoprene neck gaiter or a scarf to keep the wind off your neck. I tend to use a neck warmer or snood, like this one https://www.thesupco.com/clothing-c215/mens-clothing-c216/hats-beanies-c224/vaikobi-fleece-neck-warmer-p5377. If I can go out and I have a limited amount of skin exposed the better! Have i mentioned i get cold quite easily!
5. Safety First: Wear a PFD
Even in winter, safety should be your top priority. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) designed for paddling. It not only provides buoyancy but also adds an extra layer of insulation. Ive used a few in my time. As a coach I must have pockets galore, just to make sure I have all my safety equipment on me just in case. So pockets are essential. If you don’t need as many pockets as I do. The Red Original Sup Buoyancy Aid is perfect for its low profile and maneuverability! https://www.thesupco.com/accessories-c4/red-original-sup-buoyancy-aid-p5568
6. Bring Spare Clothes
Accidents happen, and you might end up getting wet. Pack spare dry clothes in a waterproof bag just in case. Changing into dry clothes can be a lifesaver during winter paddling. I always keep a spare pair of clothes in my car. It just means I can look forward to coming back in and having a warm pair of clothes to change into! Just bliss!
7. Stay Hydrated and Nourished
Cold weather can trick you into thinking you’re not sweating, but paddling is a workout. Stay hydrated and bring warm drinks in an insulated thermos. High-energy snacks can help keep your body fueled and generate warmth. I tend to keep a packet of haribo or 7 in my Buoyancy aid for that mid paddle snack!
8. Know Your Limits
Winter paddling can be magical, but it’s not for everyone. Always check weather conditions, water temperatures, and the forecast. Never venture out alone, and let someone know your planned route and return time.
In conclusion, winter paddling can be a breathtaking experience, but it requires thoughtful preparation and the right gear. With the right attire and safety measures, you can continue enjoying your passion even when the world is coated in ice and snow. So, embrace the chill, gear up, and paddle on – because winter has its own kind of beauty waiting to be discovered on the water.
Stay warm and safe out there!