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Winter Paddling

Winter Paddling

The cold is just another challenge to overcome before getting on the water. We believe that wintertime paddling can be very enjoyable, but it does pose some risks that you don’t usually face other times of the year. Are you confident in your paddling ability? The most important thing all winter paddlers need to know is what to do if you fall into the water, the consequences of it are much worse because of the cold. For sit on top paddlers, Surfskis and paddleboards this means being confident in your ability to climb back onto your watercraft. For sea kayakers, this means having good bracing technique to keep from tipping and a reliable roll in case the worst happens. Ideally, you should be practicing these skills during the warmer times of the year when immersion doesn’t pose such a great risk by intentionally jumping overboard, capsizing or rolling. However, if you aren’t 100% confident in your ability, seek out local instructors and educational resources. Winter paddling gear should serve one purpose: to keep you warm and dry. This means a set of winter paddling clothes plus emergency gear.

Clothing for Winter Kayaking

Your winter paddling clothing will probably look completely different than the clothes you’re wearing on summer outings. You need to be dressing for immersion and for staying warm in the chilly winter air. Remember, just because you don’t think you’ll be going for a swim doesn’t mean you won’t be at risk of getting wet from splash or rain. Be prepared!

What exactly you need to wear for a wintertime paddle depends on several factors like water temperature, personal comfort, water conditions and the type of water you’re paddling on. Remember that layers are a winter paddlers best friend, starting with a waterproof outer layer and warm inner layers. Layers help trap heat and fend off water. Remember “wick, warmth, and weather” as you arrange your layers: light wicking fabrics first, then warm insulating sweaters or fleeces, and finally an waterproof outer layer to protect you from the elements.

Ideas on what to wear:

Wetsuit (either your wetsuit is rated for cold immersion if not you can wear wool or fleece as a base layer) Can restrict movement when layering under a wetsuit.

Drysuit (with wool or fleece base layers underneath)

Waterproof rain jackets or pants (with wool or fleece base layer underneath)

Neoprene booties

Pogies or gloves

Wool hat

The final thing to remember about winter paddling is to approach it with the right attitude. Don’t take risks you don’t need to and take extra precautions before you go. Paddling during the winter means there will be fewer people on the water, so you need to be able to rely on yourself and your paddling partner should something go awry. Keep these tips in mind:

Paddle with at least one partner and or make sure someone on dry land knows when you’re going out

Watch weather forecasts for bad weather and unexpected warm days

Pick spots that are close to home – you don’t want to take a long road trip somewhere and then feel like you must paddle should bad weather arise

While you’re on the water, try to stay near the shoreline to minimize the distance you need to swim should it come to it

Always, ALWAYS, wear your Life Jacket

No cotton. It soaks up water and holds it against your skin, leaving it worthless as an insulator and heavy as a layer. A worthless, worthless fabric in the water.

No cotton; seriously.

Ideas for paddlewear

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