Winter Paddling: Chilly Climate Doesn’t Must Maintain You off the Water

In case you dwell in some place that’s heat year-round and have by no means needed to ponder paddling in freezing, icy, circumstances you don’t have to learn any additional.  Alternatively, when you’ve got some morbid curiosity about what it’s like for these in northern climates who need to paddle all year long, by all means learn on.

Earlier than I begin, let me state unequivocally that I hate being chilly.  Regardless of being Canadian, I’ve by no means been an enormous winter individual and would slightly hibernate than benefit from the nice outside for many of December, January and February.  I’m a summer time man, and I do summer time sports activities.  Possibly it’s as a result of I grew up in southern Ontario, the place ski runs are quick and raise strains are lengthy that I don’t have a lot time for snowboarding or snowboarding.  To do both, I’ve to drive at the very least a few hours, stand in strains all day, and freeze in biting chilly and wind, simply to take pleasure in just a few good runs.  All of it appears so pointless and a little bit of a waste of time.  Have been there mountains in my yard I’m positive I’d really feel in another way.  Cross-country snowboarding is a extra interesting choice in my a part of the world and I do it just a few instances a yr however, the place I dwell, it nonetheless includes numerous driving.  As such, I’ve by no means actually gotten into it in the way in which I’ve paddling.   For my total profession as a dash canoe paddler, as soon as frozen off the water I just about confined myself to power work and a ton of working and swimming as my cardio coaching actions.  

Nevertheless, as soon as I began rise up paddling after which retired from instructing, I found that there’s no motive to cease paddling simply because the river is frozen and the temperature is under freezing. I found that SUP lends itself to paddling on massive open water like Lake Ontario by way of a whole winter in a approach dash canoe doesn’t.  I found that it’s truly doable, with the proper gear and a few widespread sense, to paddle safely all winter and ENJOY IT.  So, let’s check out winter paddling and, should you’ve by no means carried out it earlier than, the right way to get began.   I’ll share just a few concepts that may assist you to lengthen your paddling season safely, productively and enjoyably and make the winter appear to cross by just a little extra rapidly.


It’s solely as chilly as you suppose it’s

A very powerful factor to know about winter paddling is that, if equipped correctly, it’s solely as chilly as you suppose it’s.

Earlier than I spotted what is definitely doable, I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing something on the water when the air temperature drops under freezing and the water temperature hovers round it.  These circumstances appear nasty for strolling the canine, not to mention paddling.  Throw a wind chill on prime of that, the place the “looks like” temperature is effectively under freezing, and it looks like an insane concept to exit and do something on the water.  But ask your self, would you go for a run, downhill ski, or cross-country ski in these circumstances?  After all you’ll.

How goes for a SUP paddle on flat water any totally different than going for a run?  In case you’re assured that you simply’ll keep dry and are equipped correctly in case you don’t, it’s principally the identical factor.  Even should you’re paddling in tough water it’s not likely any totally different, supplied you respect the circumstances and ensure your threshold for secure circumstances is a bit more conservative than it’s in the summertime.

You’ll discover that with the proper gear you barely discover the water temperature once you fall in and that not solely is it fairly secure to paddle in freezing temperatures (assuming you’re taking the required security precautions), you possibly can truly be toasty heat whereas doing it.  Get the concept it’s insane to paddle within the winter out of your head.  It may be heat and comfy and, since you’re sporting the correct gear, it’d truly be safer than the paddling you usually do within the spring and fall once you aren’t geared as much as the identical diploma.

Gearing up

You’re going to need to spend just a little longer on the point of paddle within the winter than you do in the summertime.  It’s now not only a case of placing on some board shorts and a few sunscreen and getting on the market.  Let’s have a look at all of the gear you’ll want, from head to toe.  I need to stress that I’m not doing product critiques.  Whereas we’ll do some product critiques in future points, right here we’re simply taking a look at the kind of gear it’s good to take pleasure in your paddling safely and productively.


These are important whether or not you’re paddling within the flats or on tough water and also you’ll put on them extra all year long than another piece of chilly climate gear, beginning someplace in October and stretching proper by way of the winter till mid-Could.  Mainly, you’ll put on them virtually every single day you paddle when the air and water temperatures drop under 10 C (50 F).

In case your ft have ever gotten actually chilly whereas paddling you’ll perceive simply how depressing it may be and the way chilly ft can completely mess up your steadiness and your capability to paddle correctly.  Icy chilly ft lose all their feeling and proprioception.  It turns into exhausting to simply stroll correctly on land with chilly ft, not to mention transfer round in your board and really feel it beneath you.  And since your ft are going to get moist, even in flat water, they’re going to get chilly approach quicker than should you had been simply strolling round on shore in naked ft or sandals.  You positively need to shield them, and what you’re going to wish to do this are some good high quality neoprene boots.

I want to make use of 7mm or 8mm neoprene boots that aren’t break up toe.  Thinner boots will work for temperatures above freezing, however should you’re going to paddle in colder circumstances they received’t hold you heat sufficient, and break up toed boots separate your massive toe from the opposite 4, which suggests they will’t hold one another firm and hold one another heat.  It additionally means you possibly can’t put on socks beneath your boots, and that’s one thing that’s important as soon as the temperatures fall under freezing.  I be certain my boots are sufficiently big to permit me to place a pair of merino wool socks on beneath when wanted.  Once more, that’s not doable in break up toed boots.


You’re more likely to put on gloves greater than another piece of chilly climate paddling clothes besides on your boots.  As soon as the wind chill drops to shut to freezing you’ll positively be happier with gloves in your arms.  Paddling with chilly arms is sort of as dangerous as paddling with freezing chilly ft.  They are going to restrict your capability to carry on to your paddle correctly, risking it slipping in your arms (which may result in you swimming) and chilly fingers take a very long time to heat up afterward.  I’ve had hassle altering after paddling and tying my board on the automotive afterward with chilly arms.  You’ll end up sitting within the automotive with the heater cranked making an attempt to heat up your arms so you possibly can button up your pants and tie your board down should you’re not cautious.  

I take advantage of 3mm neoprene gloves all winter.  Admittedly, these aren’t very thick and shouldn’t be heat sufficient in deep freeze circumstances, however I discover thicker gloves actually restrict my capability to correctly really feel the paddle and may actually make my forearms tighten up because of this.  This could have an enormous detrimental impression in your paddling and ought to be prevented.  I’ve additionally tried neoprene mitts, which ought to be hotter than gloves, however I discover that additionally they have an effect on my capability to correctly really feel the paddle shaft in my arms and are actually awkward when doing facet adjustments.  

So, how do you retain your arms heat in solely 3mm gloves in an actual deep freeze?  I’ll share an superior tip for doing this within the subsequent part.  

One thing to cowl your head 

You lose an amazing quantity of warmth by way of your head in chilly temperatures should you aren’t sporting a hat, so some kind of head protecting in important for winter paddling.  I’ve two choices that I take advantage of.

For days the place I do know I’m not more likely to fall in, I take advantage of a wool toque (Canadian for beanie) that comes down far sufficient over my ears to cowl most of them when pulled down cosy. This retains my head and ears toasty heat.  Sadly, if it will get moist it doesn’t do a lot to maintain me heat and, in reality, goes to make my head freeze as it will likely be moist.  I’ve been informed that wool can hold you heat even when it’s moist, however I don’t suppose that applies to your head whether it is drenched in deep freeze circumstances.  In case you put a soaking moist wool cap in your head in subfreezing temperatures, I assure your head goes to freeze like an ice dice.  So, when circumstances get just a little rougher within the winter and I feel there’s a probability that I’m going to fall in, I put on a 1mm neoprene toque.

I’ve fallen in lots of instances in winter sporting a 1mm neoprene toque and it nonetheless retains my head heat.  In truth, it’s fairly tight and tends to maintain my head dry as effectively.  I’ve SUP surfed many instances within the winter with this toque on and been within the water rather a lot, completely submerged, and it nonetheless does the job.  For many paddlers this ought to be very ample winter head put on.

For these which might be browsing or SUP browsing and are going to be within the water rather a lot, with their head usually underneath the floor, a neoprene hood might be a better option.  These are principally hood like hats that cowl your total head besides on your face and lengthen down your neck far sufficient to suit underneath your moist swimsuit.  I discover them just a little confining and so not often use one, selecting the neoprene toque as an alternative, but when I had been going to be within the water rather a lot in actually chilly circumstances the hood could be my selection.  

Dry swimsuit or moist swimsuit?

In case you’re going to winter paddle safely, it’s good to be ready to fall in and be capable to get again in your board and paddle dwelling with out getting hypothermia.  One thing past the cool climate clothes you put on for paddling within the late spring or early fall is important.  You’ll want both an excellent moist swimsuit or a dry swimsuit and since they’re fairly totally different, every with their execs and cons, let’s check out each.

Moist swimsuit

A great dry-lock moist swimsuit will hold you heat in nearly any water if it’s thick sufficient.  The upside of that’s that it offers you an enormous sense of confidence once you’re paddling in massive, chilly, water.  You’ll be able to paddle fully relaxed and uninhibited and completely go for it, whether or not you’re downwinding or SUP browsing.  The draw back is that, until you’re within the water rather a lot, you’re probably going to overheat.  As soon as that’s occurred you’ll discover it actually troublesome simply to paddle simply, not to mention work exhausting.

I take advantage of a 4/3 Excel dry-lock wetsuit once I’m on Lake Ontario in tough water, with air temperatures wherever between -10 C (14 F) and 5 C (40 F) and water temperatures between 0 C (32 F) and 5 C (40 F).  I don’t suppose you need to go together with a swimsuit that’s any thinner than 4/3 in deep winter circumstances. Lately, since I personal just a few dry fits, I solely use the wetsuit when it’s actually tough, uneven, water or there’s massive wind waves and swell.  Mainly, if I feel there’s an excellent probability that I’m going to be getting in, I’ll put on the wetsuit.  Mockingly, most days I put on it I truly don’t fall in, however it’s nonetheless value sporting in these circumstances.  Initially, I’ve such an elevated degree of confidence sporting this swimsuit that I find yourself paddling extra relaxed and push my limits higher than I in any other case would, and that’s once I’m almost certainly to enhance.  Secondly, once I do fall in, I’m actually comfortable I’m sporting it.  I barely really feel the water and, as a result of it’s a dry lock, there’s not even a touch of that uncomfortable trickle of chilly water down my again.  I actually don’t expertise that harmful shock that takes your breath away and makes your muscle groups seize once you fall into icy water with none safety.  In truth, I’ve jumped off my board earlier than and swam like a seal by way of a densely packed cluster of ice chunks with out even feeling them, which was fairly cool.  As well as, these fits make you just a little extra buoyant so I really feel extraordinarily secure whereas sporting it.

If I’m going to be within the water rather a lot, or for an prolonged time period, I go for a moist swimsuit.  Offered it’s thick sufficient, it’s by far the safer choice should you anticipate to be swimming rather a lot or within the water for a very long time.  These are the professionals, nevertheless there are cons.

Such a thick wetsuit is just a little confining and restricts your motion a bit. You’ll positively discover the distinction between paddling in it versus paddling in a dry swimsuit, which principally permits you to really feel as unencumbered as you do whereas paddling in your board shorts.  The larger drawback with a moist swimsuit that’s appropriate for deep winter circumstances is that, should you’re not falling in, you’ll normally be overheating after about 30 to 40 minutes, particularly when the air temperature is just a little on the hotter facet.  That is the large motive why I by no means paddle in a moist swimsuit when a dry swimsuit will safely do.  And not using a joke, I get so scorching in these fits that I really feel like I’m going to have a stroke.  If I had been a automotive I’d be on the facet of the street with my hood propped up and steam billowing out.   I regularly find yourself leaping off my board and sitting within the water with my arms draped over it, stress-free for as a lot as 10 minutes like that to attempt to cool off earlier than getting again on and paddling once more.  Whereas I’ve skilled some actually nice Zen-like moments doing that, I’m inviting a 911 name from involved folks on shore who suppose I’m in hassle.  That’s a problem I don’t need and it’s not truthful to both the individual involved sufficient to make the decision or the primary responder who solutions it.

In case you go the moist swimsuit route and are planning on paddling on a regular basis, it is best to actually take into account having two fits to be able to alternate them.  Doing meaning you’ll by no means need to crawl into a humid moist swimsuit on a chilly day, which isn’t a lot enjoyable.

Paddling dry swimsuit

The choice I want for nearly all of my winter paddling is a paddling dry swimsuit.  The concept with a dry swimsuit is that you simply simply put some working garments beneath the swimsuit after which go paddle.  If the dry swimsuit suits correctly, you barely notice you may have it on and you may basically paddle as freely and unencumbered as you’ll in the summertime.  The underneath layer you put on supplies the insulation and the outer layer of the swimsuit retains you dry once you fall in, permitting you to get again in your board and proceed paddling.  In idea, you keep fully dry inside a dry swimsuit.  In follow that not often occurs.  I normally find yourself fairly soaked in sweat by the tip of the paddle, however the great point is that as chilly as it’s outdoors, it all the time looks like summer time inside your swimsuit should you’re working exhausting sufficient.  

It’s vital to acknowledge {that a} paddling dry swimsuit shouldn’t be confused with a survival swimsuit.  These fits are only a mild, skinny layer of breathable waterproof cloth, which is a part of what makes them so comfy for paddling.  Nevertheless, they don’t have any insulation worth of their very own.  It’s the layers that you simply placed on beneath them that hold you heat.  Even should you’re layered up fairly effectively, if you find yourself within the water for any considerable time period, you’re going to get chilly fairly rapidly.  You don’t need to make the error of considering these fits provide you with a protracted survival time in chilly water.  In case you suppose you may be within the water rather a lot, or for a protracted time period, select a 4/3 wetsuit to paddle in.  Not solely will you may have a for much longer “secure in water” time however, should you’re repeatedly climbing again onto your board, you’re much less more likely to injury your moist swimsuit than your dry swimsuit, which is skinny and slightly delicate compared.

There are a variety of various dry swimsuit manufacturers and never all are the identical.  Some are actually thick and cumbersome and don’t breathe effectively in any respect.  I had a type of as soon as and it was depressing for paddling in.  The zipper seemed prehistoric and was stiff and actually troublesome to make use of whereas the latex neck gasket felt prefer it was going to strangle me.  Furthermore, it was poorly becoming and so contained an excessive amount of air.  Once I ended up within the water, the air could be pushed by the water stress to the highest of the swimsuit.  That is advantageous should you go into the water ft first however inconvenient should you occur to go in face first.  On a couple of event I struggled to proper myself after getting in head first.


Though this isn’t a product evaluate, you have to be on the lookout for a swimsuit that’s designed for SUP paddling.  SUPskin ( ) actually pioneered SUP particular dry fits and, in my view, nonetheless present one of the best fits you may get, nevertheless there are different manufacturers that market paddling fits as effectively like Degree Six, Ocean Rodeo and Starboard, to call just a few.  In case you’re on the lookout for a paddling dry swimsuit, store round and ask questions of those that use them or promote them. Even should you don’t know anybody utilizing one personally, any paddling group on social media will probably have members who use them who will likely be comfortable to reply questions or present recommendation.  

There are some options that you simply’ll need to take into account when choosing your dry swimsuit.  First, you’ll need to determine whether or not you desire a swimsuit with “socks” built-in into it or no socks and ankle gaskets as an alternative.  The fits with built-in socks are basically closed on the backside of every leg with little foot-shaped socks constructed into the swimsuit.  You simply put the swimsuit on after which slip the swimsuit socks into your boots and also you’re able to go.

As interesting and simple as a swimsuit with the built-in socks sounds, after making an attempt them I spotted I want to make use of fits with ankle gaskets on the backside of every leg. The legs on these fits look extra like these on common trousers they usually have the identical kind of gaskets (however bigger) on the ankles as they do at every wrist. This retains water from working up your leg into the swimsuit should you fall in.  I want the swimsuit with ankle gaskets as a result of I can pull the gaskets over the tops of my boots and in doing so hold my ft completely dry whereas paddling.  With the built-in socks and no gaskets, your boots can fill with water once you wade into the water to launch.  Though your ft keep dry due to the socks, I discover that if my boots are crammed with chilly water my ft get just a little colder by way of the dry swimsuit materials.  While you’re paddling in actually chilly circumstances it’s good to start out off feeling as heat as doable, slightly than freezing when you wait on your paddling effort to heat your ft up.  One other con to the built-in socks is that they forestall you from sporting split-toe neoprene booties. Some paddlers want the split-toe type as a result of they supply a greater board really feel and make thick neoprene booties really feel much less cumbersome.

One other function that you simply’ll need to take into account is what kind of neck gasket the swimsuit has, both neoprene or latex.  Latex gaskets will likely be extra watertight, however they match much more snugly round your neck and I discover them a lot much less comfy.  Neoprene gaskets would possibly enable a slight dribble to enter your swimsuit in case your head will get submersed, however they’re very comfy – not a lot totally different than sporting a cushty turtle neck.

Lastly, you’ll need to take into account the kind of zipper – both diagonal throughout your chest or strait up your entrance from just under your waist to your neck.  The straight zippered fits are simpler to get out and in of and I discover them to be barely extra comfy, however actually, when you’re paddling, there’s not an enormous distinction.  

In case you go the dry swimsuit route, you’re going to need to additionally take into account the garments you put on beneath it.  Quite a lot of layering choices from mild working tights to thicker, fleece-lined tights and tops go away you ready for just about something.  It’s going to take you some time to determine precisely what to put on underneath your swimsuit in sure circumstances and temperatures, and when you’re studying, you’ll probably have days the place you’re chilly and others the place you overheat.  However, when you’ve obtained it discovered you have to be actually comfy virtually each time you paddle whatever the circumstances.

The underside line is, should you’re going to paddle safely and enjoyably deep into winter you’re going to wish both a moist swimsuit or dry swimsuit.  Even should you don’t find yourself falling in, secure paddling requires you to be ready to after which be capable to safely get again in your board and proceed paddling with out getting hypothermia.  Simply sporting chilly climate working gear, for instance, isn’t ample.  

Right here’s a hyperlink to a video we posted just a few years in the past the place I stroll by way of gearing up for a paddle on a brisk, -17C (1 F) morning.


Clearly, being correctly equipped is the primary ingredient in secure winter paddling.  Failure to gear up correctly can result in an disagreeable expertise in one of the best case and a lethal expertise within the worst case.  Overlook about winter paddling in chilly climates should you’re not prepared to put money into some applicable gear.  That stated, there are a variety of different issues associated to security that you simply’ll need to take into account as effectively.  

Don’t exit with out your security gear

You’ll need to ensure you have the identical security gear with you that you simply do in the summertime.  At a minimal this implies you want a PFD and a leash.  That is non-negotiable.  I need to stress the significance of a leash.  Whereas getting separated out of your board in the summertime is dangerous, within the winter it may be lethal.  Extra vital than the rest is having the ability to get again in your board once you fall off.  A leash ensures you’ll have the chance to do this.  

One factor to recollect about your leash is that it is best to retailer it inside between paddles slightly than in your board within the storage, or within the automotive.  Metallic can get brittle and may fatigue in deep freeze circumstances, and the small metallic components in your leash aren’t that sturdy within the first place and usually tend to break underneath pressure in deep freezing circumstances than in the summertime.  So, hold your leash inside and examine it frequently all through the winter.

In case your native necessities name for a whistle, signaling gadget and a tow rope for summer time paddling, then take them with you within the winter as effectively.  Winter paddling just isn’t the time to chop corners the place security is worried.  


Completely don’t paddle in larger or more difficult circumstances than you’ll in the summertime.  Your margin for error is rather a lot smaller in chilly climate and chilly water, and the winter just isn’t the time to learn to stretch your limits.  I’m not embarrassed to confess that my threshold for difficult circumstances drops within the winter.  I’m extra respectful of larger water and powerful winds in winter than in summer time, and I’m extra more likely to go for a run or go to the gymnasium as an alternative of paddling earlier than the circumstances attain my typical heat climate threshold.  Keep in mind, when taking a look at circumstances from the shore, it’s all the time larger and more difficult on the market than it appears to be like.  Have a look at every single day of winter paddling as a bonus. Lacking a day isn’t the tip of the world. It isn’t going to kill you should you don’t find yourself getting out on the water and need to go to the gymnasium as an alternative for a day or two per week.  Alternatively, it’d actually kill you should you exceed your limits in winter when the margin for error is way much less. 

Get an excellent climate app

A great climate and/or wind app is important.  You’ll need to know not solely what the circumstances are like earlier than you go, however how they may change when you’re on the market.  In contrast to the summer time, the place you’re almost certainly involved about wind, waves and the potential for thunderstorms, within the winter it’s good to additionally take into account the temperature and the “looks like” wind chill temperature.  

On vital factor you’ll need to bear in mind concerning the wind is that in chilly temperatures the air is denser.  This makes the wind “heavier”.  For instance, a 20 km/h wind that may kick up some small chop in the summertime goes to kick up whitecaps as much as two ft or extra in subfreezing temperatures.  The denser air interacts extra with the water, kicking up waves way more simply.  You’ll need to know, with a reasonably good degree of confidence, what to anticipate when you’re on the water so that you don’t find yourself in over your head or battling a powerful offshore wind whereas making an attempt to get again to shore.

Can I paddle alone?

The reply is, sure, with expertise you possibly can paddle alone safely within the winter.  Nevertheless, it’s crucial that what you’re doing, are equipped correctly, are leashed with a PFD, have judged the circumstances correctly, have consulted a dependable app and know what to anticipate when you’re on the market, and are paddling on acquainted water.  I paddle alone often within the winter and have by no means felt unsafe as a result of I’m skilled, verify all of the containers listed above and all the time err on the facet of security.  I’m not a hero and am fairly content material to go to the gymnasium as an alternative if I can’t get somebody to paddle with me and the circumstances are even remotely questionable.

In case you’re much less skilled or are paddling in water you aren’t conversant in, I’d counsel solely paddling with firm.  Make sure that the individual you’re paddling with has all the suitable gear and checks all the protection containers.  Keep in mind, having to rescue another person can put you in jeopardy.  You’ll need to be certain they’ve an appropriate degree of competence so it’s unlikely they’ll want you to rescue them, and that they’re competent sufficient to return to your assist if wanted.  The fact is, should you’re each succesful and make the suitable security choices, the possibility of both of you having to rescue the opposite is extraordinarily distant.  

I’m lucky sufficient to have had a bunch to paddle with for the final a number of winters.  Typically I’m on the market with only one different individual, generally I’m out with a dozen others. Simply because it does in the summertime, paddling with others makes paddling higher.  Sharing the expertise of being on the water at any time of yr is healthier than being on the market alone and that’s notably true within the winter.  Plus, you’ll have somebody to go for a pleasant heat espresso with after.  

Do I have to take my cellphone or some kind of radio?

In my view, you solely have to take a cellular phone or radio with you should you do in the summertime or it will make you’re feeling extra comfy.  I’ve by no means taken both with me, summer time or winter.  In case you’re paddling with others in acquainted waters in circumstances which might be effectively inside your limits then I actually see no want from a security standpoint. In case you’re prepared to threat taking your cellphone on the water you would possibly need to use it to take some nice winter paddling images, however in my view, it isn’t important for security. Within the last evaluation, nevertheless, it’s as much as you.  At all times go for what makes you’re feeling most secure.    

Keep nearer to shore than regular

Whilst you need to watch out you don’t get caught contained in the break (if there may be one), staying nearer to shore is a good suggestion in winter circumstances.  You’re rather less distance from shore ought to something go incorrect and also you’re much less more likely to have problem getting again to shore ought to winds shift and begin blowing exhausting offshore.  

Make sure that your launch website is secure (and will likely be there once you get again)

Attempt to choose a spot to launch from that’s simple to entry out of your automotive and has simple, unobstructed entry to the water freed from submerged rocks, and so forth.  That is particularly vital whether it is tough.  You don’t need to injury your board on submerged rocks and also you don’t need to twist your ankle or fall onto sharp rocks just under the floor whereas getting on or off your board.  

While you’re launching, plan forward and take into consideration your exit.  Is your launch website going to be there once you get again?  Examine for drifting ice which may block entry to a straightforward exit from the water on the finish of your paddle. 

Know the native shoreline and the place you may get out if wanted

A part of paddling in acquainted waters includes being conversant in the shoreline.  Whereas it’s all the time a good suggestion to know the place you may get out in an emergency, that is notably true, and infrequently trickier, within the winter.  Ice can construct up alongside the shoreline that may make your typical exit spots inaccessible.  Know which exit factors can be found and the way far you might be from them once you’re on the market.  This data ought to issue into your “is it secure?” evaluation.  If there aren’t numerous locations to get out of the water, you’ll need to be certain the circumstances are actually tame so that you’ll be much less more likely to get in hassle.  

Be careful for icebergs

Clearly, massive ice chunks are going to be fairly simple to see in flat water.  Nevertheless, there are sometimes smaller ice chunks which might be nonetheless sufficiently big to both knock you off your board or injury your board which might be usually exhausting to see.  In the event that they’re not coated in snow they’ll be the identical coloration because the water and sitting very deep within the water, in order that they’re virtually flush with the water floor.  They are often extraordinarily troublesome to identify even in flat water, particularly in boring, flat mild or in case you are paddling into the solar.  It’s crucial to paddle along with your head up, conscious of what may be within the water forward.

In case you’re paddling in rougher water, ice might be unimaginable to identify till it’s too late and, should you’re downwinding, you’ll be going rather a lot quicker once you collide with it.  Think about what’s within the water earlier than deciding to downwind or paddle when it’s tough.  Typically it’s higher to take a cross than to enterprise out in water filled with ice chunks.  

Be additional cautious shifting round in your board

In case you’re paddling on a dugout board that drains very well, you’re going to seek out the standing space of your board will get coated in a glaze of very slippery ice in sub-freezing temperatures.  The identical factor can occur on a flat-decked board that doesn’t puddle up the place you stand.  

In case you’re paddling on a board that puddles round your ft, it’s unlikely to freeze and can simply slush up as an alternative.  This implies you possibly can transfer round to a level, however you’ll need to be very cautious stepping again to show or when downwinding as the world that doesn’t puddle up will likely be coated in clean, very slippery ice.   

I’ve stepped again and slid proper off the again of my board.  In case you’re correctly equipped this isn’t the tip of the world, however it’s nonetheless an disagreeable shock that’s avoidable should you do not forget that your board goes to get slippery if it begins icing up.


Keep away from shifting water (present) and ice

Ice and currents are a nasty mixture.  These circumstances usually happen within the spring.  I’ve paddled on a river that has been open and secure one second, solely to seek out huge ice chunks, that might simply crush me, barreling down the river in the direction of me from upstream.  Know the water you’re paddling on and if it’s a river, wait till the ice has fully flushed earlier than going out.   

One other factor to watch out of is paddling upstream of fully frozen over water when there’s a present.  You don’t need to get swept underneath the ice should you fall off and aren’t in a position to get again in your board in time.  

Extra suggestions that may make your paddling extra gratifying

During the last a number of years, I’ve found numerous little issues that may make an enormous distinction in how gratifying your winter paddles might be.  Let me share them with you right here slightly than go away you to determine them out for your self.  In case you’re an skilled winter paddler and have a helpful tip that I fail to say, please remark under and share it.  I’m all the time occupied with studying from others.

Put on socks underneath your boots

Because it will get colder, 7mm or 8mm of neoprene isn’t going to be sufficient to maintain your ft heat.  Purchase your boots sufficiently big to permit for a pair of socks beneath – merino wool socks are one of the best.  Get plastic produce baggage from the grocery retailer and pull them over your socks, then stick your “bagged ft” into your boots.  The baggage will hold your ft dry, assist your ft warmth up extra when you begin to work, break the wind if it’s actually windy, and let you slide your ft into and out of your boots way more simply than sporting simply socks will. This technique retains my ft heat in all however the very coldest winter temperatures with wind chill values dropping under -20C.  Even then paddling is bearable.  I can’t bear in mind the final time I needed to get off the water within the winter as a result of my ft had been chilly.  

Use medical examination gloves underneath your neoprene gloves

I discussed that 3mm neoprene gloves are superb as they aren’t tremendous thick and awkward so subsequently don’t have an effect on your grip an excessive amount of.  Nevertheless, they’re fairly skinny for actually chilly temperatures.  What makes them usable and heat at even the coldest temperatures is layering them with medical examination gloves. Put these gloves in your arms first, after which slide them into your neoprene gloves.  This layering helps break the wind, which can blow by way of 3mm of neoprene, and causes your arms to sweat.  Your sweat will get heat and retains your arms and fingers heat.  I take advantage of blue nitrile gloves all the way down to wind chills of -25C and it’s all the time bearable on my fingers. These gloves additionally shield any cuts or scrapes in your arms from publicity to micro organism that may be discovered inside soiled neoprene gloves.

Swimsuit up at dwelling earlier than paddling

That is fairly self-explanatory.  When it will get actually chilly you’ll need to gear up at dwelling.  This contains your boots.  I normally load my board on the automotive, then gear up, then drive to the place I launch.  

Altering outdoors earlier than you paddle goes to be actually chilly, and it will go away you chilled once you hit the water.  It’s going to take you a very long time to heat up in actually chilly circumstances, making a lot of your paddle disagreeable.  In distinction, altering outdoors after paddling if you find yourself all heated up normally isn’t too dangerous in any respect.

Heat your gloves on the automotive dashboard whereas driving to launch

I’ll put each my neoprene gloves and my nitrile gloves up on the sprint over the windshield defrost vents, then crank the warmth whereas driving to paddling.  Within the 10 minutes or so it takes to drive to the place I launch, they get toasty heat. I’ll put them on simply earlier than I’m able to get on the water and my arms will likely be heat proper from the primary stroke.  This makes an enormous distinction on these –10 C or colder days when it will probably in any other case take some time to heat up.  

Maintain all of your chilly climate paddling gear in an enormous plastic tub and convey it with you every single day 

I fill a bathtub with every thing from fins and screwdrivers, to additional gloves, toques, socks, plastic baggage, and so forth. and toss it within the automotive every single day once I go paddling.  I’m prepared for something as soon as I get to the water and see what the circumstances are.  Plus, when I’m altering after paddling the lid is sweet for standing on in order that I can hold my ft heat and dry.   

Get a boot drying rack 

These are massive sellers in Canadian {hardware} shops within the winter and solely value round ten {dollars}.  They sit over the heating vent on the ground and let you put your boots and gloves on it as quickly as you get dwelling.  The nice and cozy air from the furnace blows into them and they’re virtually all the time heat and dry the subsequent morning.  See determine 1.

In case you’re paddling every single day, take into account multiples of sure items of clothes/gear

In case you’re utilizing a dry swimsuit, you’ll need multiples of the gadgets you employ probably the most on your underneath layer.  This lets you double layers up on actually chilly days and ensures that you simply’ve all the time obtained dry underneath layering once you want it.  Regardless of your finest efforts to maintain your paddling socks dry with plastic baggage, you’ll discover they nonetheless get moist and generally don’t dry absolutely between periods.  Having at the very least two pairs of socks you possibly can rotate to be used inside your boots is important should you paddle every single day.  Lastly, should you select to go the wetsuit route and paddle every single day, you could need to put money into a second wetsuit as they are going to be completely soaked after every paddle (whether or not you fall in or not) and may take a very long time to fully dry.  There’s nothing worse than placing on moist garments in chilly climate.  You’ll need to keep away from that in any respect prices.  

Suggestions for breaking ice

In case you paddle sufficient within the winter, sooner or later you’re probably going to wish to interrupt ice.  We’re not speaking about thick ice-berg like chunks however slightly skinny sheet ice that kinds in a single day after which normally melts within the day as soon as the solar hits it. 

Breaking ice sounds rather a lot worse once you’re doing it than it truly is.  It sounds such as you’re completely destroying your board however, should you do it proper, your board will come out unscathed.  Just be sure you stand again sufficient in your board to get your nostril up simply sufficient to trip over the ice slightly than plow by way of it.  This each protects your board and permits it to behave like an icebreaker by driving barely up on the ice, then breaking the ice beneath its weight.  Keep in mind, you’ll need to watch out stepping again in your board to get the nostril up so that you don’t slip.  Boards with noses that flip upwards, like my Starboard All Star, are higher for winter paddling and ice breaking than flat water boards with longer water strains and extra piercing noses, like my Starboard Dash, as you don’t have to maneuver again as far to trip up over the ice. 

Clearly, there’s a restrict to the thickness of the ice you possibly can break.  To be secure it’s good to be certain the ice just isn’t so thick that your paddle can’t simply break by way of it as effectively.  In case your board can break by way of the ice however your paddle can’t, you’re going to get caught, which isn’t solely inconvenient, however unsafe.   

Clear as a lot of the ice off your board as you possibly can earlier than you’re taking it out of the water

You’re going to seek out ice increase in your board.  This isn’t going to harm your board, it’s simply going to make it just a little heavier to paddle and carry to the automotive afterward.  You’ll need to take a second within the shallow water once you get off your board to scrape as a lot of the ice off your board as you possibly can.  When you get away from the water and your board will get just a little drier, the ice on it would harden like rock and there’s no approach you’ll be capable to simply get it off.  Until you may have a heated storage, when it will get actually chilly, you’re more likely to discover ice in your board the subsequent morning.  So, take a second to scrape what ice you possibly can off of your board whereas it’s nonetheless within the water.

Get the ice off your dry swimsuit legs earlier than you get out of the water as effectively

In case you put on a dry swimsuit you’re more likely to get numerous ice increase across the bottoms of every leg.  It could possibly get fairly thick, particularly if there’s a little bit of a wind and a few splashing off the nostril of the board.  Simply as it’s simpler to take away ice off your board whereas it’s nonetheless within the water, the identical applies to your dry swimsuit.  Scrunch the fabric and choose at it whereas it’s moist and numerous it would come off on the water.  In case you wait until you get to your automotive you simply would possibly discover it’s all of the sudden a lot more durable.  An excessive amount of ice across the bottoms of the pant legs could make it exhausting to get the swimsuit off.  So, should you’re planning on stopping for a espresso or going purchasing for groceries on the way in which dwelling and don’t need to do it in an icy dry swimsuit, get the ice off instantly, slightly than ready until you’re about to alter.

Winter paddling – the underside line

Winter paddling is enjoyable.  Winter circumstances, whether or not they’re clear, crisp and brilliantly sunny or darkish, gloomy and grey, might be stunning.  I’ll regularly sit down on my board and simply go searching.  Grey winter skies might be surprisingly stunning and underappreciated, and the skinny ribbon of grey and white you see alongside the shore from out on the water is exclusive to winter paddling and might be fairly as effectively.  In case you’re lucky sufficient to have just a little snow falling, you’re in for a beautiful and distinctive winter expertise that most individuals won’t ever know.  

Winter paddling is arguably safer than paddling within the spring and the autumn, once you usually aren’t equipped in addition to within the winter and so can find yourself in additional hassle should you fall in.  For these which might be severe about coaching, winter paddling might be extraordinarily productive.  With the proper gear you’re not solely secure, however comfy sufficient to work simply as exhausting, and paddle simply as effectively, as you do in the summertime.

I’ve been requested many instances by these watching from shore as I get off the water, “Aren’t you chilly?”  I all the time reply that I’m most likely hotter than they’re.  I’m actually hotter paddling each morning than I’m strolling my canine each afternoon.  

I’m often accused of being reckless or doing one thing harmful by these watching from shore.  That is removed from the reality.  In truth, probably the most harmful factor I do each morning, by a substantial quantity, is driving to paddling by way of rush hour visitors. In case you strategy your winter paddling the way in which I’ve described right here and don’t ever take any shortcuts with security, you’ll be as secure within the winter as you might be in the summertime.

A very powerful factor to recollect about winter paddling is that, whether or not in a bunch or solo, you’re just about by yourself.  There aren’t going to be others on the market like there are in the summertime.  In lots of locations, the marine police and rescue items shut down for the winter.  It could possibly take them an hour or extra simply to sortie should you get in hassle, not to mention truly discover you and assist you to.  By then it may be too late.  These realities shouldn’t deter you from winter paddling, however they need to make you’re taking every thing security associated very critically.  Your margin for error is near zero.  In case you perceive that and make your choices accordingly, being extra security conscious than you might be in the summertime, you’ll be advantageous.

Those that dwell in hotter climates are lacking out on a tremendous expertise.  Those that dwell in northern climates who’ve entry to secure open water within the winter ought to give it a strive.  There’s no motive paddling ought to be a three-season exercise solely.  

You’ll be able to most likely get all of the gear it’s good to get began for lower than $1000, although should you go for an excellent dry fit your gear finances is more likely to value you $1500 or extra.  Nevertheless, once you notice that the gear, if you take care of it correctly, ought to final a number of seasons that value appears fairly cheap. 

Right here’s hoping this submit evokes folks to provide winter paddling a attempt to supplies those that already get on the market with some new concepts that may improve their expertise.  Please remark and tell us about your winter paddling experiences.  We’re genuinely occupied with listening to your tales!

Completely happy winter paddling!

Further Sources 

Winter associated posts from the our archives;

Cold Water Safety is No Joke

The Inland Paddler: Under the Weather – Strategies for Beating The Winter Cold

OC Winter Training: What Should I do?

The Inland Paddler: Cold Weather Paddling is Here! Yay!

Gear Review: Wetsox Split Toe Therms

A Wind (and other relevant conditions) Primer

It’s a Safety Thing, Y’all

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