5 Lessons for Cold Weather Paddling

It takes a certain kind of person to want to paddle in the c. But I was desperate to get on the water last March. So I loaded up my 13-year-old son, our Hala boards, and two pups and drove to Chatfield Reservoir near Littleton, Colorado. 

It was a wonderful day on the water. And as with any adventure, I learned a few important lessons along the way. Here are 5 lessons from winter paddling. 

1. Use a Hand Pump to Warm Up

I had planned to use my electric pump to blow up one board and hand pump the second at the same time. But the hand pump was faster! And it helped us warm up for the day. It could have been the cold slowing down my pump, and we were hand pumping the smaller board (our Straight Up. Either way, I recommend using a hand pump on cold days to help get the blood flowing before you get on the water. 

2. Bring Gloves!

I was worried about being cold but ended up having the right layers. I couldn’t feel the water at all through my neoprene pants and booties, even though I waded up to my knees! However, my hands got cold throughout the day. Lesson learned, I will always have gloves for winter days (even late winter days!)

3. Accommodate the Pups

Paddling with dogs can be disastrous, especially if you don’t have room for them. Luckily, the Hala Hoss is like a living room on the water. On the Hoss, I had room for two dogs after they both insisted on riding with me and not my son. 

4. Play it Safe

Cold water exposure can spell bad news. So my son and I played it safe. He was seated with the kayak seat attachment, and there was no chance of him falling in. And even though I have lots of SUP experience, I stayed on my knees for the most part. I was not going in! I also wore my waist air belt just in case.

5. Double Check Accessibility

We didn’t see anyone else on the water at Chatfield. It turns out the reservoir wasn’t open yet, which we discovered after a 20-minute shoreline paddle. From the lake, I saw a white pickup truck flashing its lights, followed by a megaphone blasting in our direction, telling us to return to shore. 

My poor son asked, “Are we going to get arrested?!” as we made our way back. Luckily, the ranger was very kind, and I did not get a ticket because there were no signs saying the waters were closed. They were apparently putting up signage later that day, and I was instructed to come back when the main reservoir (which was still mostly ice) was open to boating.  

The More You Know

Paddling in winter can be a rewarding way to get away from the crowds. However, make sure you dress appropriately, bring the right equipment, and always double-check that the area you want to paddle is open.

See you out there!


Jenny has been SUPing for almost a decade. Whether out paddling for exercise or taking a slow lap with golden retriever (Copper), Jenny finds that SUP is about connecting with the spiritual power of water. When she’s not working as a metalsmith and jewelry designer, Jenny can be found hanging with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and a cat.

Learn More

The Lineup

Our Top Picks