October typically marks the end of paddling season for many. If you’re not quite ready to put your board away yet, here are some cold weather paddling tips.
1. Check the weather
- It’s important before setting out to know what the overall forecast will be for the day. Knowing the air temperature and wind direction is helpful, but it's more helpful to know if a storm is headed your way. There is nothing worse than paddling out only to be caught in a rain or windstorm.
2. Make sure you still have all your essentials
- PFD: In colder weather, a waist belt will not cut it. I always wear my actual PFD because it will not only keep your head above water, but it's also an important layer of insulation when it gets cold.
- Leash: It’s even more important in colder water that your board does not get away from you. Make sure it is securely attached to you and your board. If you are river paddling make sure to use a quick-release waist attachment on your leash.
- Whitewater helmet: Protect your dome! Like a PFD, it's another layer of insulation during those cold days.
- Shoes/Booties: Shoes provide traction between yourself and the deckpad. Like a PFD and a helmet, it's an added layer of insulation.
3. Layering is your best friend
- Move to a thicker wetsuit. If you typically paddle in a 3/2 mm thick wetsuit, depending on how cold it gets in your area you might need a 4/3 mm or 5/4 mm wetsuit. I use a 5/4 mm wetsuit when I know I will be doing a lot of swimming in the winter (when I'm river surfing or whitewater)
- If you are not wearing a wetsuit, make sure to layer with synthetic materials. Make sure none of your layers are cotton. Start with a good base layer in the fall and add more as it gets colder out. A fleece or neoprene top and/or bottom make great base layers. If you are paddling in the middle of winter or cold water conditions (like we have in Colorado) it might be a good idea to invest in a dry suit.
- With colder conditions, it will become even more important to cover all exposed skin. This might mean using neoprene socks, paddling gloves, a hood, or a fleece hat. For shoes, I always go to my Astral Brewers when wearing my drysuit or Astral Hiyaks with my wetsuit for warmth.
- Be sure to layer for the water temperature, even if you don’t plan on falling in.
|Water Temperature:||Hypothermia Risk:||Layers:|
|60F and up||Low||Dress for the weather|
|54-59F||Moderate||3/2 mm wetsuit, splash gear|
|45-55F||High||4/3 mm wetsuit, drysuit recommended maybe gloves and insulated booties.|
|Below 45 F||Extreme||5/4 mm wetsuit or drysuit mandatory with gloves, hood, and insulated booties.|
4. Make sure you eat a good meal
- Consider carrying a hydration pack with you. Hydrating will minimize your chance of getting hypothermia.
- Carbs and high-fat food will provide you with energy and warmth. Eat a good breakfast with carbs and healthy fats to prep your body for your paddle.
- Think about bringing a thermos with hot soup, tea, or hot chocolate in case you get too cold. It's also a great thing to have in the car for after your paddle.
5. Paddle with a partner
- In the event of hypothermia, your paddling partner can save your life. Familiarize yourself with rescue techniques and what to do in the case of hypothermia.
- Tell a friend where you are going and when you will be back.
- Falling in cold water can lead to cold shock, cold incapacitation, hypothermia, and in extreme cases, death.
- I like to use my Astral Greenjacket. The front pocket allows me to carry lots of snacks and a hand warmer I can activate in case my hands or feet get cold.
6. Bring a drybag
- Paddling with a dry bag allows you to carry extra layers (or if you are overheating and need to shed layers), food, a cellphone, camera, and maybe a Luci Outdoor collapsible solar light in case you’re out past dark. Watershed makes a great drybag called the Aleutian that clips into the D-rings on the deck of your paddleboard. As the season progresses it’s important to remember that the days are getting shorter and that it’s going to get dark sooner.
We all love to go out and paddle on a beautiful sunny warm day, follow my tips above to have a fun and safe time out on the water year round!
Post written by Nadia Almuti, a team rider for Hala Gear.