Top Tips For Paddling with Jack Frost
Winter paddling can be an awesome way to experience your favourite spots in a whole new light. Paddling any time of year, we all know, is absolutely amazing.
But choose the right day and a Winter paddle can be next level– it is stunning, but it isn't for the faint-hearted... or the unprepared, a lot of times paddlers don't realise the dangers of cold water.
In most coastal areas, winters can be a calm and settled time to paddle, however conditions can change. Cold mornings and shorter days limit our paddle window but if you make the effort you really will be rewarded.
Here are a few handy tips to get you out paddling safely over the colder months.
Check conditions and have a plan:
Weather is the maker or breaker of your paddle experience, so knowing about the conditions before heading out is a no brainer. Even in the height of summer, getting caught out because of poor planning can really ruin your day. It really is a must to check the weather forecast for the full duration of your paddle. To get the best picture of the forecast it pays to check more than one site or app.
- Windy Ty
Are all good forecasting tools, using collective data to create a computer generated forecast. Some are genera/regional and some can pinpoint/localise weather info, but knowing what you are looking at is key. Learn about your local conditions and what weather patterns effect where you want to paddle. A wind direction at one beach may have a completely different effect on another beach just round the head land.
You want to know the weather, wind strength and direction (now and forecast), tide height and flow if you are at the coast, river flow if you are on a river, and the water temperature.
Remember Wind chill is a huge factor in winter paddling!
At this point it’s also a great idea to make your paddle plan. Work out where your launching from and your route, and even let someone know when you expect to be back on land.
It’s always a good idea to paddle with a mate especially in winter. for safety.
Yeah yeah we know! Solo paddling is amazing, Karen is always late! and Bruce talks too much! but if the pooh hits the fan, its all about safety in numbers. If you like to paddle to hard-to-reach places you’ve got to remember just how much higher the risks are whenever the water is cold. Groups of three are great, that way if a paddler gets into strife, the second one can help the first and the third one either calls for help or take photos and video to boost their social media hits?
Either way, sharing the paddle love is a great way to motivate yourself to get out there and get amongst it!
Wear the right gear:
While winter paddling may call for a Wetsuit, its not always the best gear for flat water paddling. If your don’t usually end up in the water on your paddles in the warmer months, a wetsuit could be more than you want or need. Overheating is common and the ability to cool down with a wettie is difficult, chaffing and discomfort isn’t unheard of, not to mention the nightmare you are faced with if you are busting for a wee!!
Rule of thumb when choosing clothes to paddle in is to layer up. Synthetic fibres or natural fibres such as wool are best– avoid Cotton wherever possible, it might look cool but it has zero thermal properties.
On the bottom next to our skin we can wear some thermals and then build on those thermals depending on the temperature, finishing in an outer layer which is wind- and waterproof like a jacket or pants. Finish it off with some nice snug neoprene booties, to keep our tootsies toasty.
In the summer we might be wearing an inflatable belt but coming into winter we could start think about wearing a foam PDF that can offer greater warmth around our core, plus can prevent you from getting into difficulties with cold water shock if you end up in the drink. Cold water shock is a thing! Its the body’s reaction to a sudden change in temperature. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of this condition before heading out for a paddle, especially if you’re new to paddling.
Take extra gear in a dry bag:
Along with taking a communication device bring along an extra layer of clothes. Helpful if it’s colder than you expected and also for the off chance you end up in the drink. You might want to take a hat and gloves, these are small items that can be pocketed away if not needed but super helpful if you get cold.
High energy snacks are also a great idea! Its crazy how quickly the body can fatigue if its not fuelled properly.
Know your limits:
Is your ability and current fitness sufficient for the challenge and the conditions?
Be sensible about the journey length and your abilities. Remember the cold weather reduces muscle function, and your body needs to work overtime in the winter to stay warm, you use more energy at a much faster rate, which causes your body to fatigue much faster.
For more information head to NZSUPs Cold Water Awareness page
Extra tip:Finish your paddle by a coffee shop!! Nothing better than ending an awesome paddle with a hot drink and warm muffin right??!!