Well, winter is here, and for most of us here in Australia, it means that temperatures might drop below 20 degrees during the day, and even colder overnight. I’m from Queensland, and although it doesn’t get that cold here, I still find myself needing stuff to keep me warm when the water temps drop below 22 degrees.
Climatisation is a weird thing. For anyone who regularly paddles in the southern states where the normal summer water temperatures are far colder than our balmy winter waters, people tend to get used to normal situations and deal.
I have a low tolerance for cold water. I get surfers ear, and headaches when the wind and water combination is too cold. So, I use great products to adapt, to allow me to paddle all year round.
Your paddling season doesn’t need to end when winter hits. There are ways around the cold, and we have a welcome to winter article that will help you to adapt.
In Australia, there are not many areas where snow is a common thing, and for this, we are kind of lucky if paddling is your go-to sport. Here are some tips that can save a few dramas when paddling this winter.
Stay Close To Shore
Colder air means colder water. Even in Australia, hypothermia is something that is a true hazard for those on the water. Staying close to the shore means that you have far less chance of being exposed to long periods in icy cold water. The distance you can swim in warm water is always going to be longer than in cold water. Stay close enough to shore to ensure you don’t get caught out.
Use A Leash
You may not think you need a leash on flat water, but even the most experienced paddlers will stick by this one rule, especially in winter. Your board, boat, yak, or ski is a flotation device that you need to stay as close as possible to. Even flat water has currents that can quickly turn a quick dip into a dangerously long swim in cold water trying to reach the shore or your watercraft.
Wear Winter Clothing
If you’re going to hit the water in the winter months, you need proper winter watersports gear. I prefer only to hit the flat calmer waters in winter, which lowers the risks of falling in. Wear similar clothing when out on the water as you would if you were running. A moisture-wicking base layer, with added layers for wind protection and warmth, are very important.
Make sure your feet and hands are covered properly. Compression tights are a great choice for your legs, and gloves with a little bit of grip will make a world of difference for your hands. Wear a hat, not just for sun protection, but to prevent heat loss through your head.
Wetsuit Or Drysuit
Depending on the activities and conditions you intend on paddling in, you could do well by wearing a wetsuit. If you believe you will be in the water more than once, wear protection against the cold. Drysuits are probably a better option but can be quite expensive, so a wetsuit is often a better option for that reason.
Know Your Weather Forecast
Always, whether in summer or winter, you should check the weather forecast. If your location of the paddle is expecting some heavy weather, maybe reconsider or take precautions. When in doubt, don’t go out. If you are heading out on the water in a lake or dam on an overnighter, be prepared. GPS locators, heat sources, food, water, and correct clothing are essential for your survival.
Be Back Onshore Before Dark
Unless you are completely prepared for an overnighter on the water, try and get back to shore or to your camp by sundown. The temperatures cool off very quickly after sunset in winter, so plan your trip back to shore before the sun hits the horizon.
Don’t Paddle Alone
Its always a great idea to paddle with someone else, in case one of you gets in trouble. In winter this is even more important and can save a life. if you are going to paddle alone, tell someone exactly where you are going.
Pack A Warm Up Kit
Bring an extra set of clothes for once you get back to shore after your paddle. It’s the best way to enjoy your trip home and will help to make sure you don’t get sick afterward. Pack a thermos with something warm to drink when you arrive back to your vehicle, and pack some warm clothes to change into.
Enjoy Paddling All Year Round
Just because the water and air are cold doesn’t mean you can’t get out with your watercraft. I must say I have it pretty good when it comes to location, with decent water temperatures all year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time on the water where you live. Use common sense, be safe and be prepared, and enjoy as much winter paddling as possible.
Do you have a cold weather tip we should know? Comment below!