Cold Weather Paddling

February 8, 2017 · 0 comments

This has not been the usual west coast winter! If you are still willing and able to get out on the water, think about the following before you launch:

  1. Check the weather report. Check the wind direction, temperature and overall forecast before getting on the water. Getting caught having to paddle back in heavy, cold wind is not fun.
  2. Layer it up! Dress for the cold and for cold water immersion! People who get into serious trouble at this time of year have often made the mistake of dressing for the air temperature not the water temperature, which is fine until something goes wrong and they suddenly find themselves immersed in the water.
  3. Use the buddy system. Always paddle with someone else, especially in cold water conditions. Let someone know when and where you are going and when you expect to return. Contact them upon your safe return.
  4. Always stay with your craft. Never leave your craft in an emergency situation, as it is far easier to spot than a person in the water. It is extremely important in cold weather to wear your leash. The last thing you want to happen is to lose your boat or board and be stuck in freezing water. Make sure your leash is attached properly and secured to you.
  5. Familiarize yourself with rescue techniques. Even for paddlers dressed for cold water immersion, a swim can still bring on hypothermia if you aren’t prepared. Knowledge of rescue techniques and regular practice with your paddling companions (see above – Buddy System) are essential. All paddlers should be able to re-enter their OC1/Surfski/SUP should an accidental capsize occur. If you aren’t comfortable with these skills, make sure someone in your group knows this and is prepared to help.
  6. Be aware of sunset times. If something goes wrong for you: equipment failure; changing conditions; fatigue, etc., you are very difficult to find in the dark. Use lights and wear reflective gear.
  7. Wear Your PFD! Your PFD is an added layer of warmth and protection. In case of immersion, it will also keep your head above water, increasing your ability to fight against hypothermia dramatically. Don’t believe it? Take a 10 minute lesson from the Cold Water Boot Camp.

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