For many, colder weather means packing up standup paddle boards for the winter. But with all of the new technologies and products available to the public, you can now enjoy SUPing in the cold weather.
The first thing you want to do is ask yourself “Do I need a Wetsuit or Drysuit?” There are many differences between a wetsuit and drysuit. These differences include material, and function as well as cost.
Wetsuits don’t keep water out, but rather trap a thin layer of water next to your skin where it is warmed by your body. The neoprene material does this by minimizing evaporative cooling, so once you are out of the water you remain comfortable. There are many styles of wetsuits including full-length suits, short-sleeve "spring suits," sleeveless "Farmer Johns" as well as separate jackets and pants. Wetsuits also come in different thicknesses but the majority of paddlers use 2-3mm thick neoprene wetsuits.
Drysuits are for people who paddle in cold water, rough rapids or surf.If you're out on the water in bad weather, drysuits offer the best protection. These one-piece suits are made of nylon with a waterproof polyurethane coating or waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex laminate. They feature latex gaskets at the wrists, ankles, and neck plus a special zipper or roll-up closure to prevent any water from entering. So even if you take an unexpected swim, you remain dry. The drawback to drysuits is that they provide no insulation so you need to wear warm clothing underneath.
The footwear and accessories you use also need to be special for coldwater outings. This can include Gore-Tex socks with rubber boots, SUP specific footwear, and thick soled neoprene booties that work with your wetsuit. Make sure to have an insulated hat that you can put on in case you fall in or your ears begin to get cold. Wearing gloves or hand protection is also important if you are going to be on rough cold water. Paddling gloves made of neoprene, nylon or Lycra® spandex provide good grip and protection without impairing your paddle control. You can also wear Hand Protectors called "pogies" are also available to paddlers. These neoprene or nylon covers fasten over your hands and around the paddle shaft without interfering with your grip.
More tips for going out when the water is cold.
- Dress for the water temperature even if you don’t plan on getting wet.
- Wear a PFD. While many think they’re uncool or bulky, they keep your core warm in cold temperatures and provide pockets to store essentials. These include energy bar, night paddling light, camera, watch, tide table, cell phone, VHF radio, flares, whistle, compass, skull cap, etc.
- Always wear a leash if you’re going out in frigid water and air temps, or there is wind.
- Carry a fully waterproof drybag with extra clothes and emergency supplies.
- While on the water, bring along a warm drink in a thermos to stay warm. Even warm water is helpful and still keeps you hydrated.
The biggest thing when going out in cold water is to always have a buddy on the water with you or someone on the shore. Also make sure to tell people where you are going and what you are doing. Stay in your comfort zone! IF IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT! Having the gear we listed above and following all the standard SUP procedures while out on the water will allow you to enjoy paddle boarding in cold weather.