Polar Vortex Paddling - NOT!
We do not recommend stand up paddle boarding in polar vortex conditions! However, if you are in Northwest Florida and you consider 50 degrees FREEZING, then here are some cold weather paddling tips for you:
Some of us are fairweather paddlers, who stow away our gear until the waters are warm enough to dip our toes in. However, there are those who want to paddle no matter what the conditions. If you are the latter, let’s talk about cold weather stand up paddling concerns.
For those who are seeking the thrills that come with more intense weather conditions, or are eager to enjoy quieter, crowd-free time on the water, winter paddling can provide the perfect way escape and make paddle season last all year long. While the cold water and chilly winds may not stop you from getting out on your stand up paddleboard, they do present a greater risk than paddling other times of the year. Thus extra precautions need to be taken, especially when it comes to the protective apparel you choose to wear.
Cold Weather SUP Clothing
If you paddle up north in the frigid waters, first up on the essential winter wear list is the drysuit. Watertight clothing from your neck to your feet is ideal as an outer layer. This is a crucial aspect of your outfit, especially if there is a risk of your ending up in the water at some point on your excursion. While a little on the pricier side, drysuits are certainly a sensible investment if you’re planning on keeping up with your SUP boarding in winter, particularly if you paddle solo. This could also be the perfect piece year round if you live in areas where the waters never really warm up.
It is also a great idea to get a drysuit that features sewn-in booties, as this will keep your feet dry when you have to wade through water or getting on and off your SUP board. The drysuit only keeps the water out and breaks the wind though, so you will still need to get those layers on underneath to keep warm.
Pile on those Layers
Do not wear cotton under your drysuit! You will freeze and be incredibly uncomfortable if it does get wet- either from the water or your sweat. Instead, fleece, dry-wicking polyester, or other performance materials are your best bet. Even if that fabric does get wet, you will still feel warm because it attracts moisture away from your body.
Layer a short-sleeved shirt made from wool underneath a long-sleeved fleece top for added insulation. In the coldest weather, two layers will be an absolute minimum if you don’t want to spend your whole time out on the water shivering. Wearing a pair of long underwear can also help out in the colder climates as an extra layer for your legs.
If the water temperature isn’t too cold, neoprene gloves will help you stay warm on your paddle. There are varying thicknesses of gloves, so make sure to get a pair that is rated to keep your hands warm in the climate that you are paddling in. Some people cannot wear gloves while stand up paddling, but use common sense, because if your hands go numb, you will literally be up a creek without a paddle.
Way up north, some opt to wear normal gloves under their neoprene gloves to provide even more comfort. Thicker neoprene mittens can also be useful when the waters get super icy.
Keep that Noggin Warm
Hats are an essential part of winter paddling, because, as you know, heat escapes from your head more than any other part of your body. There are so many options in this arena, so you have to go with your own personal preference. Some choose a full hoody with a beanie underneath. There are even neoprene hoodies that cover the head and neck, with just cutouts for the eyes, and work for extreme conditions. Whatever you choose, make sure that noggin stays protected and well insulated.
Don't forget the Footsies
Even if your drysuit incorporates socks, thick wool socks underneath as a base layer is always a good idea. Neoprene boots can also keep your feet comfortable while paddle boarding. These boots should be at least 2-5mm thick to keep your toes toasty.
Make sure that all layering on your feet isn’t too tight, as this can stop the blood flow and actually make you even colder!
Your lifevest may prove to be a little too snug with all the extra layers you have added for warmth. Before you hit the water, check that it fits on top of all your gear. Remember that the iciness of the air and the thickness of your gloves can make opening and closing zippers just that much more difficult, so don’t zip away things you may need to use often or quickly.
Finally, do not forget to bring a change of clothes with you for when get out of the water; there’s nothing worse than being stuck in freezing, wet clothes.
Most Importantly-Tell Someone
Now that you are geared up and ready to embark on your cold water stand up paddle adventure, make sure that you leave a float plan with someone if you are paddleboarding alone. This should include a summary of where you are going and how long the journey should take you and it should be left with a friend.
Better yet, don’t paddle alone. Grab a fun-loving, SUP-inspired friend, like you, and conquer the seas together. It’s more fun to share an experience with a friend and always an extra safety measure to buddy up.