Cold Weather Paddling Tips

Cold Weather Paddling Tips

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 Paddling Clothing

cold weather paddling clothing

Drysuit

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.

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.

Gloves

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.

Hats

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.

Socks

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!

Life Vest

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.

A Change of Clothes

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.

Cold Weather Paddling Gear

cold weather paddling gear and sup wetsuit

PFD

Always wear a personal floatation device (PFD) and dress for the water temperature even if you don’t plan on getting wet. Experienced paddlers will tell you that even if you have been paddling for years, you never know when a boat wake or rough wave will knock you off of your paddleboard. A PFD may be bulky, but safety comes first!

Many of the lower profile PFDs, such as the waist belt type, do not hinder your sup paddle stroke. They also provide pockets for an energy bar, camera, watch, phone, whistles, compass etc.

Leash

Always wear a leash if you are going out on the water so you never have to worry about getting separated from your board. Make no exceptions to this rule, period.

Light

In the shorter winter days, attach a white light to your board and body to give you better sight, especially if you head out in the late afternoon. Invest in waterproof lights too, as they are suitable for all water sports.

Dry Bag

Carry a dry bag on your deck with extra clothing, or to store layers you may want to remove during your paddle. An extra pair of gloves or a hood can be stored in the bag, along with a warm drink in a Thermos.

Reflective Paddle

Another good idea is to apply bright colored or reflective, high visibility tape on your paddle, so if you drop it at night, or in rough water, you can easily find it.

Cold Weather Paddling Tips

sup board cold water paddling

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.

Check the Weather

Be sure to check the weather forecast before taking off on your stand up paddleboard, noting the wind direction, tides, air temperature and any other factors. A barometer or online live-weather radar will also let you know if a storm is coming. Even using apps on your smartphone can provide useful data for checking the local weather conditions. And if it is too severe, don’t risk it. Be smart our there. If the weather is too threatening, you can always paddle another day.

Start Out Warm

It helps immensely to stay warm on the water, and what makes this easier is making sure you are warm before even getting on the water. Put your hat and gloves on before you get out of your car. Have a warm drink before getting on the water. Add an energy bar to this, so your energy levels are up, and you aren’t distracted by nagging hunger. Bring a water bottle, because even though it is freezing outside, you still need to remain hydrated, especially on long treks.

Double Check Your Gear

Though storing extra gear in your car, such as batteries for your headlamp, should be done throughout the year, you should check that it is all in place before any cold weather paddling. Gear that is frequently forgotten includes gloves, warm hat, extra car keys, heat packs, water, a spare hot drink and food.

Get Warm & Dry Afterwards

When you are finished paddling, put your board on the car first, tying it down securely, before storing your gear away or removing your wetsuit, PFD, and hood. Start your car and get the heat going, so it is warm for when you are ready to drive home.

Remove your wetsuit and booties while standing on a foam changing pad or towel. This will stop your suit from touching the ground and keep your feet warm. Keep a change of warm, dry clothes in the car, so you can change for your drive home. Go for clothes that are loose and warm, such as fleece sweatshirts and sweatpants, and a dry pair of thick socks. Insulated or wool-lined boots work well. Warm, dry feet can make a huge difference.
Bring a Thermos of hot soup or tea to keep in the car, ready for when you are finished paddling. Having something hot to eat or drink will warm you up quickly.

cold weather sup boards on shore

Stand up paddleboarding in cold temperatures is very doable, and can be comfortable if you are prepared. Having the right gear will make all the difference in the fun you will experience on your next cold weather stand up paddling adventure.

You Only Live Once- Bundle up!