Noticed a bit of a chill in the air? It’s a tell tale sign that the seasons are changing. I grew up being told ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing’ … and that was in Scotland not in much more temperate Auckland! So here’s what you need to know to keep getting your vitamin sea in Autumn and Winter.
1. What to wear?
Dress for the water and air temperature. This takes a big slice of the ‘fear factor’ out of being on the water when it’s cooler. You'll be stable on your board on flat water but even still, the fear of getting wet and cold can play tricks on your mind which can mean nerves and tension. Not great for a relaxed paddle. So dress to know you’ll be warm, even in the unlikely event of taking a swim.
How? Wear layers. Merino wool or polyprop tops are great for your core and back. You can peel them off and replace them as you need. Leggings or tights are great for keeping your lower body warm either on their own or under shorts. A SUPWell limited edition, Icebreaker long sleeve merino top is an essential winter SUP layer. Email email@example.com to pre-place your order by Monday 29 April 2019 to order yours.
Feet are particularly prone to feeling cold, especially if they're not moving a lot and get in contact with cooler water. Neoprene booties are well worth a $40-130 investment and good surf or SUP stores stock them. There are a few different styles from split toes to ankle and calf height. So try some on and see what feels comfortable. Bear in mind a pair of socks can be handy under them in Winter, so leave your feet a little wiggle room for an extra layer.
You lose heat through your head too and there’s nothing worse than cold ears. Have a beanie to hand to keep your grey matter snug and warm. A wind chill factor comes into play here too, so a light rain jacket is a wise outer layer in a breeze (or actual rain).
Photo credit Trevor Hardy
And if you want to be very sure or know you’ll be getting adventurous and are likely to be in the water, neoprene tops and leggings or a wetsuit suitable for the water temperature will increase your comfort and decrease you chance of catching a chill.
Always err on the side of caution and wear more than you think you’ll need. And remember that bucket blog? You can add some extra clothing layers and booties to your bucket so it’s easy to pick everything up and go.
2. When to paddle?
Evening light will have disappeared with the end of day light saving and it will be lighter early in the morning. So early morning or daytime paddles are the go at this time of year. When you can paddle, of course, will depend on your own schedule.
The weather tends to be more variable and less settled in Autumn and Winter. So keep an eye on the longer range weather forecast. If you are looking for calm days when the water will be flat, keep an eye out for less windy days (less than 10 knots) when it’s forecast to be bright and clear or cloudy. A weather map describing that type of weather may look like this with a high pressure weather systems and isobars (the red lines) fairly far apart.
While wind and rain doesn’t tend to inspire most paddlers, a little rain never hurt anyone and if you want to get out, you’ll increase your chances by entertaining more marginal conditions than in Summer.
3. Get on and off the water quickly.
When it’s warm it’s tempting to take more time to get organised and mosey on into the water. In Autumn and Winter, you want to get your preparation and pack up routines honed, so you spend less time looking for and getting all your gear together. Move and keep moving because other than time efficiency, you’ll keep warmer too.
A warm up is a good way to keep moving and guard against injury in the colder weather. Here’s a quick warm up routine from Brody Welte (PaddleFit Founder) put together that will definitely keep you warm before starting to paddle.
And a word on unloading and loading boards if it’s windy. Always point the nose (front) or tail (back) of your board directly into any wind. If left on the ground side on to the wind, the wind can pick them up and blow them around - sadly it’s a bit like watching a very large tumbleweed.
Equally boards are at risk of coming off a car roof in the wind until tied down. So if in doubt, ask someone to stand up wind of the car (on the side the wind is coming from) and hold it down while you are in the process of strapping it down.
4. Have the appropriate equipment
As well as dressing for the temperature, this means paddling with a leg leash (unless you are in moving water or current like rivers or estuaries). The last thing you need on a cold, windy day is to be left in the water watching your board blow away.
A belt style PDF or a life jacket style life vest is also a must. The life jacket style can also help keep you warmer. In the event of something out the ordinary happening, you’ll be buoyant and less likely to be shocked and struggle, especially if you aren’t a strong swimmer.
Lastly take two forms of communication with you. A mobile phone in a waterproof pouch or case and a whistle, for example. The whistle can be used to attract attention on land or from other water users. A phone is helpful for updating others on land of changes to your plans or to call for help. Consider plugging *500 into favourites in your phone … then speed dialling the Coastguard becomes quicker and simpler.
5. Coffee or a hot chocolate?
This is a little flippant, however, cooling down after exercise is more serious in winter and can lead to chills and colds or worse. Keeping warm while you’re moving isn’t too hard. However, when you stop and any sweat cools off, you’ll get cold quickly. Even more so if you are wet too. So when planning your route, think about start/finish spots with a cafe to warm up with a hot drink, or take your own. And have a towel and spare set of warm clothes to change into.
Then go home and enjoy a lovely shower and that warm glow of achievement only the adventurous feel.