"As the weather gets colder and winter approaches, many paddlers hang up their paddles until the water and air become more bearable in the spring. However, there are some paddling enthusiasts that consider winter a minor setback in their kayaking adventures. Depending on where you live, kayaking in the wintertime can be quite enjoyable, but it certainly poses some risks you may not encounter in warmer weather.
Before you put your kayak away for the season, take a look below at our tips for taking on winter kayaking.
How skilled are you?
Your kayaking skills play an important role in kayaking during the winter. You must be confident in your paddling. It’s important to be prepared on your course of action if you happen to fall out of your kayak. The chances of falling out of your kayak during winter paddling is not increased compared to any other season, but the consequences of it are much worse because of the cold temperatures of both the water and the air.
For those that use sit on top kayaks, this means being confident in your ability to climb back onto your kayak. For sit inside paddlers, this means developing a good bracing technique to keep your yak from flipping. Knowing a reliable roll technique is also important for worse case scenarios. Ideally, you’d want to perfect these techniques in warmer weather when your immersion doesn’t pose such a great risk. If you aren’t 100% confident in your abilities, seek help from experience kayaking friends, local instructors, or online resources.
Purchase Good Winter Gear
The purpose of winter kayaking gear should serve two purposes: to keep you warm and to keep you dry. Winter paddle gear is going to look completely different than your summer outing gear. You should be dressing for immersion in addition to dressing for general warmth in the chilly weather. It’s important to note that even if you don’t plan for a swim, it doesn’t mean you are not at risk of getting wet from splash or rain. Being prepared means a more enjoyable outing.
The exact items you need to wear for a wintertime water outing varies on several factors like personal comfort, water temperature, water conditions, and the type of water you are paddling in. Dressing in layers is a smart idea; if you get warm, you can easily remove a layer. Start with waterproof outer layers and warm inner layers.
In addition to dressing the part, it’s important to have emergency gear on you, no matter the season. Consider bringing along the following: extra set of warm clothing in a waterproof bag, emergency paddle, rescue stirrup, emergency blanket, fire starter, first aid kit, and a means of communication (cell phone, radio, etc.).
Put Safety First
The most important thing to remember while paddling in the wintertime is to always put your safety, and the safety of others, first. Don’t take any extra risks you don’t need to and always take precaution everywhere you go. Kayaking during the winter means there will be less people on the water, so you need to be able to rely on yourself and your paddling partner if something goes wrong. Tips to keep in mind are:
· Always paddle with at least one partner
· Make sure someone on land knows where you plan on kayaking and when you’re going out
· Watch the weather forecasts for any unforeseen storms
· While on the water, stay as close to the shoreline as you can to minimize the distance you would have to swim if something went awry.
· ALWAYS wear a life jacket!
Winter kayaking definitely takes a lot of preparation and precaution, and is only recommended for advanced paddlers. There are plenty of resources and appropriate gear you can pick up at Austin Kayak!