I’m in Vancouver (Canada) and wondering if you have any guidance on prone paddling in water this temperature. Is it done much? Recommendations on board type? Wetsuit advice?
Todd, Vancouver (Canada)
Yes. Prone paddling is done at these temperatures but then again people ride bikes across the South Pole too. Just kidding. I have padded in water as low as 45 degrees. It is less fun than paddling in 60 degree water but I would rather paddle than not paddle so lets get you outfitted.
As far as your board goes – if you have a choice your best bet may be to get on an unlimited board. Because you are positioned so far back on an unlimited board you wont have to deal with the spray coming off the front of the board which you will encounter on a stock prone board. This will help keep you dry and prevent your eye sockets from freezing. Other than that that the board you pick is up to you. The only other thing you might consider when purchasing a board for cold water training is that you might opt for stability at the expense of speed if the ocean is rough or you are a beginner. Falling in the water is never fun when it is that cold.
As far as wetsuits/clothing goes – my only recommendation is to be careful when paddling in surfing or swimming wetsuits. The problem is that when you are paddling on your knees the neck can be restrictive and you may feel like you are choking. We have found that wearing a farmer john wetsuit and a separate 1-2 mm neoprene top works best in the temperatures you are talking about. Another option is to wear a separate 1-2mm pants and top. Whatever you wear just be sure it won’t restrict you at the neck.
As far as accessories go:
- your hands are going to freeze but leave the gloves at home. We find that they cause too much drag and are more of a nuisance than they are worth.
- Booties are not optional: your feet will get wet and having them dangle there when you are lying down can be torture as the cold wind passes over your feet
- A tuque is also highly recommended
UPDATES: we had some great feedback on this article. This is from Tom in Texas
Although the air and water temps here in Dallas may not compare to the Pacific Northwest, we have our share of similar winter weather and paddle right through it. The water temps typically drop in the 45-50 range for at least a month, sometimes longer, with air about the same. I disagree with RF on the use of gloves and have a comment on wetsuits as well. This winter I paddled regularly using a pair of 5 or 7mm gloves, and 4-5mm booties, along with a 2mm Matuse fullsuit. The gloves are almost formed to the “snowball” hand form so they grab more water and keep your hands warm—a long paddle, gloveless, in 46 degree water will be painful and would work against training plans. The booties can be dropped to 3mm, depending on how much time your feet are going to spend in the water; I wore 4mm only on the coldest, windiest days, more to protect my feet than anything else. As for the fullsuit, I’ve tried Billabong, O’Neill….all of them, and nothing compares to Matuse for maximum warmth at minimum thickness. A huge benefit from Matuse is that the rubber almost refuses to absorb water, so your arms stay nearly dry even on a three hour outing. Matuse seems to have perfected the cut, too, on all of their suits; I also use a 1mm longsleeve top and 1mm sleeveless top with no chafing, and the flexibility of the rubber conforms to whatever you’re doing with no pull or resistance. Yeah, I know they are pricey, but I’ve had mine going on four seasons and it should last forever.