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5 Top Tips For Paddleboarding in Cold Weather

For most, paddle boarding is preferably done under the warmth of summer sun, but for a majority of the planet, it doesn’t last year round. However, paddle boarding doesn’t have to end with the summer, in fact, you can paddle 365 days a year as long as you are prepared and calculated. To keep you on the water year round, we have outlined our 5 top tips for paddle boarding in cold weather.

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Paddle With Friends

Paddleboarding in company is suggested year round but becomes even more critical in cold weather. Whether you paddle with a partner or a group, you have extra help in the case of emergency such as equipment malfunction or even a medical emergency. More people also means more room to carry essentials such as phones, radios, first aid kits, quick repair kits, tow lines, warm clothing and water. Along with being much safer, paddling in company is also a lot more enjoyable, even if you’re looking for some quiet time. It’s always more fun to share the adventure with family or friends. However, sometimes it’s not that easy to gather a group or partner, so if you really can’t entice anyone to join you, make sure you tell someone when and where you are going and how long you expect to be. And don’t forget to call them as soon as you are back on dry land! We also recommend saving the longer and more adventurous paddles for when you have someone to accompany you.

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Be Back Before Dark

Returning before dark may sound a little obvious, but as the cold weather and winter begin to set in, the days become shorter, which could easily catch anyone out. Prior to your paddle, it’s important to check what time the sun sets in your local area and aim to be on dry land at least 1 hour before. This will give you a substantial safety buffer and on those greyer days, remember you will lose the light long before sunset. This safety buffer is also important, as along with losing the light; the air temperature will also plummet. Being out on the water in the cold and dark is certainly not a scenario you will want to find yourself in.

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Check The Forecast

To best prepare for your paddle, it’s important to check what the weather and water will be doing. As we know, the weather can change remarkably quickly, so checking the weather can give you a rough idea of what to expect. It’s good to check a few different weather sources to give you a better idea. However, the forecast isn’t always completely correct, so it’s good to be prepared for all possibilities. Additionally, remember that rain, fog and snow can drastically reduce your visibility. Aside from whether the sun will be shining or not, it’s important to check the wind strength and direction, as any wind will add resistance and chill to your paddle. It’s also equally important to check the tide times. Aside from the inconvenience of arriving at the beach to discover the tide is out, the tides also affect the water state and currents. Even the calmest of paddles can turn into a choppy challenge with the changing tide. If you are expecting some wind and currents on your paddle, it’s best to tackle them at the beginning of your paddle when you are most energetic.

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Choose Appropriate Clothing

Once you’ve checked the forecast, you can ensure you have the appropriate clothing. In cold weather, anything that gets wet will drastically reduce your body temperature, but remember, you can still work up a sweat on your paddle. For this reason, we highly recommend opting in for only calm and easy paddles where you are very, very unlikely to fall in. This means you can wear active wear style clothing that wicks sweat away from your skin, layered with clothing for the wind and extra warmth.

If you’re heading out for longer paddles, into choppy waters or surf, a winter wetsuit or even a drysuit will be the best option to keep you toasty. In this case, or if you’re unsure, dress for immersion. That is, dress thinking that you will fall in. At this point it becomes about survival. The body can suffer from cold shock and severely incapacitate you, it might be the difference between making it home or not.

Whichever outfit you choose; let’s not forget your extremities! Water shoes or wetsuit booties are the best for your feet, whilst a grippy pair of gloves will keep the feeling in your fingertips. We also lose a surprising amount of heat through our heads, so wearing even a lightweight hat will make a huge difference. In case you do get damp or cold, bring some extra warm clothes and towels to change into after your session along with a warm drink.

Take Extra Safety Precautions

It is far better to be over prepared, then underprepared when it comes to being on the water in cold weather. Along with our points above, these are a few things we often forget about in summer, but cannot afford to forget about in winter.

  • Always use a SUP leash so you can get back to your board quickly and safely in case you do fall in. If the weather changes or in areas of strong current, you do not want to be left without your board, especially when it is cold.
  • Wear a PFD. Cold water will shock the body and all the extra gear/clothing may make it harder to swim.
  • Stay close to the shore in case something goes wrong, breaks or the weather takes a turn for the worse so can quickly return to land.
  • Safety check your equipment before heading out. Check your fins are securely screwed in, your board has no punctures, cracks or dings and your paddle is intact with no cracks or buckles.

Don’t be put off by the cold weather! In fact, some of our favorite paddles take place in colder weather without any crowds, more wildlife, less noise and no sunstroke! Contact us for all your paddle boarding needs.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.