Paddle Boarding in the Winter: 8 Tips For Maximum Fun
Is it safe to paddleboard in the winter, or should you just wait for spring? Well, if you are an avid stand up paddleboarder, you know nothing can keep you from the sea, especially if you live along the sea line.
If you take the necessary precautions, it should be safe to paddle board in cold weather. Start by choosing what to wear for paddle boarding in cold weather in the US – a wetsuit or a drysuit.
You will also need neoprene gloves to keep your hands warm, and water shoes or boots to protect your feet.
You can continue paddleboarding in Santa Cruz because the weather remains friendly throughout the year. Imagine, in January, the weather ranges from 9 to 16 degrees Celsius.
If you want to paddle board in San Diego, even in winter, you are lucky! In January, when winter is at its worst in many places, the temperature ranges from 10 to 19 degrees Celsius.
As you can see, this is fantastic weather, so you can enjoy paddleboarding in your wetsuit.
8 Safety tips for winter paddleboarding
Even in summer, you must bear the important safety tips in mind, when you are going paddleboarding.
For winter, you have to be double careful. Remember, you are more likely to be fighting nasty elements like tides, the cold, and rain in winter.
This is why professional paddleboarders tell you that stand up paddleboarding in winter is not for the weak.
Here are a few tips to help you have fun on your inflatable or solid paddle board in the cold season:
1. Select the right equipment
SUP Board: You need a high quality SUP board. You can choose a solid one such as the Easy Eddy 3 Piece modular SUP board.
When you are in the cold water, the last thing that you want is your paddle board breaking apart on you. This is not the time to go for the cheap inflatable SUP boards.
If you bring an inflatable paddle board, inflate it with more PSI than you usually do when the weather is hot.
The SUP leash – You can use an ankle or calf SUP leash to keep you and the board attached to each other. That way, if you fall into the water, climbing back onto the SUP board will be easier, and it can’t get lost.
PFD – Usually, the regulations say to keep a U.S.C.G approved life jacket on the board when you are paddleboarding outside areas designated for swimming, bathing, or surfing. However, here, you need to wear it all the time. It can be a type 2 or type 3 life jacket for paddleboarding.
Other equipment – You need a waterproof bag, where you can toss items such as your waterproof camera if you intend to take some photos. Other things to carry include:
- A whistle – You can blow it for attention
- A flashlight
- Drinking water or a warm beverage in a bottle
- Snacks to keep your energy levels up
Also, make sure that your SUP paddle is flotable and of high quality. That way, if it falls into the water, it is going to float.
2. Wear a wetsuit or drysuit
You need to wear a dry suit or a wetsuit. A drysuit keeps you dry, even if you fall into the water.
Usually, it comes with ankle, wrist and neck seals. You must also wear dry boots, and gloves to keep your limbs fully dry.
One of the best dry suits for kayaking and paddleboarding to buy is the Gill Mens Drysuit that you can order on Amazon.com.
It comes with useful features such as waterproof zipper, storage pocket, and it is super durable. It also comes with its boots, so it is complete.
A wetsuit will get wet first, and then it will trap the heat between it and the skin. By creating a buffer zone between the skin and the neoprene material, the suit ensures the cold water does not get into contact with the skin and that your body heat does not escape.
Wetsuits come in different thicknesses such as 3/2 mm, 4/3 mm, 6/5 mm, and so on. If the weather is not too cold, you can use a thinner wetsuit.
A good wetsuit for paddleboarding is the 3/2 mm Synergy Triathlon Wetsuit that you can order on Amazon.com. If you want a thicker one, they are available in their numbers.
3. Try layering
If you do not have a wetsuit, and you are confident that you will not fall into the water, you can try layering.
When you are paddleboarding in a calm lake, there is no need to wear a wetsuit. But if you are paddleboarding in the ocean, please do wear a wetsuit or dry suit.
To layer, start with a long-sleeved under shirt that has the ability to wick moisture from your body. Also, wear fleece leggings as layering for your lower half.
Follow the long-sleeve shirt with a sweatshirt, which can be an acrylic-wool blend because of its ability to keep you warm. Complete this with a waterproof jacket.
To complete your lower half layering, follow the fleece leggings with nice, waterproof pants.
4. Check the weather
If the weather is freezing, you might want to skip the paddleboarding session or keep it short. Even with the protection of a dry suit, please check whether there is wind chill. It can be too cold for you.
Generally, choose a day when the weather is very calm. You do not want to paddle board in waves in the winter.
Trying to keep your balance on the SUP board and keep your body from freezing is enough challenge. You do not want to have chilly winds in the picture because they could totally ruin your experience.
While it is safe to paddleboard in the rain, well, common sense suggests staying indoors when it is raining in winter.
You will face issues of excess cold and poor visibility. It is best to wait to paddleboard when there is no rain.
5. Choose a calm spot
Irrespective of your gear and your skill level, the weather or time of the year, you should never paddle board in a place with breakers.
You should always choose a place that is designated as safe for paddleboarding, surfing, and swimming.
Always paddle board from a beach that has people. You should never go for solo trips into the water in isolated beaches.
If possible, go paddle boarding in a lake with a friend or a group. Two are better than one when having SUP fun in winter.
You should also avoid paddleboarding in the river because there could be floating debris.
6. Know how to climb back on the paddleboard if you fall
You will fall when you are paddleboarding in winter. Irrespective of your skill, level, you will fall into the water.
If you are wearing a dry suit, it can be a bit hard for you to climb back, so you will have to be very patient.
When falling in the water seems imminent, try as hard as possible to fall far away. That way, you will not knock your head on the paddle board. Hitting your head on a solid paddle board could even knock you out.
When in the water, don’t struggle. If the personal flotation device you are wearing does not turn you upwards, turn yourself upwards so that you can breathe.
After that, it is a matter of swimming to the board, since it might have swum away, at least to the end of the tether.
Here is a more detailed post that I did on how to get back on a paddleboard after falling in the water.
7. Stay active to keep warm
Paddle actively to generate warmth and prevent hypothermia. If the tide is carrying you along, you might relax and just steer it. But don’t relax too long, lest you start losing heat.
8. Your safety is in your hands, entirely!
This is the most important thing to remember when you are paddleboarding in winter. Just bear in mind that you will have to be more careful than you would be in summer.
Here are a few vital tips to remember for your cold season SUP adventures:
- Listen to your body – If you start feeling tired, get out
- Mind your speed – this is not the time to try the maximum knots on that narrow, racing board
- Eat before getting into the water. Stand-up paddleboarding works out all muscle groups, and it’s a lot of work
- Keep your paddle board in great shape all the time
- It is safer to paddle board on a lake than the ocean in winter, but if you must in the ocean, ensure it is a calm day
- If the weather is too cold, abort the mission. You can always go back another time
What is the risk of paddleboarding?
I thought I would include this short section, because as a water sports enthusiast, I know only too well the risks of the ocean.
It can be friendly one moment and totally unforgiving the next. So, here are some of the risks you should know, and look out for when having SUP fun:
Waves – These can sweep you away fast, regardless of your skill level. Therefore, always choose a calm day for paddleboarding.
Animals – In the post on: do sharks attack paddleboarders, we mentioned how to keep yourself out of danger. But in the cold season, animals might tend to move closer to the shore because it is warmer.
Weather – In the winter, you will spend your energy fast because most of it is going to paddling, and the rest to keeping you warm.
Also, chill winds in the cold season make your work harder. In summer, the hot sun can drain you fast and ruin your skin.
Don’t be caught out in the ocean by winds, thunderstorms, lightning, rainfall or a hurricane. If any of these is in the forecast for the day, do not go paddleboarding.
Also read my earlier posts on:
Not even the winter is going to keep you indoors when you can get on your stand up paddle board and burn some calories.
Because of the fully or partially deserted beaches in the winter, you can have crazy fun. If the ocean is calm, there is no reason why you should not slide that inflatable paddle board from Isle Surf into the water, and have fun.
Winter paddleboarding requires more diligence and care than summer SUP time. Besides, there aren’t that many people in the water, so even rescue might be slower.