When the winter blues set’s in you think, damn I wish summer was here so I could go for a paddle. Well, you might call some people crazy for wanting to go on the water on a stand up paddleboard but it is actually very fun. Just think, you spend all summer dodging groups of paddles partying down the river or aimlessly wandering paddlers piddling around the lake. During the winter you pretty much have the lake and rivers to yourself. It is not as crazy as you think and anyone can do it if you follow some basic rules to cold weather paddling. I will lay out what “I” personally think works for me, it is what I carry to make myself safe, this may not work for everyone. I for one do not have the money to fork out for a 1500.00 dry suit, plus i get charged extra because i’m fat. I make do with what I have and hope for the best, “I have never felt unsafe”. 

  1. I layer up. I wear a pair of thermal leggings and a pair of waterproof pants. I wear a long sleeve performance shirt layer with a fleece jacket and a thicker wind breaker over that. I wear a buff “a sort of face condom” and my sacred beanie. One thing you NEVER want to do is wear natural fiber clothing. Cotton kills. Wear synthetic material that will dry quickly and not allow wind and cold air in. 
  2. Paddlers wet shoes. Now, if you are an experienced paddleboarder you most likely not get your feet wet when paddling, however, you still want to keep your feet either dry and warm or just warm. There is a few companies that make wet boots, I chose the NRS Paddlers wet shoe. It’s a thick neoprene boot that does allow my feet to get wet but it traps all the heal from my feet inside the boot. You can wear higher hiking boots if you are “gooder” at paddling. 
  3. Gloves. DUH, your hands are going to get cold so you will need a good pair of gloves, once again I chose NRS for my gloves, I use the hyrdoskin gloves
  4. This sounds crazy but I always keep a fire starting kit in my dry box in case I do fall in when I am far from the boat ramp. This will allow you to get to shore, find some twigs and small branches and start a quick fire to warm your core. You can also dry your clothing as well. 
  5. keep a change of clothing with you no matter how far or long you’re going out. The nice thing about synthetic clothing is it packs down very small. I can actually carry a camera, first aid kit, keys, knife and an entire change of clothes into a 10-liter dry bag. Call me a doomsday prepper but I always have that bag ready to go. If I want to go out for 1 mile or a day float I can just grab the small bag, throw it under a bungee and I am good to go. Think of it more as a “Paddlers Every day bag” something that could even come into use outside of paddling. If you are out of town for the day and you spill something on your, tear a shirt or pants you can get into that bag an grab what you need. Having the fire starting kit could come in handy if you are on a county road and you happen to get stuck. 
  6. Fire starting. You can carry a couple simple things in a little baggy that could save your life. Simply take some cotton balls and soak them in some vaseline, when lit they produce a massive amount of heat that can even light damp twigs and kindling. Carry a lighter and maybe some waterproof matches or a Ferrel rod “fire striker”. I also carry some dry cedar shavings with me as well. 
  7. Let Someone Know.  This to me is the most important part of winter paddling. I don’t care if you’re just going out a few hundred yards to fish, or if you are paddling 10 miles. Always let someone know where you are going and an estimated time you will return. If your wife or husband or best friend know where you put in and plan to take out and something were to happen they can tell the authorities where you started and they can search from there. 
  8. Be smart. If it is super windy or getting dark you might think twice about paddling. Know where shallow water is, an easy place to swim and get out of the water, where you can find small wood to start a fire. Get dry as soon as possible, try to dry your wet clothes while you are warming up and remain calm. I even carry a space blanket just in case. It takes up no space and it has make uses, you can even make a shelter out of it. 
  9. PFD PFD PFD PFD PFD PFD. Yes a life jacket is even more important than letting someone know where you are. I suggest NOT wearing your normal inflatable belt and switch it out for a paddlers vest, or even a simple ski vest. This adds a layer of core warmth, and if you were to fall in and passed out it can keep your head above the water. 

These are some of the things I take with me to give me a piece of mind when I am out alone on my paddleboard. Every person is different in their needs. If you can fork out the money for a dry suit or wetsuit then, by all means, it is THE BEST way to keep warm and dry. But, if your a dirtbag paddler like me all you need is some layers of clothing and some basic survival knowledge. 

Winter Paddling can be some of the best experiences you can have on the water, especially when it is snowing. The river is like glass the air is cool, no wind and giant snow flakes falling on the water can be a zen like experience. 

If anything, just get outside and enjoy your life but if you can do it on a SUP.

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