With our European summer behind us and autumn now in full force, it won’t be long before winter winds and sea temperatures will fall and many of you will be considering storing your boards away until the spring time. On the other hand, there are many beautiful low wind, clear sky winter days which can make for epic SUP conditions and provided you dress correctly, you can enjoy the use of your equipment more fully and reap the rewards which winter paddling can bring.
Before you rush to pull on neoprene however, you might want to consider, neoprene’s very nature is such that it performs best, in the water, not out of it and certainly not when wet and exposed to wind, as it acts similar to that of a car radiator. Wind passing over the outer surface of the neoprene, draws moisture from within the suit and cools the water and in doing so, your body is having to generate ever increasing amounts of energy to keep warm. In addition to this, neoprene makes you sweat. Sweating is for the purpose of cooling, therefore neoprene promotes readily, the very thing we need to avoid in cooler conditions. Ultimately you will loss energy and become cool quite quickly.
Materials which have a ‘wicking’ affect are often promoted as being ideal for paddle sports, permitting water molecules to evaporate out, but not let them in. However in winter, you want to keep the heat in and this generally means warm air which you generate, which leads to sweating. Fortunately, these types of fabrics will not make you sweat in the same way as neoprene and will tend to contain more of your sweat, rather than letting it all evaporate away from your skin.
If you consider you’re not likely to fall in on a calm day in winter, consider thermal layers on your upper torso, possibly a fleece top and a lightweight wind proof jacket and / or water proof jacket. Thermal layers can be pure wool or a specially made hydrophobic fleece top. For the legs, consider leggings of either lycra or a microfibre. There are speciality dry suits available for SUP which are excellent, but very costly. Generally speaking, it’s the extremities of the body which become coldest quickest – fingers and toes. Neoprene or water proof running styled shoes, can be worn over water proof socks and for the hands, neoprene rarely works well when wet. Consider a thin pair of leather gloves. For your head, a wool beanie is the best option.
Whatever you decide, consider your winter paddling wardrobe now and keep on paddling through and you will find yourself enjoying days on the water you previously would have avoided.