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3 (important) Rules for Stand Up Paddling in Cold Water

The eyes of most people don’t get a good combination from winter and sport. And what about water sports? Who wants to go swimming in ice-cold water?

If you ask yourself these questions, you probably belong to the majority of paddlers. However, there are some hardcore canoeists who dive into the water even in winter temperatures.

Stand Up Paddling in cold water is something completely different than normal SUP. SUP in cold water is an experience of its own. The picturesque winter landscapes taken by the side, a trip in the coolness is incredibly rewarding. The end of a tour is a much greater sense of achievement than a round on the lake at a pleasant 25 degrees with sunshine in swimming trunks.

It’s a great idea to capture these unique experiences with a GoPro or smartphone camera. The pictures of the snowy landscapes you can shoot from the water side not only look great, they also have a high personal value because you know you’ve done something right for each picture.

As rewarding as paddling in cold water can be, it’s also important to be safe. It is no secret that SUP is more dangerous in winter than in summer.

In winter, fewer passers-by pass by and fewer water sports enthusiasts are on the water with you, so dangerous situations are less easily recognised. The cold water itself is also a challenge that can become really dangerous under certain circumstances.

The key to getting out of a dangerous situation is to stay cool on the one hand and to know how to proceed correctly on the other. Knowledge alone can make the difference whether a small mishap becomes a serious dangerous situation or not.

Why SUP in cold water?

Hard-boiled water rats will be less disturbed by cold water. However, we normal people ask ourselves why stand up paddling in cold water should be done at all. In fact, there are a number of reasons I speak for SUP in cold water. Here is a small excerpt:

There is no mass attack on the German waters in the winter months. If you go into the water at the lowest possible temperatures, you will probably have the water all to yourself. In summer it can be quite exhausting, when swimmers, stand up paddlers, kayakers and motorized ships are on the move on popular lakes. In winter, however, you will usually stay undisturbed.

A number of experienced stand up paddlers, who are not afraid of winter, do this mainly because they appreciate nature. You will never find the kind of peace and quiet that you have on the water in winter, in other seasons of the year.

Not only the water is calm, but also the shore. The snow-covered winter landscapes can best be admired from the water. Sounds from nearby residential areas or the beaches are also minimal during the whole time. A very special highlight is SUP Yoga in winter. (But for this please put on the right clothes.)

3 Rules for SUP in Cold Waters

Rule #1: The right clothes are a must

The clothes are the be-all and end-all when it comes out of the water in winter. This applies to all water sports and stand up paddling as well.

Besides the paddle, the leash, the SUP board and possibly a drybag for any luggage, the right clothing is crucial.

The winter temperatures are without a doubt a challenge for your equipment. For cold air and water temperatures we recommend loading according to the onion principle. This means that you don’t wear thick trousers and a thick jacket, but several layers, which increase in their thermal performance, because the enclosed air between the individual levels heats up strongly due to your body heat.

In our opinion, the following garments are well suited for cold water SUP:

  • Wetsuit
  • sweatshirts
  • Waterproof gloves
  • neoprene gloves
  • Waterproof shoes
  • neoprene shoes
  • ski mask
  • hand warmer

The wonderful thing about the onion principle is that you can add or remove layers as needed. In this way you can adapt flexibly to the weather conditions.

It is best to take all your SUP equipment and a variety of different garments with you and adapt to the situation on site.

Keep in mind that a lot of heat is produced during paddling. Even with a thin jacket on land you can still freeze, only to go stand up paddling with a T-shirt.

We have collected a lot of tips and tricks for the right clothes, with which you are optimally prepared for such a project. Of course, no one has to buy any of these items. Your clothes should be easy to transport.

Ultimately, in case of doubt, it is always better to wear too much than too little.

Rule #2: Do your homework

Cold water SUP is dangerous. It is important not to lose sight of this fact. Do your homework in advance. Check the water and air temperature as well as the weather forecast for the planned trip.

Water below 0 degrees should be avoided. Strong wind is also a big risk. The combination of both is a very clear sign not to go swimming on this day or on this day, otherwise it quickly becomes dangerous.

The dangers of ice-cold water are often underestimated. We recommend a little online research on the subject of hypothermia. Based on the water temperature, you can select a time period that indicates how long it will take to hypothermia.

In our opinion, having the numbers in your head is a good idea. To a certain extent, the thought ground you. In the case of possible danger spots, one is more cautious in winter than in a well-attended water area with DLRG at 25°C and sunshine. And that’s the way it should be.

Rule #3: Plan your trip

You don’t organize a trip in cold water spontaneously. Planning is an essential part and important to ensure safety. For the planning it is important to read the weather and the conditions of the water at the chosen time.

The direction of the wind plays as well as the position of the sun. Your route should not be too far from the coast. In case of an emergency, it is important to get back to shore quickly. In winter you can’t stay long in the water before hypothermia occurs. We therefore recommend that you stay close to the coast and avoid large open waters.

A smartphone is also part of the basic equipment for a SUP trip through the cold water. The phone should be as fully charged as possible, as the cold temperature gnaws at the battery. The smartphone is best protected with a waterproof case, which can be stowed in a dry bag, which in turn can be clamped to a luggage net.

Communicating your plans is also an important part of preparing for a cold water SUP tour. Tell your girlfriend and/or family what you have in mind. It is also best to tell them your specific route, so that in the event of a major emergency it will be known where you are.

The best thing is not to go on a SUP trip in cold water alone. Look for one or more partners who would like to go with you on the adventure in the cool water.

Admittedly, it won’t be an easy task to get someone enthusiastic about this idea, but it would be the safest option for everyone involved. And if you can share cool memories with friends, that’s the best thing anyway!




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