Kitesurfing & Windsurfing in the Winter - A Cold Water Session Survival Guide
Winter fun at Lepe - photo: Treacle Mine
It's that time of year again when you look out the window at the bare trees & grey skies & wonder if getting wet is such a good plan? Well, we're here to tell you it is!
Reasons to keep sailing:
1/ Your current skill level gets maintained. OK you might not want to push your limits learning new stuff when it's Baltic out there, but you'll start next summer ready to go.
2/ It's much quieter in the winter. If you kite or windsurf somewhere that's popular in the summer, you'll feel like you have the place to yourself all winter.
3/ It's windier! The winter weather in the UK is traditionally more frontal & unsettled, so you stand a better chance of having wind on your day off. Also cold air is denser, so you need less wind to have fun.
4/ Fight off the mince pies! If water sports are all you do for exercise, a 4 month layoff over the festive season isn't going to do your fitness levels any good.
5/ It's fun... Getting out on the water & getting your dose of adrenalin & endorphins helps to balance out the winter blues.
OK, so you're up for it, but isn't it cold out there? Well erm, yes. The surface water temperatures can dip below 4 degrees in the middle of winter. Add to that the wind chill factor & you'll have to - Get prepared!
1/ The best way to avoid coming off the water cold is not to get cold setting up. Wear gloves & a warm hat to keep the blood flowing to your extremities. If you're cold setting up you'll never warm up on the water. Swing your arms around to get the circulation going to your hands. Don't loiter about chatting on the beach, get in the water & get your session happening!
2/ Put your winter wetsuit on before leaving the house. Amazing how much better it is not getting changed into cold clammy neoprene in some desolate windswept car park. Put your boots & gloves on in the car where it's warm.
Winter session at 24-7 Boardsports
3/ Buy the best wetsuit accessories you can afford. Yes it's crap sailing in wetsuit boots & gloves, but better quality gear will be warmer, better fitting, stretchier & more comfortable. Smooth skin wetsuits & accessories are more resistant to windchill. A hood is an absolute winter essential and it will stop you getting surfers ear, which is grim. A well fitting hood should be tight around your face and cover your neck. Gloves or mittens are a very personal thing. I try to use the thinnest ones I can to maintain the bar feel & minimize forearm cramps.
4/ Hit it hard & fast - Cold (or a lack of daylight) is going to be what stops your fun & sends you in, so pack the moves into your winter sessions before that happens.
5/ Take it seriously, tell someone that you're going out & when you'll be back or better still sail with someone. An accident or a big swim in the winter is much more dangerous. Make sure you have a phone in the car & something hot to drink - Laugh about it afterwards.
Winter sessions will be some of your most memorable experiences on the water - so why would you give that up to sit in front of the telly for 4 months?