Year Round Paddling Part 2 – Ken Larson
Year Round Paddling Part 2 – Gear up and get out there!
From my last blog about year round paddling, I mentioned I would put out a follow up on how to make year round paddling a reality for you. It’s taken longer to get this out than I had anticipated but here it is!
I left off with a list of possible reasons for why people put their boards away when September rolls around and I had come up with three main ideas: equipment, skill level and opportunity.
The first one to address is definitely equipment. If you’re not dressed for the conditions in our area, things can bad for you pretty quick. Here’s a breakdown of some of the gear options I use:
Basically, drysuits help maintain warmth by keeping you dry (hence the name). They have gaskets around the neck and wrists and either ankle gaskets or built in socks. If you have a suit with ankle gaskets, you will need some form of wetsuit boot for your feet. If you have one with the built in socks, you will need to have some sort of footwear over the sock to protect the suit and your foot, and to provide some sort of traction. I have an Ocean Rodeo Soul drysuit with built in socks and use a pair of Astral shoes as footwear with it. On their own, they don’t offer much in the way of warmth so you need to layer up under the suit according to water temperature and physical exertion level. I always wear wool socks (Wigwam are awesome) with either a full body, fleece under layer or my Vaikobi
performance wear (discussed below in layer systems). If the water and/or air temperatures are really low, I will add more fleece under the suit. NEVER use cotton as an under layer as it absorbs moisture from your body and wicks away the heat.I tend to use my drysuit most when I’m paddling on the river (exposure to cold water) or teaching courses in the cooler months (lots of inactivity).
A less expensive option to the drysuit is the wetsuit. When I know I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the water, I go with this option (surfing or playing around at the lake). Wetsuits work by trapping a layer of water between you and the suit. Your body warms up the trapped water, thereby increasing the insulating layer. As a paddler, you are hopefully going to be on your board more than you will be in the water which decreases the effectiveness of the wetsuit. Wetsuits also don’t keep the wind out very well so you can cool off quite quickly given the right conditions. I find the addition of board shorts and a light wind breaker over top of the wetsuit definitely helps in retaining more heat in wetter/windier conditions. As far as which suit to go with, if you’re going to invest in a single suit I would tend to lean towards the 5/3 or 5/4 thicknesses. You can paddle year round in this on flat water, in the river or in the surf. If you find yourself getting too warm, you can always cool off by getting in the water. It’s not always as easy to warm up if you go with a thinner suit such as a 3/2 or 4/3. For those wondering what the two different numbers are referring to, the larger number is the thickness around the core of the
suit (and sometimes into the legs) while the smaller number is the thickness of the extremities for increased range of motion.There are also wetsuit gloves and boots available to finish off your ensemble that come in all sorts of thicknesses and styles as well. I find a 5mm or 7mm boot is great and gloves no thicker than 3mm seem to work best for use with the paddle. Pure Life Paddle Boards carries Xcel wetsuits and accessories for men, women and youth!
The third option I employ is simply layering systems. I want to stress that I use this option only when conditions are calm and glassy, I know my exertion level will be high and there is little chance I will be falling in (ie. training paddles). If I were to fall in, I also have a plan in place to make sure I avoid hypothermia.For layering, I like to use a tight fitting base layer designed for performance paddling under some board shorts, a dryfit shirt, a light wind breaker and wetsuit boots for my feet. I have base layer options from Vaikobi (company based in Australia that designs clothing specific for paddling) and Virus (high performance athletic wear) and I like both for different reasons. The long sleeve top and full length bottoms I have from Vaikobi are really warm. The inside of the top is lined with micro fleece and pulls sweat away from my body. When conditions are slightly warmer, I have a long sleeve top and ¾ length compression bottoms from Virus. These are a little thinner than the Vaikobi gear so they don’t quite have the same thermal properties. That being said, I’m a huge fan of the ¾ length compression bottoms and the top has an X-feature to help with maintaining a more upright posture while paddling. Layering allows for you to maintain your body temperature by adding and removing layers as the conditions or your level of exertion change.
Skill Level and Opportunity:
I have lumped these next two together because I’ve found that you are far more likely to look for the opportunities to get out and work on your skills once you have the proper immersion gear. No more fears of falling in!Many instructors, including myself, have no problems running skills courses all year long providing people are appropriately dressed for the conditions. Most surfing and river paddling is done in immersion gear year round anyways due to the cold water temperatures. If you own the gear and want to improve your skill set or take your paddling to a new environment, there are plenty of people out there that can help you achieve these goals.If you’re looking for something a little less formal and just want to get on the water with other adventurous people, there are plenty of options. Fraser Valley SUP and SUP BC are facebook pages created with the intention of paddlers connecting and keeping in the loop of what’s happening in our area. I also use my Pure Life Paddle Boards Inc. facebook page to advertise local events, fun paddles or courses being offered. The culture in Fraser Valley continues to grow and the people involved are awesome and incredibly welcoming.
We are blessed to live in an area where we can paddle 365 days a year. We have countless lakes and rivers to explore as well as an amazing coastline. If you want to get out and take advantage of all the opportunities around us, then you really need to be paddling all year long!If you have any questions about any of the gear I’ve mentioned here or want to know where it’s available (the majority is available through Pure Life), send me a message and I’ll be happy to help you out!For upcoming course information check out our website (easy to navigate calendar coming soon).For keeping up to date on events and connecting with other paddlers in our area, check out the following links for our Pure Life page, Fraser Valley SUP and SUP BC: