Preamble…. This is concise and basic. I could easily write ten pages on this subject but it would bore most to tears. Let’s get the point across, shall we?
During the warmest days of mid-summer, dressing for sea kayaking is easy. There is a very good chance that whatever you are wearing, will work. Most days in August, clothing recommendations for our guests include quick-dry fitness clothing, sunscreen and a hat.
For the rest of the year, kayaking requires a little more planning and different clothing choices. As we invest more money, training and energy into our kayaking, we want to extend our limited Canadian season. This can be done safely with the appropriate equipment and information.
On February 16, 2023. The outside air temperature was 14C. It was sunny and the wind was negligible to non-existent in the early afternoon. Perfect day for kayaking, right?
We have all heard, “Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.”
So; drysuit, wetsuit, neither. What do you think?
Let’s get boring and talk about how the body loses heat for a minute.
Evaporation: loss of body heat through your skin if it’s wet (including sweating) and breathing.
Radiation: just the passive process of a warmer body losing heat to cooler air
Conduction: heat transferrence from a warmer body to anything touching it that is colder; cold ground, WATER.
Convection: any wind/breeze decreases body temperature by 10-15%.
If you end up in the water with a wetsuit, you will experience body heat loss by conduction. Once you are back in your kayak in a, now, wet wetsuit, you will experience heat loss via convection, conduction, and radiation (your head primarily). Substantial.
If you end up in the water with a drysuit that you have layered appropriately inside (it’s a drysuit, not a warmsuit), heat loss will be less via radiation and convection of only the exposed areas (head).
But wait, there’s more.
Have you heard about Cold Water Shock?
Gasp! You involuntarily gasp when you submerge causing you to inhale water.
Your normal ability to hold your breath for around a minute is now reduced to 10 seconds.
Cold water in your ear can cause vertigo.
Peripheral blood vessels constrict, and heart rate and blood pressure increase.
If you find yourself experiencing Cold Water Shock, try to float up on your back and wait for this to pass. Should be 60-90 seconds.
Back to the above-noted weather and water conditions. DRYSUIT with wool and/or fleece layers underneath.
DO NOT kayak alone in cold water conditions.
File a float plan (even if with a friend). Ensure you have comms available.
Spring is near!
What about Spring? Warmer weather, sunny, everyone wants to get out of the house and get into their kayak. May is perfect, right? Maybe it’s time to take that PC L1 course to prepare for the summer.
Do your research. The water temperature in our area is warmer in November than it is in May! Water temperatures changes fall a couple of months behind air temperature changes.
May is still drysuit season.
We would love to see everyone kayaking all year… safely! If you have any questions about what you may need to kayak at any time of the year, please reach out and we will help you with your planning.
Be informed. Knowledge is power. All that and stay safe.
Join us at Norse Cove! We kayak all year.
Paddle Canada Instructor
Critical Care Flight Paramedic (retired, I’m not on call)
Co-Owner, Norse Cove