How To Plan a Stand-Up Paddle Board Trip in the Winter
The weather outside is frightful, but that paddle board looks so delightful. And since you’ve no place to go, get on your board and row, row, row (or paddle, paddle, paddle)!
As much as we hate to admit it, seasons are real. Not every day can be a blissful Miami or Maui 85 degrees, and those cooler temperatures may have you wondering if it’s time to pack up your paddle board and retire it until springtime.
We’re here today to tell you that the best place for your paddle board in winter isn’t your attic—it’s on the water. Want to know how to plan a stand-up paddle board trip in the winter? You’ve come to the right place. Read on for all the tips and tricks you’ll need to know!
Don’t Stray Far Off Course
We know that when you’re on a paddle board, it can be tempting to go where the current takes you and explore coves and inlets. You may even feel extra tempted when you see a familiar body of water in a new, wintery way.
However, keep close to shore when paddle boarding in the winter. When the air is cold, the water is cold. When the water is cold, hypothermia is a real concern that you need to think about. A good rule of thumb is to stay no more than 15 feet away from the shore at any given time.
Why so close? It’s easy to forget that you can’t swim as far in cold water as you can in warm water. Just in case something goes wrong, keep yourself within easy swim distance.
Get Winter Wear
Get ready to wick some moisture! Okay, you won’t be doing the wicking, but your base layer of clothing will. Paddleboarding in cold weather is just like any other outdoor activity in frigid temperatures—you need to conserve body heat. But any activity done bundled up will lead to sweat, and sweat will make you cold if you don’t have a moisture-wicking layer.
Your bottom layer should be moisture wicking, your middle layer should provide warmth, and your top layer should offer protection. A sweat-proof undershirt or pair of long underwear is a great place to start. Once you have that, throw on something like a Dakine Mission Jacket to keep you nice and toasty. Your outer layer is what you should use to protect yourself against the elements, like light rain or wind check out our Patagonia Torrentshell.
Gloves are also a good idea, but make sure the pair you choose has a bit of grip so you can hang onto your paddle. And you’ve probably heard people say that a lot of heat is lost through your head. While it’s not as much as some people would have you believe, a hat or hood is never a bad idea.
Remember Your Leash
Flat water, no leash, right? Wrong! No matter the conditions, you should always use a SUP leash—even if you invented paddle boards. Things go wrong unexpectedly all the time. Sure, in the summer months, falling off your board is no big deal, but in the winter, it certainly won’t hurt to have a tether to a gigantic flotation device (we’re talking about your board).
If you slip over the edge, it’s a short trip back to your board if you have a leash. If not, there’s at least a passing chance of becoming a popsicle. We’d rather wear a safety strap than turn into the world’s largest ice cube—that’s for sure!
Become a Meteorologist
No, not literally. Well, if that’s your dream job, go for it. What we’re trying to say is that you should check the weather forecast before you head out on the water. You’re looking for no precipitation and calm winds. If you see rain, sleet, or snow on the horizon, we highly recommend you stay home.
It may seem like a fun idea to try and outrun a storm or paddle board through a blizzard, but precipitation is a surefire way to cut down on your visibility. With even just a little snow, it can become difficult to see the shore.
Suddenly, your plan to stay 15 feet away from the shore goes out the window. You find yourself unable to tell which way sends you back to dry land and which way puts you on a one-way trip across the ocean. So, when you see precipitation in the forecast, pack it in for the day.
A little wind, however, isn’t necessarily something to cancel your trip over. Just make sure to start off your journey paddling into the wind, so you can let it carry you back when you have less energy later in the trip.
Hopefully, you won’t be paddleboarding through icebergs, but if it’s cold enough, you may encounter chunks of ice. Our suggestion? Turn the other way. Chunks of ice are like floating mines—if you stay away from them, they won’t blow up in your face. Not literally, of course, but ice can be a problem. Ice is sharp and heavy, so don’t mess with it.
If you see a section of frozen water ahead, alter course. You could get stuck, and we’d advise you against ever stepping onto floating ice.
Return to Shore Well Before Sunset
Sunset happens earlier in the winter, so make sure you know what time you need to be back. We suggest aiming for an hour in advance of sundown to give yourself enough time to deal with unexpected events. You don’t want to be out after dark because visibility is obviously lower, and the temperature will be downright inhospitable. Take your rigid paddle board and get back in your car before that golden orb says good night.
Now that you know how to plan a stand-up paddle board trip in the winter, don’t let something as trivial as the weather stop you from having a good time! Grab your heaviest coat and snow pants and get out on the water—if it hasn’t turned to solid ice yet. But seriously, with a little initiative, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying a SUP trip just like you would in the summer. Have fun!