Spring is always a bittersweet time for us. For those of you who don’t like winter (gasp), spring is a time of hope, and recharging. The planet is waking up from its hibernation, and the urge to get outside becomes tough to resist. And if it has been a “bad” winter (and that’s all about perspective) the draw to get outside can be even stronger. For us it’s very sad to think about packing away our snowboards, but it is exciting to think about getting back on the water to explore new places and revisit our favorites.
When the lakes start to thaw and the rivers start to free up, it’s natural to want to get your paddleboard out of storage and on the water right away. But don’t throw caution to the wind. You still need to be careful out there. The first 70 degree days can be deceiving. It feels like summer is here, until you come in contact with the water…
Air temperatures can fluctuate by 40 or more degrees day to day (especially given the crazy weather extremes we have been facing) but water temperatures change much more gradually. In the northeast, ocean temperatures are still hovering right around 40 degrees. That is cold!
Even though when you paddleboard you are on your board, and not in the water, the vast majority of the time (unless you surf like I do, in which case that ratio is the complete opposite) you need to be prepared for the event that you end up in the water and perhaps can’t get out immediately. We have posted on here before about cold water paddling safety and tips for how to dress for cold water paddling, but the false sense of security that longer days and budding temps provide can be especially dangerous.
For lakes and rivers that were frozen over just days or weeks ago, those water temperatures are still going to be cold. Mountain fed rivers and lakes will remain cold for quite some time as the snowpack melts and the icy waters make there way to lower ground.
So don’t forget your safety gear. A PFD and a leash are must haves. Vest style PFDs are much safer than inflatables because they will keep your head above water, don’t rely on you being able to deploy them, and they provide some insulation for your core. There is a common gasp reflex that happens when you hit cold water, and if your head is under water when you take that gasp, you risk inhaling water into your lungs. And don’t forget a nice, warm pair of Neoprene booties.
It is also important to wear a dry suit or a wet suit so that you are protected from frigid water temps. It’s very tempting to forgo these items because the air is so warm, but that’s when disaster is likely to strike. A dry suit doesn’t provide a lot of warmth on its own, it’s dependent on what you layer under it. Remember if you get too hot out there, a quick dip in the water will take care of that.
Before you venture out is a good time to check all of your gear too.
- Check your board and paddle for any cracks or dings that might need repairing before you put it in the water.
- Make sure you have your fin and fin plate and screw.
- Check your leash for any cracks or potential weaknesses. The swivel and attachment points, are usually where the leash will fail. And you should replace your leash every couple of years just to be sure that it hasn’t weakened over time or in the elements.
- If you have a dry case for your phone, test that out to make sure that it is still water tight.
- And inspect carefully your wet or drysuit for any areas that need repair, gaskets that need replacing, zippers that need lubricating, etc. When you get on the water, you should certainly swim test your suit (this should really be done each time you go out, but realistically most of us aren’t going to do that). If there are any leaks you are much better off finding out while you are still near the shore, than if you fall in miles from shore in 40 degree water.
- It’s also a good idea to inspect and test your booties, because it’s very hard to paddle with frozen feet.
- Check your PFD, if it is an inflatable, check the cartridge or change the cartridge if you want to be safe. If it is a vest style, check it for any damage and to make sure all of the buckles and adjustments are in good working order.
Spring is always an exciting time. It presents many wonderful opportunities to go on new adventures, and join in the earth waking up from winter. Just remember to take precautions and be safe out there.
Tags: cold weather paddleboarding, paddleboard safety, cold weather paddle boarding, sup leash, sup safety, paddleboarding safety, standup paddleboard safety, paddleboarding checklist,spring paddleboarding, early season paddleboarding