Pics: Chris Jones.
At time of writing the UK is experiencing some late summer heat. With sunshine levels abound, wind levels low and waters still warm it’s certainly an enticing prospect to get out afloat. For some, this’ll be all the sweeter with schools back and the majority working again. Daytime paddles are now the domain of those with time. The rest will have to do with after office paddles or weekends. Whilst it’s certainly lovely for SUP at the moment thoughts about the imminent arrival of autumn and winter aren’t too far away. So it’s nearly time to hang up your SUP until next spring, right?
Here at McConks we’re big advocates of getting wet whatever the time of year. Having had such a massive influx of newbie stand up paddle boarders it’s interesting to note that many consider the off season out of bounds for SUP. Yet with the right gear – most notably what you wear – paddling in the depths of winter is something to not shy away from.
The first thing is making sure your skills are ready for winter paddling. We appreciate a large % of paddlers may still be falling and not as confident in keeping upright. Yet there are also plenty who can stand tall and not fall. For the coldest months you really need to be at the latter stage with those essential skills. That way the cold water won’t zap your strength as quickly. For those who aren’t then choosing to paddle at a shallow water venue could help by not having you fully immersed should a fall occur.
We mentioned paddling attire above but it’s worth reiterating. What you wear for winter stand up paddling is important. Most stump for wetsuits but you could also choose a drysuit with toasty fleece layering beneath. If you’re extremely confident and/or accomplished then less neoprene and more in the way of clothing layers may be the go. For example: anyone not taking a dunking and paddling mostly flat water could be just dandy in a pair of thermal leggings with fleece and base layer top covering. Add a beanie hat and all good. But you should be aware that getting wet may still happen and falling into suddenly cold water may cause an issue (cold water shock is a real thing!). If at all unsure err on the side of caution and stay warm. Layering is always a good idea as threads can be removed should you become too hot or added as you cool down. A waterproof drybag to carry these essentials therefore a worthy investment.
Choosing your venue carefully in winter is a good idea. If you’ve been paddling open water, tidal locations this summer then during darker, colder months these put ins mightn’t be the best bet. With ever more risk of adverse weather conditions, making a once idyllic SUP location ‘orrible, choosing somewhere different (maybe more sheltered) is a good idea.
Be aware that paddling in colder air temperatures will take more out of you than SUPing in warmth. Listening to your body and realising if you’re getting too cold is good practice. Don’t leave it too late – if you’re too chilly get out and can it. Some days in autumn and winter can be lovely, with windless and sunny vistas all around. These are the best windows of SUP opportunity to aim for if you can. There may be a little wait between Mother Narure’s bouts of fury but it’ll be worth it.
Keep your stand up paddle boarding kit in good working order. If you pick up any damage or need to replace fixtures and fittings then do so BEFORE your next SUP session. It’s better to be prepared than have an issue whilst afloat and need assistance!
Finally, use your common sense when SUPing in the off season. There’ll be less people about and you’ll be more alone. Don’t take unnecessary risks and keep things as safe as possible. That way you’ll enjoy a winter season of paddling almost as much (maybe more!) than in summer!
For further reading on this topic check out the following –