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SUP safety: how cold is too cold to SUP?

National lockdowns aside the current UK weather (as of Jan 5, 2020) is on the cooler side to say the least. During the last few days many parts of the country have seen snow flurries, with a few locations having a decent, settled dusting. Even as far as the extreme south coast, where it rarely sticks (or even snows) because of microclimate hygroscopicity, there’ve been flakes falling from the heavens. And then, of course, there’s the actual air temperature which has struggled to hit double digits. Add wind chill to the mix also and it’s not exactly an enticing picture for the majority. Even if you could go for a paddle would you?

There are some that will and do in this kind of weather. Which may initially appear foolhardy. Look closer, however, and you’ll soon discover it’s all calculated risk. What you wear will play a huge part in whether you’re comfortable and safe when SUPing in Baltic weather (a good quality wetsuit, drysuit and/or layered clothing for instance). Chosen SUP locations as well come into the mix. For example, paddling in strong offshore winds at tidal coastal spots isn’t the wisest! A more sheltered put in, that’s not as exposed, with the stand up paddler in question wearing the correct attire could make single number thermometer readings more doable, as far as SUP goes.

It’s not just air temperatures that need to be considered either. Water mercury levels should be given thought. Inland stretches, for instance, when compared to (relatively) warmer coastal put ins, will be much colder. Falling into the drink can be a real shock to the system – literally in some cases. Cold water shock is a very immediate risk for anyone practising watersports in winter. (See this cold water explanation if you’re unfamiliar). It should also be noted that even when the seasons change from winter to spring, and the air warms up, water temps will be at their coldest. You may be faced with a sublime 20C sunny day above the brine but the water you plan on paddling atop is significantly cooler.

So back to the original question posed and ‘how cold is too cold to SUP?’. Ultimately this is down to the paddler’s discretion and what they consider to be their lowest temperature threshold. We’d suggest total beginners should avoid this kind of weather. If you’re falling often then it’s not the right time. As well as getting cold through immersion the cold will also sap your strength, fatigue setting in quicker as you clamber on your SUP repeatedly. If you’re confident, skilled and understand the risks then maybe single digit SUPing is possible. Whatever your situation we’d suggest you consider carefully the risks associated with cold weather stand up paddle boarding. Espcially with us now being in another national COVID related lockdown. At the best of times we shouldn’t be weighing unecessarily on the emergency services but even more so now!

If you can still paddle (for exercise) then do so safely. One rule of thumb to live by is: ‘if in doubt don’t go out’. Stay safe, stay warm, stay stoked on SUP – spring isn’t that far away after all…

Read more SUP safety articles by hitting the following link – https://mcconks.com/mcconks-stand-up-paddle-boarding-safety/

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Angela

    Interesting read. The only point I would add is that river levels can often be very high, fast flowing and carry debris after heavy rainfall. For the waterways near me, I can check websites that advise whether navigation is dangerous ore not. Worth worth checking before going out on the water.

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