Planning for a cold, winter paddleboard.

Outdoor Explore Wales doesn’t stop for the cold, why should you?

A paddleboard trip on a cold, clear winter’s morning can be as beautiful as they come. As long as you are prepared for the conditions, the cold alone shouldn’t be a deterrent for heading out on the water- just be prepared you may need to break the ice to get on the water!

Snow on the ground at Beacons Reservoir – so beautiful!

Be Prepared!

As with every paddle trip, make sure you are prepared.

  1. Check the forecast – rain, snow, wind strength and direction, and temperature.
  2. Dress accordingly!
  3. Pack spares of what you might need – better to have it and not use it, than need it and not have it!
  4. Bring a hot drink and some snacks.
  5. Don’t head out alone and let someone who isn’t going with you know what you’re up to!

Checking the Forecast: while quite a simple task, I’d always recommend checking 2 or 3 forecasts for the location – they’re always a little different – and plan for the most extreme forecast!

What to Wear? The most common question I get asked is ‘What should I wear?’. The answer is never definitive, and I will probably change what I’m wearing about 3 times before I get on the water!

Beautiful, cold day – a dry suit is the kit of choice here!

If you’re confident you’re not going to fall in, leggings under trousers and multiple top-half layers are a comfortable choice. But, if you’re not so sure you’ll stay dry, a wetsuit or drysuit is a must, with base layers like a rash vest to keep the warm in, and a windproof top to keep the cold out!

What I wear on a cold day. Note the bobble hat in my BA which I’ve taken off as I got too hot! Photo by Sarah Smiles Morgan

Bring Spares: As with any SUP journey, spare kit is a must in case of breakages or loss, or someone else has forgotten theirs – and in the winter you should take more clothes too! It’s always better to have and not need than need and not have.
As a guide, I take more spare clothes than I’ll need just in case someone else gets cold or falls in – usually a couple of hats and pairs of gloves. Be prepared for cold, wet people as they might be too cold to sort themselves out quickly.

Take a hot drink and snacks: the cold weather will get to everyone and having a hot cuppa will help warm people up which is always great for a morale boost! Hot water is the easiest and can make every type of drink people might fancy – just remember the tea bags!

Breathing in gently over the hot water is very warming, taking warming air straight to the lungs!

Watch out for ice!

If it’s been really cold overnight you might be greeted with a frozen waterway! Be careful how thick the ice is – we were able to paddle through the ice below as it was very thin, but thicker ice will be much more effort to break – and paddleboards and paddles weren’t designed for icebreaking!

Paddling on thin ice!

If someone does get very cold, you should be prepared and able to get off the water and get them warm. As the sides of a canal are never far away, and often not too steep, this usually isn’t an issue here – but it’s definitely food for thought on any coastal, lake, or river paddle.

This is by no means an exhaustive list or checklist of things to prepare for a paddle – just something to get you thinking before you head out next!

I look forward to seeing you out on the water soon!

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