In this issue of our newsletter we’ve invited some manufacturers of immersion apparel to answer some questions about wetsuits and drysuits. For sea kayakers the topic of dressing for the water is always a timely one. There are, however, many people who take to kayaks as a part of other pursuits. Kayak fishing, fitness paddling, and adventure racing are a few that come to mind. The focus on other activities by these paddlers may cause them to overlook some of the essential practices that go with kayaking no matter what their goals may be. This fall a group of adventure racers were on a training paddle in the inland waters of British Columbia. As a storm front moved in the conditions deteriorated and two of the paddlers found themselves in the water. They eventually succumbed to the cold. Earlier this year two adventure racers in Sweden were also on a training run on a cold inland lake. They too wound up in the water and though they both wore some neoprene, they were not fully prepared to be in the near freezing water. Only one survived.
Cold water doesn’t make any distinction between kayakers. No matter what your kayaking activity, the water requires respect. If you are properly dressed for taking a swim, you’re properly dressed for kayaking.
The warm summer weather here has faded away and with it the number of paddlers has dwindled to just a handful. The water temperature in Puget Sound will fall from its summer high of 57°F (14°C) to 47°F (8°C). It’s never really warm enough to be comfortable to swim in, but the majority of the summer paddlers are clad in just shorts and T-shirts. Those of us who are still paddling at this time of year have been wearing drysuits or wetsuits of one kind or another all through the summer.
Good immersion wear isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny. Its value isn’t solely in protecting you in life threatening situations, it makes routine paddling and practice much more comfortable. After doing my usual rolling and wet exit recovery drills, I often float on my back alongside my kayak with my feet propped up on the cockpit coaming and with the middle of my paddle supporting my head. It’s as comfortable as any water bed and I’ve often thought I could easily drift off to sleep like that. (It’s only the thought of drifting out into boat traffic that keeps me from nodding off.) My drysuit —and the layers of fleece under it—make it possible to be so comfortable in the water. Without it, being in the water would be quite a different experience.
Do you regularly get into the water to test the effectiveness of your kayaking apparel?
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