“I have always known that you are crazy”. This is my friend’s conclusion when learning about my intention to take a SUP trip on the Odra River during a bit frosty and windy forenoon of Christmas Holidays.
What seems crazy to others is my everyday part of life in which I won’t complain about the weather conditions if I want to follow my passion. Being a SUP freak lets – at least me – tolerate inconveniences. Low air and water temperatures are some of them. Since I can’t resist launching the board during off season, I had to get used to the cold. I adjusted myself which was a real challenge for a warm loving person who needs the temperature of minimum 20°C to live.
Winter SUP trips can be a pleasure. All you need to prepare yourself properly before entering the water.
I follow a simple rule. I visualise the worst and the most difficult situation that can happen to me during a SUP trip first. Then I put, take everything that I would like to have at hand in extreme situations.
OUTFIT TO STEP ON BOARD
Sports clothing for SUP during the time off season is still controversial. At the beginning I needed some courage before I bought the wetsuit. I have had the rule for at least one year:
“We SUP when the wetsuit is on”
which I tell anyone who wants to accompany me on the water.
I believe in my skills but I always take a risk of falling into the water under consideration. What’s more, I have to be prepared to a change of weather conditions for worse. Paddling during rain/snow is not so nice. That is why I find the neoprene wetsuit the most suitable outfit for SUP, which not only provides thermal comfort but also protects the body from thermal shock and hypothermia when it happens to get into the water.
The neoprene thickness 3/2mm of my wetsuit, at the air temperature not exceeding 5°C, is not enough for me that is why I put a warming layer on top. A windbreaker jacket works best. What is the most important, it is light so it doesn’t add more ballast, which could cause re-enter on the board difficult for me after contact with water.
Regardless of the distance, I can’t imagine floating without a hat, chimney (neck scarf) and neoprene gloves. This is a mandatory set without which I don’t step on my board. In addition, I take a neoprene hood that I use when it rains. I feel warmer in it than in a wool hat. Its disadvantage is it attenuates the sound so you have to shout to run a conversation.
Feet are the only part of my body which I can’t protect against the cold at this time of the year. It is difficult to eliminate the problem when the board deck – because of its 10 cm thickness – is regularly flooded so I stay in a pool of cold water the entire trip.
I have been floating in diving shoes for three years. A thick sole and the ability to wear them on feet, dressed in even two pairs of socks, don’t provide me sufficient thermal comfort. Five hours is my longest stay on the water during a frosty, sunny day.
I have been using neoprene shoes 5mm thick for two weeks which due to the design and fit I can put only on my bare feet. I hardly could stand two-hour float which was disappointing for me.
The search for the perfect shoes for Winter trips still on the run. For now, this model is my favourite.
I trust in your wisdom but I remind you to minimize the risk. Life jacket and leash are my mandatory SUP equipment which I use all year round.
A neoprene hood, towel, tissues, lighter, flashlight and power bank are my SUP traveling necessities which I pack in a waterproof bag.
I don’t forget about face protection cream. Brands worth recommending, which I have been using for many years, are IWOSTIN and Avene, available in pharmacies.
Except for dark chocolate bar a roll with cheese is my favorite refreshing meal. I change fresh fruit (they cool the body down) in favor of dried ones in Winter. I use energy jelly bars in critical situations. Hot tea completes my consumption needs. It is worth buying a good tourist thermos flask. Mine, by ESBIT make, got my approval during long session at 0°C – 3°C air temperature. I could warm up myself with a warm drink after five hours of being on the water.
CLOTHES FOR CHANGE
I usually float dressed in my wetsuit so I don’t consider changing clothes during the trip even if I end up in the water. Consequently, I only take hoodie, pair of ski socks and spare gloves on my board.
I keep clothes for change in my car which looks like a wardrobe regardless of the season. I always have a sports bag stuffed with clothes and shoes. I pack a poncho in which I change and warm up after stepping on the ground.
You see? It is easy. Just break your thermal comfort and jump well prepared on SUP. Make an effort because it is worth discovering the beauty of reservoirs during Winter too.