What to Wear on the Water in Winter

Insulation and protection from wind and water are important factors to consider when choosing your paddling outfit.

Insulation and protection from wind and water are important factors to consider when choosing your paddling outfit.

Winter in Florida is here, and temperatures can range from the low 40s to the upper 80s. If you are planning to head out on the water, it is important to dress appropriately.

You should take into account two factors — water and air temperature. To stay safe and comfortable, dress for both. A 70 degree day might feel great on land, but as soon as you get a bit wet, you will feel cold. And if you end up in the water, shock and hypothermia can become serious concerns. Your body can lose heat up to 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Also remember that smaller people lose heat faster, so if you're paddling with kids, make sure they are prepared for the conditions. On a warm day, you might be very happy in your swimsuit, but if the weather changes, cold becomes a threat. That's why smart paddlers bring extra layers no matter how nice the weather seems to be.

Layering means bringing two types of clothing — insulation and a shell. For your insulation, bring synthetic base layers and fleece, depending on how cold you think it might get. Just make sure you're not counting on anything cotton to keep you warm, because wet cotton can actually speed heat loss. Synthetic and wool clothing will continue to keep you warm even if it gets wet. Keep those extra layers dry by carrying them in a dry bag. The most basic dry bags are very inexpensive and worth their weight in gold when you have a warm, dry layer to put on.

Remember, it's often windier and cooler on the water than it is on land. And of course you're probably going to get splashed when you're paddling. So this is where your shell layer comes in handy by offering protection from wind and water. It could be as simple as a classic rain slicker, or as high-tech as a waterproof, breathable jacket designed specifically for paddling. It may even be necessary to bring a dry suit or dry top if the water or air is especially cold. Your local paddling shop should be able to help you choose the perfect gear for your paddling lifestyle.

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribepaddlers.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.