Lets say the potomac river and air temperature is floating between 65 and 75 degrees. What would you suggest I wear (or likely have to buy) for getting wet? I’m starting sea kayaking lessons this weekend and will be doing wet exits, rolls, getting generally wet. The only thing I own is swim trunks and t-shirts…
Neosport 1.5 mm top
You will want to take it off if you are just paddling and in the water for 5 minutes at a time. In similar conditions I put it on when I get to the inlet to surf because I’ll be submerged a lot and I like the padding and extra buoyancy.
I might also get the pants more for the bruise protection than anything else. In past classes the instructors have us swimming in an out of boats a lot and the neoprene reduces bruising and keeps you warm.
In addition I might buy a splash top to go over the neoprene top or to wear instead of it in more normal paddling.
With 65 degree air and water on normal paddles where I might swim but don’t plan on being in the water for more than 5 minutes at a time I wear neoprene shorts and a splash top. I can self rescue in about a minute in choppy water or surf. Your results may vary.
I use 2 mm neoshorts when I am in the water a lot surfing. When you are just going to get wet, Hydroskin works well to keep you from getting chilled in water temp in the mid to high 60s, above that I just wear rashguard and board shorts.
Click on the different temperature ranges
Water Temps are Priority
Regardless what air temps are - think water first.
Live to paddle another day, dress accordingly.
Breathable synthetic fabrics are wonderful stuff.
I like IR Gear
If the water is 70 and the air is above that and it is sunny, that sounds like a day at the beach. I’m not sure I would wear more than a long sleeve rash guard, especially a dark color. You’ll warm quickly. If you are sensitive to cool water maybe a little hydro skin up top.
Check this out …
This gives you the river level and current air and water temps:
This has more info as well:
Both these sites cover some of the Potomac and some of the Chesapeake Bay area. The CPA site is a gold mine for local sea kayaking, so make sure you visit. You missed the Seakayaking 101 and 102 (?) that CPA offers - these are great beginner/advanced beginner classes for almost no cost.
As for the water, if you plan to spend more than a couple of minutes in it during the lesson, and if you anticipate to stay wet for a couple of hours, I would suggest a light-weight wet suit or similar.
I did roll a few times with a short sleeve t-shirt a month ago, when the water temp actually was the same as today (68F) with air around 80F. It was great and refreshing, but I would not want to do more than a dip or two. For a class I’d put something on to keep me warmer. A couple of weeks ago I also took my surf ski (feet and butt in the water) with only a t-shirt and a PFD on - felt great and nothing more was needed.
But, over the past couple of weeks the water temps and air dipped down again and have been in the mid-60s (or even colder air) and I have been using my dry top with a thin layer or no layer under it. Same top which I use during freezing times too, with several warm layers unders. I can tell you it felt great - not hot as I am all wet from rolling, but no cold shock or wind-chill either.
Basically, over dress to start, then undress if you get hot during the class. You don’t want to be shivering cold in the wind while folks explain concepts or you wait for your turn to do some exercise…
If your class is in a couple of weeks, it will be most likely warm enough to not need special clothing. Do get sunscreen
That is not to say you should venture out in open water in the same way you would near shore - overdress for longer trips…
I use the UGS and the NWS interface to it all the time. I have alerts configured on my phone for it as well. When little falls is over 50,000cfs, it is an automatic no-go. The paddling effort becomes no longer worth it at that point… and you risk getting hit by floating trees and cars.
I’m in DC so I don’t generally venture further south than Regan National.
NRS hydroskin farmer john
and short sleeve hydroskin shirt. if you’re going to be in the water for numerous intervals of five minutes each you’ll get chilled. If you’re overheating it’s easy to cool off by dunking your head or walking into the water. If you are insufficiently insulated you can’t retrieve the heat you’ve lost.
Have a full breakfast and bring snacks. It’s no time to diet. I used to teach classes and it always amazed me when someone would start a 4 hr class without breakfast. Even though it wasn’t strenuous activity the total calorie expenditure wasn’t much different than walking for three hours straight. The first time a person does something they expend more energy than necessary on anxiety and “trying” but that’s normal. It doesn’t help learning to be hungry.