Gasp Response

I reread the topic string here and realized my initial respose was way off topic. I read it too fast or something and thought you meant how to better stay in the boat. My bad. ;(

Anyway, I grew in WI and was on the swim team in high school and college. The season is during the winter months in that part of the coutry (for high school) since all the pools had to be indoors anyway. Over Christmas break, many schools would turn down the pool heaters to keep costs down. Miserable to swim in. But the only way we adapted was just getting used to it.

I’m not saying for your wife to jump in the water, but maybe cooler showers or baths would help condition her a little. Not the best advice but I had to make up for that lousy first post!

While There’s A "Psychological"
component, I think it’s important to note that there is a “physiological” piece, even if this varies from individual to individual. It its enough to say that it’s there and that folks need to be aware and take whatever precautions.

Heck, not to be macho about it… Well, maybe. I think I am as mentally tough or tougher than most folks. Heck, I used to do “contact” sports, e.g. boxing, kickboxing, jujitsu, etc., and have fought through broken fingers, ribs, facial cuts, etc. So, experiencing the affects of cold water is not “mental.” To me, it’s akin to getting “knocked out.” It happens and it ain’t mental when you’re unconscious. Ditto when gasping and sucking in lungful of water. You gotta figure those marines who drowned in the Potomac were tougher than the majority of folks. Didn’t matter. We’re talking a physiological reaction, even if it is variable.


If we asked the Polar Bears, who go
prancing into Lake Michigan amidst broken ice and in the sight of news cameras, what would they report as preparation??

High sausage diet? A six-pack a day? Schnapps?

Inquiring minds want to know.

The “L” Street Brownies…

– Last Updated: Nov-08-04 5:55 PM EST –

have their annual New Year's dip in the Boston Harbor. It used to be a lot of "heavy (i.e. fat) guys" who seemed to participate. In recent years, I keep seeing more and more younger and svelter folks. It's like the cool trend. Problem is that not many of these "newer" participants seemed able to stay in the water. Plus, those purple lips and uncontrollable shaking just do not make for attractive viewing on the news camera. ;)


I didn’t see anyone mention
anything about gum chewin. Yup chewin gum not allowed in water 55 and down , I’ve also seen guides have folks spit it out in 60-65 degree waters , fact is everyone has a potential for the reflex , so don’t complicate it by chewin gum or anything else . Show her a decent brace .

Not true…
even 75F and warmer waters can cause hypothermia - it just takes much longer periods of exposure and the degree of hypothermic reaction will be less severe than experienced in colder waters.


Practice and conditioning only helps a
little with some folks. I’ve had hypothermia twice; once on a canoe trip where we dumped and then it rained and got cold, once on horseback in the rain in the summer. I’m very much affected by the cold, although I’m better with it since I gained body fat.

The best thing I can do is dress for a swim. I also carry warm clothes in a dry bag. Make sure that your wife isn’t wearing cotton. Poly materials can breath and keep you warmer when wet. Dress in layers so she can ventilate and stay comfortable. Carry hot tea or hot chocolate with you and have her drink it. Use chemical handwarmers to warm hands and body parts.

Some folks just get chilled easier. I was cold in the summer when I was super fit. I had little fat and didn’t eat much. Anything below 75 degF was cold to me. It worked out fine for me since I spent much of my time in riding boots and breeches. Staying dry has always been a priority for me. However, canoeing is a wet sport so I dress to deal with it.

Move to Florida
I cannot imagine anyone getting too cold down here even in mid winter.

We all operate based on prior experience. When someone presents us with something different it is hard to imagine, me included. I will check out your idea as well, perhaps I don’t know what the conditions really are, just went by NOAA sites. Info is posted just for your pleasure, feel free to disagree, say why, and or look into for your own curiosity and even safety of friends etc.

Florida fallacy
Believe it or not more people die of hypothermia in Florida every year than in any other state. Water in the 70’s can still kill you, given enough time. Add a cool breeze and it doesn’t take long at all. I’ve gotten really cold on scuba dives in Florida.

more people are in the water
in florida than any other state. Those stats have to be tempered with that fact.

It would take many many many hours for hypothermia to set in with water temps in the 70’s. If you are miles out at sea in mid winter in the water with no rescue for a day or more, then hypothermia will set in. How one would find onself in those conditions is beyond me. Maybe a sunk fishing boat? I would like to know under what conditions people die of hypothermia in Florida. Most likely, they are in a wilderness situation in an unprepared state and wind chill gets them after they leave the water.

Got me thinking always dangerous

– Last Updated: Nov-10-04 8:34 AM EST –

Thanks Jim. These posts sometimes get the old brain to rethink stuff. I checked it out and see how long and in what conditions it would occur. Hey, my parents were driven crazy by my sherlock manner as early as age 4.

It seems the Coast Guard feels water of 70F is serious beginning of threat for hypothermia. Apparently several factors here. One, still water, still swimmer, regular clothes, will get hypothermic steadily because water cools 25 ish times as fast as air (80F water same as 43F air!).

Add to this if swimming for help, lose warmth 30% faster, and as body cools, get less able to swim horizontally, more vertical, takes more energy go less far, cool off more and more.

If there are rough conditions, waves, swell, wind and current, very much more cold challenge. A current of 5 knots removes heat (they say) at 250 times the rate of air the same temperature. Yikes! New to me, holy smokes.

Another thing they stressed is that it makes quite allot of difference if one cannot get out of water, to have something to hold onto in rough stuff, as takes allot of energy to keep head out and breathe in rough water, and that increased hypothermic effects.

Another thing I am puzzled by is their admonition to get out of water even though you feel as if you are warmer in the water. They says cooling effects of wind and air are bad, but despite feeling chilled, worse to stay in water. Comments to any and all of this are great, since way new to me.

I think we agree here
I think maybe you read ‘psychological’ in my last line instead of ‘physiological’. We agree here.

The response exists and can be strong in some folks and weak in others. I’m certainly not trying to make light of the effects of cold water. On one of my first runs as a beginner, I flipped and hung out for an eskimo rescue in 50 degree water. I had a polypro balaclava under my helmet and an ancient nylon splash top (the kind that doesn’t even really keep splashes off you). It took probably 20 seconds for someone to get to me. By that point, I was dazed and going into ‘animal panic’ mode from the cold. The only thing I had control of in that case was the decision not to punch out. The cold response was completely automatic…

More complacent people in the water!
Not just more people, more clueless people who assume FL = Always Warm = No risk. Minimal risks are often more dangerous than major risks, as people don’t sweat (or prepare for) the small stuff. They’ll do things in FL they’d never do in ME.

Be cool but don’t freeze
As Dr. “Popsicle” says, (Canadian scientist studies cold immersion), stay cool, but don’t freeze out there, you have a good point, it is more proactive to look at the small stuff so know what is happening out there when in the big stuff.

Yes. We Do…
I think. It’s just the justaposition of the sentence about dealing or getting used to “unpleasantness” (mental component) may be received by some that, maybe just maybe, it is a psychological component.


I experienced this gasp response
on dry land in the middle of the summer when my divorce attorney sent his final bill.

70 degrees
Correct that at 70 degrees, hypothermia will set in eventually…hours and hours, though. However, florida waters only reach 70 degrees in mid winter for a short period (a few months?) The rest of the time, temps approach and exceed 84 degrees and even 90 degrees in summer. Hypothermia victims must have happened in mid winter and have been in the water for quite a while.

I am just reminded of a Cuban friend who spent nearly 36 hours in the caribbean after his Miami fishing boat went under until he was picked up by a cruise boat. He was fine.

I also remember swimming in frigid public pools in Ohio in late spring. Lips turned blue and it was uncomfortable, but as kids we enjoyed it. Florida waters are nothing like those frigid pools.

Is it the water temp?
or is that yaknot’s wife is so uncomfortable at dumping unexpectedly that the gasp is partly due to near panic? Can’t tell for sure from the original post, since no mention of whether there have been unplanned swims where the gasp didn’t happen. Refer to the current Sea Kayaker article… probably more common in kayaks but I

recently encountered a canoeist who reported having nearly the same reaction the one time they went over.


While your point about numbers is valid
…I think you’re overestimating the amount of time it takes to become hypothermic with water temps around 70. The dives I spoke of were less than an hour in duration, but it was enough to get seriously cold. Even though the air temps were warmer, the cooling effect of the breeze made things worse until I dried off. I don’t have a lot of “natural insulation”, so I’m sure that plays a part, but it can still happen surprisingly quickly.