Hot day, cold water - what to wear?

I sea kayak on the Texas coast, so when the air is cold the water is cool to cold, and when the air is hot, the water is usually warm, and that makes dressing for paddling easy. In the winter I wear a wetsuit in the surf and 3 layers in the bay. In the summer I wear a light shirt and swim trunks both places.

What do people wear in places where it is blazing hot during the summer but the water stays really cold? I can’t imagine sweating in a wetsuit would be at all enjoyable.

Over and Over Again…

– Last Updated: Apr-06-05 6:00 PM EST –

dress for immersion. If one needs to cool off: roll (if you have one), or borrow someone's bow for eskimo rescue, or simply splash water on yourself. You can cool off, but you can't warm up once you in the cool/cold water and have minimal or no immersion gear.

The conditions you described -- warm air temps and cool/cold water temps -- are the norm for most of us "fair weather" NE paddlers.


can be as big a concern as hypothermia, can it not? You are sealing off much of your body’s ability to cool itself. Are there many cases of people who get heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke up there? Does anyone keep their wetsuit pulled down to their waist, and assume that if they go in, they’ll don it in the water?

Same All Year Round

– Last Updated: Apr-06-05 6:52 PM EST –

The water in NORCAL varies from 50 to about 56. Air temps at the coast can reach 90.

I wear a 3mm farmer john all year round, but I am usually up in the Sierras when it is really warm.

I do wear a mysterioso top in winter and go without in summer.

It is the same outfit I wear for boogie boarding so I know I am OK.

Brother sing laid it out
Rotocool, bow dip, get a heavy cotton hat soak it and don it, leave your hands in the water for a bit etc. One of those scarves to cool you neck

80 degree air temps and 50 degree water temps put food in my freezer but I am worried about eating anyone that silly.

In all seriousness a paddler dies about every other year fron hypothermia within a mile of my house.

Seems to be be getting less frequent lately though.

Hate to sound like canoeman69
but I’m glad I paddle in Texas. That sounds downright unpleasant.

the bad spread is short
and paddling in Massachusetts in october is a thrill!

June july and august are good too. It’s mid to late april that kills them.

New England can be a challenge, but “what is life without a little salt” from “Farewell to the King” with Nick Nolte (highly recommended).

Great movie
The one that takes place in WW2 where he lives with the Indonesian tribe, right?

Got it in one (NM)

Drysuit has a wide comfort range
I can wear my goretex drysuit to nearly 80 degrees and not feel too bad. I admit to leaving off the fleece at those temperatures. Still along with dressing for immersion, you need to get efficient at getting back out of the water with & without help. Yep, a roll is as efficent as it gets.

You acclimatize to both cold and heat. We just have to do it at the same time!

I knew there had to be an alternative
like a drysuit that isn’t as bad.

I have to admit in winter to just wearing my racing (sailing) dinghy suit over some fleece which goes over thermax long underwear. I’ve dunked once, but in Galveston bay the average depth is 3 feet, so I just stood up to get out of the water, and it never gets that cold, and I never stray far from home when the weather is cold. It was a chilly paddle to shore, but thankfully short.

Breathable Tops, Drysuit
You have to dress for the water - period. So if you are going to be hot in the air you need to find the bucks for breathable, waterproof shells, bottoms, or drysuit. There is a thread running right now on one piece v. two - have to admit the sticker shock on GoreTex drysuit or equivalent is tough. (Though once ther you’ll never go bavck(But you can get some nice two piece combos w/a short sleeved top, like Immersion Research’s Session stuff. I have a SS sleeve top I got on half price and after a ton of use it still looks like it did right out of the bag.

no over heating is not
a danger if you can roll to cool off.

or you can dress like a playboater
It’s fairly common in whitewater to mate dry bibs with a shorty dry top to form a short sleeve dry suit. Basically the short sleeves keeps you cool in the sunlight but you are still wearing a full dry suit in case of immersion. Of course your arms are exposed, but your core is protected. In the middle of the summer the temps here can be close to 90 but when we run cold spring fed rivers, the water is around 45 degrees. The shorty dry top is my gear of choice in those circumstances.

When I paddle in the Bay of Fundy
in August I wear a wetsuit. The water is so cold there that the air at water level is usually much cooler than the air on land (assuming a warm summer day). We always paddle in a group and we have practiced assisted rescues. My Pawlata roll hasn’t failed me yet (can’t say the same for any others so I go for what always works).

One Thing I Do
…other than what Sing already recommended. I have a neoprene baseball cap that I wear. When things get hot, I just dip the hat in the water, wring it out, and put it back on my head. Feels good. Since a lot of heat is dissipated via the head, the cold applied to the head makes a difference fast.


ACA Says…
I was checking some insurance requirements from the ACA just yesterday. If you are sponsoring an event, particpants are REQUIRED to wear wetsuit/drysuits if:

a) water temp is 50 degrees or less

b) if combined water + air temp is less than 120 degrees.

It was pointed out that air temps over water aren’t as warm as on land. That is sooooo true. Don’t judge paddling conditions based on the local news. Carry a thermometer with you and get to know what you’re really dealing with. The sun doesn’t heat water the way it does land. The biggest problem I have with overheating while wearing neoprene is when I’m on shore. I can’t strip down fast enough.

A straw hat can be used to keep cool. They are about the best kind of hat there is for heat. Forget all that high tech stuff. Just dip the hat in water and enjoy. A bandana is good to have on hand. Dip it in water and place on your face. I keep a dry one in a baggie to wipe the sweat from my eyes.