Is it warm enough to paddle?

Hey gang!

I have a question the forecast for this Sunday in my neck of the woods (Long Island, NY) is suppose to be about 70-75 degrees. This is the first truely warm weather we’ve seen this spring. I can only assume that the water is still cold, but I am itching to get out and paddle my new kayak.

I unfortunately don’t own a wet suit as of yet.

So what do you think?

– Jeremy

Take a swim…
and then decide if it is warm enough to paddle. You be the judge.

Word of advice is to do this close to shore and where you can warm up easily. Don’t dive in but walk in slowly and then swim. Measure how far you can go. Wear whatever you plan to kayak in. Figure out how quickly you lose the ability to use your fingers or kick your legs and you will then know how far from shore you can go in your kayak.


How far can you swim in it?
Try swimming in the water you’ll be paddling in, and base your decison on that.

Early-season warm air/cold water days always make for a few accidents.

If you go, bring a change of clothes and stay close to shore.

With the flooding, there’s a lot of debris in the rivers, and currents are very fast.

Check the water temps …
… And dress for the water not air temps… it’s literally a matter of life and death if you end up in the water and are not dressed for it. Hypothermia, gasp reflex … don’t take a chance.

NOAA and Underground Weather have places you can get local water temps.

General rule is something like wet suit for water temps in upper 50’s to mid 60’s, dry suit with fleece below that. There are other factors, such as how hardy you are, thickness of wet suit, style, layers, etc … I’m sure others with more knowledge will respond.

Up here in NE, ocean and bay water temps are in the 40’s … for me that’s dry suit with a mid weight fleece, goves and neo hat.

If you’re wearing something that will keep you warm even if it is wet (wool, fleece, polypro, or similar, NO COTTON)

AND if you can either roll or re-enter your boat very quickly (a minute or two tops), then it is probably OK to go. Maybe. (people have been known to dry-drown when their trachea snaps shut after immersing their face/head suddenly in very cold water, but this is rare and extreme…do a test swim with someone nearby)

Otherwise stay home or stay real close to shore in shallow water.

How lucky do you feel?
Water temps in the sound are in the low 40s.

Take a look at the expected time to exhaustion or nconsciousness at the bottom of this site

and make up your own mind.

“Dying To Paddle” Are You?
'cause that’s what it may be if you’re not dressed for immersion this time of year, depending on where you put in your boat. :slight_smile:


I will test the water temperature. I am also going to a local paddling meeting tonight I will ask around for opinions there.

I live on the south shore so I wouldn’t be paddling in the sound, but in a river that leads to the bay.

Thanks for the help.

– Jeremy

Sounds like a good plan!
This is a fun sport/hobby, but there are some things to learn about safety. Other paddlers are a great resource. I’ve taken a few early spring paddles when I got a new boat … shorts and cotton shirt … had no idea of the risk.

Hope you get out there soon! (With the right gear that is.)

I assume you made this post for
opinions. Dress for the temperature of the water and possible immersion, for a period of time. If you don’t you are rolling the dice with your continued kayaking endeavors at best and may become fish food at worse. Get the proper clothing it will be priceless, if things go wrong.

100 deg. Rule
A canoeing rule I once read (possibly by Jacobson) was that if the combined temp of the water and air is below 100 degrees you should be in a wet or dry suit. Example: 35 deg. water + 60 deg. air temp = 95 deg, too cold. If your air temp is 70-75 deg and the water is 40-45 deg that = 110-120 degrees. If you can stay close to shore I’d say go for it.

I prefer to skip the dry/wet suit. If the combined temp is below 100, I’ll find something else to do.

I know this, the river is 45-50 deg and the high tomarrow is suppose to be 78 deg. I’M GOING CANOE CAMPING!!! YIPPEE!


This Is A Misleading Rule!!!
If the water is under 55 degrees, you should ALWAYS wear protective clothing, including a neoprene hood, no matter WHAT the air temp is!

45-50 W/O Immersion Gear…
I hope you’re only 10 feet from shore and only knee deep water. :slight_smile:


Disagree Somewhat…
50 and under, I start getting serious with a neo hood. I’ve paddle with just a goretex baseball cap under my helmet comfortablly down to 50 degrees water temp surfing. Not something to brag about but I am probably upside down more in one surf session than most folks do in a year.


Just read somewhere …
… might have been this board or maybe RICKA … about some folks who did a few rolls after a recent paddle. These were experienced folks with all the proper gear. Water temps in the lower 40’s. After a couple of rolls they felt dizzy and a were feeling not quite right. They were glad to be near shore & cars w\heaters … and have friends along to help them in. It was reminder to them just how dangerous cold water can be with even a little exposure.

As for the rule of 100 … this week end its supposed to hit upper 70’s … ocean temps are still mid 40’s… pretty much the water temps of these guys mentioned above.

Actually, I Think It Also Points To
acclimation of the individual as well. I have yet to get dizzy from rolling if I am dressed and am prepared mentally/physically for the conditions. Not this winter but the previous two… felt like we had waves almost every week for a weekend surf session or work week dawn patrol. Were out with water in 34-35 range and air in the teens. I didn’t want to be under too long (or too much) but I never had that sense of being “dizzy” from rolling.

I think cold water should never be underestimated. At the same time, I also think folks can psych themselves out about it too.


the question isn’t “is it warm enough…
to paddle?”

the question is “is it cold enough to die?”

about this time every year we get to read about newbies who went paddling on a warm day not dressed for immersion

water in ears
These people symptoms were likely caused by the cold water in their ears. One’s equilibrium & balance is centered in the eardrums and can be greatly effected by the cold water.

I have experienced the same thing while rolling in cold water without ear plugs.

yes to all that’s been said
regarding about dressing for immersion–in this case for a beginning/paddler a 3mm wetsuit, hyrdoskin + fuzzy rubber, or a dry suit would be best. I’d probably use my dry suit with fleece farmer john plus a light top, since it’ll be hot. The one thing that hasn’t been emphasized is that choice of clothing needs to be vetted through choice of companions and skills. If you’re a very good paddler paddling with good paddlers with no thought needed recovery skills, then you can dial back the clothing a bit as, if you flip, you be out of water and paddling again in 2-3 minutes.

Yes … water in the ears …
Here’s the relevent section … from a blog linked to the RICKA web site:

Back at the launch rolling-Rick made a surprisingly quick exit. I set up and made 4 rolls in succession and found myself dizzy and a bit disoriented. I paddled around a bit expecting the feeling to pass but it didn’t so I went ashore. When I mentioned this later MA yelled at me (in a “nice” way) for not informing someone. She was right.

Meanwhile Bill attempted a roll and found himself in the water. He experienced the same dizzy disorientation and had some difficulty getting back in his boat. Joe pointed out that this is a common effect of cold water in the ears.

Both Bill and I were wearing neoprene head wear. While both of us were fine in the controlled circumstances we were in, both of us would have had difficulty if we happened to be doing this while bobbing around by Whale Rock. It’s another example of why we choose to winter paddle with friends who are skilled, cautious, and prepared.

Why do Eric and I share these little stories of cold water difficulty? I think we want to share, through our perspective, the risk we accept and the risk we choose to mitigate while extending our kayak season to year round.