Newbie trial in cold water with Tempest

Hi, I consider myself a newbie so advise appreciated. I had a stable wilderness Tsunami 125 and was ver comfortable in it but felt it was not the boat for me as I wanted to increase my skills with my ability, and being 5’10" 220# I really wanted a faster boat more compatable with my size. I picked up a Wilderness systems Tempest 170. I am anxious to get out on calm inland rivers here in Michigan, the weather is starting to warm up, but the water is very frigid. Im not planning on pushing my limits, edging or anything like that but I am curious if this Tempest is stable enough for a newbie to take it out on the calm waters without worrying about getting wet. I wouldn’t think twice about taking the Tsunami out now as it is very stable, but never being in the tempest yet should I wait for warmer water, or is it stable as long as I don’t get foolish with it?

My boat
Tempest 170 is my boat :slight_smile: When I signed up for my “intro to kayaking” lesson, they put me in a 170 on my first day and I was fine. I toyed around with many other boats but came to settle on the Tempest 170 in the end when it came time to buy. I’ve had it for about a year. I find it quite stable but my stable might not be your stable. I am 5’7", 170lbs. and find that I sit pretty high in the water (it was one of the trade-offs). You being a bit bigger might actually weigh the boat down a bit more giving it even more stability.

Bottom line is if you’re paddling in really cold water, you should be prepared for a swim anyway, no matter the boat. What’s frigid by the way? I paddle in a drysuit since we’re high 40’s, low 50’s for water temp here most of the year.

Water Temp

– Last Updated: Mar-23-16 10:57 PM EST –

I am actually pretty athletic, good balance, do about 4000 mi a yr on a bicycle. The reason I ask is the Tsunami is the only other Kayak I have been in...which I would be 100% confident in that one that I would not get wet. But I hear many opinions of the Tempest, that being said I am sure those comments are posted by those with a variance in ability. Don't really want to spend a fortune on a dry suit just to find out I was concerned over nothing and likely never use the suit again. Not sure of the water temp, lets just say it was iced over 2-3 weeks ago, so nothing you want to be in long if at all. The water is smooth, slow moving, and maybe 100' at its widest point with a glass like surface. If the stability in a Tempest is like balancing on a titerope soon as your in the water, or if ur body is off center at all it will tip then Ill just wait for warmer waters.

Where in Michigan?
Water temp up here in the north is maybe 32-34F. Don’t know about the rivers, but we have a snowstorm going on that’s going to dump up to 18" of snow (inland lakes are still ice) and then melt (hopefully).

If you’re in the southern part of MI, you can find out the river water temp, then dress for that. A good neo wetsuit, paddling jacket, boots and gloves, or a dry suit.

Paddling is a wet sport even when you stay upright.


– Last Updated: Mar-23-16 11:19 PM EST –

I definitely don't feel that it's unstable, but with all due respect, I also don't know your ability at all.

I'll just go back to what I said earlier and what the other poster also did, which is that you need to be prepared to swim no matter what. Sometimes things happen that you just don't expect. The chances may be very small in the area where you're paddling, but it's still something to be prepared for.

You might not need a drysuit, maybe just a top and pants, or a farmer john wetsuit with top, or something like that, but you should have something. I got my NRS drysuit new-with-tags off eBay for $200... there are deals out there every now and then.

Dry Suit
I just read a post that someone on lake Michigan tipped over and they never found him a couple weeks ago so Ill look for a deal on a suit, if I cant find one Ill be patient and wait it out. This river don’t compare to the weather that day on Lake Michigan…45 mph winds, etc… but I can think of better ways to die so Ill wait it out. Im on the Lake Huron side but cold is cold. Thanks for your input

Seriously though, look out for drysuit deals online!

The kayak is immaterial
If you’re not prepared for immersion you’re not prepared for self rescue practice so you’re a statistic.

Cabin fever fix
Initially I was going to recommend renting a drysuit but from reading your post I don’t believe you have experience with that bit of equipment. Drysuits require some guidance in their use too.

Find an instructor or outfitter with the cold water immersion gear and schedule a skills session / cold water clinic. You’ll cure your jonesing for kayak time and more importantly add to your experience set.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

dress for the swim
lots of things can go wrong on the water. Most of the time the environment is forgiving enough that paddlers survive just fine. Yet, folks that study cold weather paddling accidents note that you are 5x more likely to perish in water colder than 60F than you are in water above 60F. So dress for the swim. Wear your pfd and thanks for asking the question. It is a good one. Ultimately, you’ll be more comfortable knowing you are properly prepared for the conditions than just seeing what you can get by with.

I have spent more money on cold weather clothing-drysuits, wetsuits, pogies, beanies, etc. than I have on boats. It’s a bigger priority.

I flipped first time in mine
I had only paddled rec kayaks before. The water was real choppy but only a foot or so. I launched from a little strip of beach next to a large sea wall that ran out an an angle into the sound. The waves were bouncing off the wall and coming back so it was real confused, wanting to tip both ways. I paddled out 50 yds and tried to turn around to come back and flipped in the turn. Then I did that again 2 more times.

I’m fine in it now, but that first be ready to wet exit.

Snoshoe: on Lake Huron in June:

All levels. You can do a day or the full weekend.

chipping in along same lines
Here is a listing of expected and actual water temperatures on the Great Lakes:

Rivers and shallower ponds where they get chance to warm up will likely be a bit warmer, but only when your temperatures get warm again.

The rule that is said (and has been repeated here many times) is dress for the swim. I use a rule of water temperature below 60 and I am wearing some form of thermal protection (dry suit or wet suit). Above 70, and none. Between 60 and 70 I look at other things, like air temp.

Farmer john wet suit and paddle jacket is a less expensive entry than a dry suit. it will gain you some time in the very cold (just after ice out) temps. To make it work, you would also want to make sure you know how to re-enter your kayak on the water quickly - take lessons for this.

your boat makes no difference
If you’re going to paddle in spring or fall in Michigan you’d be well-advised to get a drysuit and get it over with. Looking at it as “something I’ll never use” is flawed and fatalistic. You’ll use it every spring and fall, and it’ll open up your horizons to paddling in other places.

If you don’t want to protect yourself from immersion, then it’s simple: stick to summer when temps are in the 60s and above, and wear whatever you want.

I agree…
dress for immersion and give yourself time to become familiar with the boat and improve incrementally. Jump in the water and if the immersion gear isn’t up to the conditions, make changes until you are comfortable in the water.

I am of the belief that the paddler, not the hull, is more important to what makes a boat stable (though there are some designs that really put this philosophy to the test). Boats with high initial stability can generally be easily overturned in the right conditions. Boats with low initial stability often improve their performance as conditions worsen, as long as the paddler can match the performance of the hull.

The one thing a paddler, nor hull, cannot do, however, is deal with cold water conditions without decent immersion protection and flotation sufficient to keep one above water in the current conditions.

So, go out, have fun, minimize risks. Even take a few chances (small ones if paddling alone), for this is how we learn. Just be prepared, at all times, to be comfortable in the water for as long as it takes to execute an effective self-rescue and restore yourself to a point where you are in no more danger than you were before you entered the water.


Alternatives to drysuit

– Last Updated: Mar-24-16 11:35 AM EST –

Every year we go through the same thing on this board.

If you are going to paddle a kayak on cold water you need to have immersion protection that will keep you warm enough you can self rescue and get to shore and warm up.

Drysuits are certainly the best solution for paddlers who can afford them. However lots of us surf in kayaks and wave skis in very cold water and don't use drysuits because they are too bulky, floaty and hold you hydraulics and tend to fail catastrophically when in powerful surf.

You can buy a decent full body wet suit designed for surfing (not a diving suit) for $160 that will keep you warm in the water you have now in spring. These have arms that stretch and are very good for paddling. You will tend to overheat, but you can splash your self or roll and cool instantly. Sleeveles farmer johns flush cold water right through the suit. L Do a search here for wetsuits adequate for kayaking in cold water. Look for year end deals or last years models on suits like O'Neil, Excel, Rip-Curl.

Good advice… a couple of added thoughts: A wetsuit for kayaking needs to be comfortable and very flexible in the shoulder area… especially important is that it does not chafe your skin anywhere. For this reason, rather than an inexpensive surfing wetsuit, I would strongly recommend a cold-water triathlon wetsuit designed for swimming… these are super comfy rubber, and it is obvious why this type wetsuit will be comfortable for shoulders and underarms. These are more expensive but well worth it for anyone out paddling on cold water. Suggest the following thickness for water temps: water 60-70F, wetsuit 3mil… 50-60F, wetsuit 4mil… 40-50F, wetsuit 5mil… colder than 40F, are you crazy!!!

We can talk. I’m a bicycle person, too and I’ve owned the 170 and 165 Tempests. The 170 is plenty stable but everything said above is correct. Cold water can kill you quickly. I did the Hydroskin (neoprene) thing for awhile and didn’t like it. It was clammy and confining. I found a drysuit on sale and it is the thing. Good luck with your new boat.

You are not thinking about this correctly. Like most of the above -

If you plan to gain skills, you will end up doing some swimming. It goes with the territory.
If the water is too chilly for you to handle a capsize, you shouldn’t be out in anything. Either the 170 or the other boat.

Once you start to gain skills, you will find that the way you think about stability will need a revamp.

The poster asked this question two years ago and has not been back since. While discussion of this topic is always pertinent, addressing the OP as if he’s right here and listening hardly seems appropriate.