Paddling attire advice, please

I know this is subject to some varying opinions, but I’d like to hear them.

I’m going paddling tomorrow morning with a neighbor that I haven’t paddled with before. She has been out in a 'yak a few times and I have been out maybe a dozen, pretty new to it. I have my own boat and we will be renting one for her. I have never taken classes, rolled, practiced re-entries.

We will be heading out around Alki Beach in Seattle. The weather is supposed to be calm and nice, topping out in the mid 70s. We will be heading out at about 11:00 am. Plan is just to parallel shore south for a couple hours and head back. Water temp is 55f today.

We both have wetsuits, I have an NRS farmer john, she has a full surfer suit that feels like about 3 or 4mm.

I’m sure if we stay in the boats, we will be warm in shorts and long sleeved shirts. I know not to wear cotton.

So, the question is; would you wear wetsuits or just go with shorts and long sleeves?

Dress for the water.
3 or 4 mm is going to be a bit warm but that is better than submersion in 55 degree water in shorts, which could be life threatening.

your choice
Nerd or cool.

If you’re trying to date her go for cool with the shorts.

If she’s just a friend go nerdy with the wetsuits.

Either way your’re taking a risk: drowning when cool, terribly hot and uncomfortable as a nerd.

But what is life anyway besides a series of choices?

you will both cook
but it is better than being in the water very long at 55 degrees. If you know how to do eskimo bow rescue, you can do a variant to cool off(basically hip flick practice off a bow) taking turns. Practice in shallow water first, and have fun. John

Good idea to practice first.
If you have never practiced rescues etc. Instead of going for a paddle. Find a shallow protected spot and why don’t the two of you practice capsizing, wet exits, and climbing back in your boats. Wear your wetsuits and see how comfortable you are in the 55 F. water.

When paddling in a full wet suit and getting hot, I do high braces where I throw my head down low and to the rear into the water and brace up. Something you could practice in shallow water. You get soaked and get cooled off. You can also just spash water onto your self to cool off. Lower half gets hot in the boat, I throw water onto the spray deck.

Always always

– Last Updated: Sep-25-06 11:08 AM EST –

Dress for the water. Sweating is uncomfortable but hypothermia can kill you. The diff's in these risk levels are pretty clear.

While 55 degree water and a swim in a Farmer Jane with say rash guard or a hydroskin top underneath would be a little too cool for me, the 3-4 mill might be very uncomfortable when dry at those air temps. Best suggestion I've got is to put rash guard underneath the 3-4 mill suit, and get wet before and during the paddle by going in to shore and wading in the water. Not only will it give you an easy fix on how well those layers work in those water temps, it'll help keep you from being overheated. Just bring along a top that can block wind - you'll find that layers like that are not terribly protective once wet in moderate wind once the effective air temps start into the 60's.

The idea of practicing cooling off by getting wet off of someone's bow, and practicing rescues in lieue of a straight paddle, are great. But if you're just starting out yourself you could find yourself in a fix that you don't have practice handling, for example if she turns out to be someone with a panic response when upside down the first time. So wading may be safest for this trip.

My best suggestion - don't put her into a skirt, wade to cool off and stay near shore.

Is there a reason you’re starting your paddle at 11 am? Tides, wind, etc? Most groups I know of leave early, by 9am. The air temperature would be cooler and the wetsuits would be more comfortable.

Or you could get those water guns that NRS sells and wet each other down…

cooling off with water!
Splash eash other with paddles, or better yet, bilge pump to cool off!

It’s fun. Keeps you cool while you’re dress for the water if the worst case happens.

Can you do an eskimo bow rescue
tht is the perfect way to dress for immersion and cool down.

Also makes a lovely courtship ritual

Remember for the paddler who is upright to gently paddle forward as the roll commences.

Why be so hot?
Do you really think that you might die on a warm sunny calm day in water that isn’t really all that cold? You said that you are staying close to shore, I would dress for comfort (even though you already went paddling). I always laugh when I see people going for a paddle along shore in warm calm conditions dressed for prolonged immersion in cold water – putting in at a beach where people are swimming… I am all for being safe, but the safest thing that you can do is simply use good judgement. Do cross country skiiers dress for a prolonged period of inactivity in the snow or for aerobic activity? Heck they could break an ankle and freeze to death!

Follow up
Thanks for all the input.

The weather was warm, the water was nice and flat. The combination made for a pleasant day for a few hours of slow, easy paddle and conversation. We stayed close to shore and most of the time I could touch the bottom with my paddle still sticking out of the water.

We talked about attire before we went out. Both of us are aware of the dangers of cold water. This trip was shorts and sleeves. For next time out we agreed to wear wetsuits and get in the water.

Just me…I’d go with the wetsuits.
Last weekend I chanced the weather would break and took the tern out for a short jaunt on the upper Niagara. Temp was in the 66-68 range

About an eighth mile from shore, in what I’d say was 55degree water, the wind picked up in a gust just as I was edging the boat and…over I went.

I was between two islands, in a moderate current, solo and out of earshot.

I had on the NRS Grizley Bill and a 3mm wetsuit jacket along with sealskinz.

I successfully righted the tern and did a surf paddle on it to the closest island.

I was a little unnerfed but otherwise ok.

Had I been in shorts or somethingother than what I was wearing…I might not be writing this.

Congrats, you wore exactly what,
my wife and I would have worn, but I didn’t dare post it in reply to your original question, since the dooms day folks would have jumped all over me.

Close to shore, if you tip you just hustle in to the beach.

I would advise that the next time you keep a dry change of clothes in a dry bag in one of the compartments, just in case.



Go For A Swim First!
There is no certain answer. Different people have different tolerance for cold water. Go swimming and see how you do. You can acclimatize yourself over time.

PS, I was skinny dipping in Lake Tahoe this weekend, and have been know to go skinny dipping in the Pacific Ocean.

Hadn’t thought of the no clothes option
That would make for an interesting first date, and would certainly help prevent overheating!!

Dress for ,potentially, this…

read Deep Trouble
Paddling along Alki Beach is lovely and seems completely safe. But take a little time to read George Gronseth’s Sea Kayaker’s Deep Trouble. It’s an eye opener, and may well convince you to wear your wetsuits if you’re ever going out past the depth you can easily walk back in. Many of the accidents he describes took place near Seattle–the water is cold out there, and it doesn’t take long for a tiny mistake to become a big deal.