Heading into the ice-breaking season are you still getting out on your SUP board for some midwinter paddling or for some SUP yoga? Misty still mornings and a sunrise that doesn't need to have you setting the alarm clock ridiculously early, makes for a really special experience. Here on the Isle of Wight we love to to rise with the dawn, carry the boards down the beach, paddle out and watch the sun rise beyond the eastern forts that guard the Solent.
However, your comfort, your safety and the ease with which you contemplate such a plan will have a lot to do with what you are wearing and your kit when it's cold. Whilst typically SUP yoga teachers probably wouldn't build a schedule for their clients during the coldest months, there are still wonderful, quiet opportunities to get yourself out for a paddle and a stretch.
What to wear for the winter on your board? In an ideal world you'll come home dry, but you have to make provision for the fact that you might well get wet. Without the proper kit and precautions, winter and wet can mean cold and uncomfortable at best and in danger at worst.
Safety is key. Exposure is nasty, debilitating and can come on quickly, so always have a small dry bag containing a phone in a water-proof bag, some dry clothes, layers and a warm flask. I bungy mine to the front of my board. It's much better to not use this emergency bag a hundred times than not have it the one time you need it.
A winter wetsuit is thicker than your summer season alternative - around 5mm. The advantage is that you can stay really toasty, the disadvantage is that the thicker and tighter your wetsuit, the more challenging it is to move your shoulders for yoga or paddling. The answer could be to go for a swimming wetsuit, but what you gain in manoeuvrability you loose in longevity. Typically these are far more delicate and need to be looked after if you are going to get more than a couple of seasons regular use out of them. Otherwise, check out a normal surfing type option - there are all sorts for any budget. If you think that autumn and spring will be your preferred seasons then drop down to 4mm. The fit needs to be good - tight, fitted and with no gaps between skin and suit anywhere. Too tight and you won't be able to breathe and you'll be feeling anxious before you even start. Another option is a long john wetsuit as then you have full movement around the shoulders. You can then pop a fleece over the top and your splash jacket.
A Drysuit. This is a completely waterproof suit that allows you to have the space to have a base layer between you and the suit. Prolimit are making one specifically for SUP.
Wetsuit boots. It's important to be able to move your toes and avoid masking the proprioception response that allows you to feel the board and cultivate good balance. I avoid boots with a rubber sole and prefer to find a sock-like alternative. Luckily for us, the wild swimming movement has prompted a merchandising boom in light neoprene socks with options from Blueseventy and Synergy Swim socks to name a few. However, I have watched a couple of mates go in wearing some of their kids old football socks and swear by them!
Splash jacket. These look like a waterproof jacket, but are semi-sealed around the neck, wrists and waist, perfect for minimising the effects of wind-chill. If you get wet and the breeze gets up, you will loose body heat fast, putting you at risk of over-exposure and hypothermia. Popping one of these over the top of your wetsuit will slow down the cooling effect of wind and allow you to feel comfortable for longer. You can still practice yoga in these as they tend to be nice and loose around the shoulders and upper back.
Gloves. My experience with neoprene gloves is that the restriction of my hands leads to my forearms becoming pumped and uncomfortable. Instead if you get cold hands, then consider some Marigold, washing-up type gloves. Keeping the wind off cold wet hands makes such a difference and these cheap alternatives have been working in our family for generations of water sports enthusiasts.
Woolly hat. Keep your head and ears warm with a woolly hat option and then send me a photo.
Buying your kit online is an option, look for or ask for a free returns service. We normally buy a couple of sizes and send back the least suitable. Or save yourself the hassle and go to your local shop and have an expert help you find the best fit for your body and budget. Here on the Isle of Wight go have a chat with Aaran Williams. His family shop Earth Wind & Water has been serving the watersports community for two generations.
So now, all safe and warm in your kit, you can rise and savour the dawn afloat. A sunrise on the water to wash your and heart soul clean and begin again afresh. Enjoy. x
Written by Emma Spencer-Goodier.
SUP Yoga Teacher Trainer, offering Yoga Alliance Professionals UK accredited SUP Yoga teacher training, through the Island School of Yoga on the Isle of Wight.