Cold Water Riding Guide
photo by Jay Wallace
Kiting in cold conditions can seem daunting, and more risky than summer time sessions. However here in our headquarters in British Columbia, Canada we’ve always challenged ourselves and all those on Ocean Rodeo gear to make Kiteboarding a true 365 day a year sport. Our no excuses attitude has allowed us to be a kite brand that shows you can be on the water in almost any temperature pushing the limits and exceeding expectations.
So… What do some of our top ambassadors have to tell you in regards to Cold Water Riding? Some basic tips that go a long way in maximizing time on the water and making every session memorable and an opportunity to grow and learn in the sport.
Preparation and Limiting Risk:
Photo by Jay Wallace
I think a big part is to keep your extremities warm (toes, fingers, head).
After that you need to remember that if something happens on the water (you hurt yourself or brake some equipment), you need to be able to get out of the water fast before you get too cold. So it is very important to follow some of these security guidelines: stay close to shore, ride in onshore winds, ride with other partners or have other people watching you, ride in wind conditions you can handle (dont got out too overpowered). These are guidelines riders need to follow in warm conditions too, but they become even more important in cold conditions!
Make sure to have warm clothes ready when you hit the shore. I sometimes put some clothes in my kite bag.
I always make sure I ride with multiple other people in the winter time. Not just somebody on shore, other riders out there with me. Also I make sure I have a thick enough suit as well as gloves, boots and a hood.
Heating on full in the van with a hot cup of Tea on your way there always works. Get as much heat as you can before going out there. Most importantly always kitesurf with friends and look out for each other! There is not much room for error if something could go wrong when its cold out.
What gear is absolutely needed for you to get out on cold weather days?
Photo by Jay Wallace
Quality gear in good shape is mandatory. No old worn gear that may break soon. That could be life or death when the big wind hits. Also a solid wetsuit or drysuit in good shape.
The Soul Drysuit is a must. Combine those with thick neoprene. Personally I use 7mm mitts and boots and thick hood as well; I prefer around 5mm.
A fleece layer, your dry suit, and for me personally a second helmet. Thermos, hot tea and chocolate as well.
Is there such a thing as conditions that are too cold?
Photo by Vovan Voronov
If you are dressed well, there is no such thing as conditions that are too cold, with exception to when the water is freezing. In this case I wouldn’t recommend kiting in those cold conditions. Ice can possibly jam the safety systems on your bar! The ice can also make your bar very slippery so when you’re out on the water take notice of temperature changes throughout your session.
When you see the leading edge of your kite freeze that’s when you know it is going to be a cold one. I find it difficult to unhook and enjoy my style when there is a super cold wind chill; If you’re not well protected your hands will start to lose feeling followed by a numbing pain. Ensure that you have the correct gear to keep you warm during these colder days! Full neoprene (gloves, hood and boots) is your best way to stay out there longer. When it is cold I try not to unhook as much and hope that the wind is strong so i can get the smaller kites out the bag!
Is there such a thing as being too warm?
Too warm is not fun. This has happened to me in a drysuit. Once you get out of the wind or start doing some cardio then it can be nasty. The drysuit can turn into a sweat bag and become very cumbersome if you’ve layered up too much underneath. Don’t over layer and between sessions for the day make use of Standby mode! It’s there to help you vent out all that warmth so you’re not too hot, nor too cold.
Jean Luc Robataille
My trick is to wear the least amount of clothes under your drysuit to be comfortable, but to make sure I have my toes, fingers and head very well covered.
On cold days, I will also take breaks when I’m on the water to let my body temperature come down so that I don’t start sweating too much in my drysuit.
My fleece layer can become hot, but if you slow down a little and allow the fleece to breathe the temperature quickly drops back to a comfortable level.
What is the perfect cold weather day?
Photo by Trevor Hartland
The perfect cold weather day would be a strong north westerly wind at my local! 30 knots on my 8m razor!
For me cold weather riding is all about the about the conditions. Big waves and big wind make me brave the cold. As long as it is nuking then I am happy. The cold wind is denser than warm wind. You get a more power for the same amount of wind in very cold conditions
Favorite cold water session?
My favorite cold weather session was a couple of years ago in december on Lake Ontario at Sandbanks Provincial Park. I had 2 consecutive days of 25-35 knots, side on-shore winds in huge waves and about 2-3 celsius. Since I was dressed well, I was able to ride a good 3 hours per day. Only 2 other riders showed up, but they only lasted about 1 hour before being too cold in their neoprene suits.
I was still learning to send big kiteloops and those were great conditions to practice in. I am so glad that I made the trip and scored some epic conditions. I improved a lot, and certainly learned a lot about riding in cold weather!
Tiree Scotland around March time 2017. Crystal clear water, blue skies and a solid 25 -30 knots and scoring a healthy 3 degrees with minus wind chill most days.. Looked like a tropical kiting location but was felt the exact opposite!
Photo by Vovan Voronov