07 May 5 Tips for Cold Weather Lake Superior Sea Kayaking
The winters are long up here in the Keweenaw Peninsula (and spring can sometimes feel like winter!). And if you’re like me, you’re looking to get out on the water as soon as the ice starts breaking up. However, due to the freezing cold water and air temperatures, there are a couple of safety points to think about before making the plunge.
Note: By no means an exhaustive list, the following does contain a few good things to think about if you’re considering kayaking in Lake Superior in the winter or spring.
1. Dress for a swim
First off, always dress as if you’ll end up in the water. Cold weather kayaking gear is so important. For me, that means a full-on drysuit. It doesn’t provide much insulation, so I layer up underneath it. Fleece pullovers and pants, wool socks, etc. The drysuit is complemented by neoprene mittens and booties that will retain warmth if they get wet. This is of course, in addition to a properly fitting PFD and spray skirt. No matter how good of a kayaker you are, we all end up in the water at some point and it’s best to be prepared for it.
2. Eat and stay hydrated
Our bodies need food and water to be fully functioning. When you’re dealing with hypothermia-inducing temperatures, it’s best to be firing on all cylinders. The cold can be very energy draining, so food and hydration will give you the fuel to keep going.
3. Do some scouting
Lake Superior’s winter shoreline can look vastly different from its summer counterpart. Maybe the access road to the put-in point is filled with snow, or maybe your favorite beach launch is now an icy fifteen-foot drop to the water. Check things out ahead of time so that you can plan out a safe and easy launch.
4. Bring a buddy
When dealing with such unfavorable conditions, I prefer to paddle with a partner. It’s an extra layer of safety to be with an experienced paddler who can have your back if things get hairy.
5. Know your rescues
It’s important to know both a self and assisted rescue in case you or another kayaker ends up in the water. It happens to the best of us. Sign up for a safety class, learn your rescues, and don’t forget to practice them. Just like any other skill, it needs to be practiced regularly in order to be done quickly and effectively. Spending a little too much time in the water can have big consequences. A roll is a bonus to learn and means you don’t have to get out of the boat. However, rolls can fail and it’s best to have a solid rescue to fall back on if need be.
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By Staffer Tyler Sykes