Right first off, let me get this straight before anything else...I hate the cold, I hate grey damp days here in the UK where it barely gets light!
Ok now I have cleared that up, so here we are mid way through a colder than normal UK winter but we have just had an awesome spell of good winds combined with a good swell too.
The last few days both at the beach and via social media I have heard a few people talking about their total reluctance to participate in surfing/kitesurfing during the depths of winter and it got me thinking!
I have been surfing and kiting for more years than I care to mention (OK so I started surfing approx 1978 and kiting 2000) during which time I have learnt a lot about coping with the cold.
So I thought I'd share my thoughts and how I go about coping with it.
[email protected] mid winter session at Rest Bay, Porthcawl.
So first of all why bother continuing to kitesurf in the dark winter months?
Well for me at least there are a few good reasons. For a start I'd simply rather a good but cold session than no session at all! We have often seen keen kitesurfers putting off getting back in the water later and later come the spring. They also cut short the season once the temps start to dip early autumn. In effect their season gets shorter and shorter each year as they get "softer" to the point where they may only kite for a couple of months in the high season!
If you continue all winter then when the spring arrives, you will also be kite specific fit, not starting from scratch all over again.
[email protected] - Christmas Day Ritual
The beaches are generally much quieter with less people on the water and the car parks are also cheaper!
A hot cuppa tea, post session in the local cafe with your kite buddies is always going to me enjoyable than in the summer!
As winter approaches......
My top tip is to try to keep getting in the water as the Autumn is approaching as this way you will gradually become accustomed to the colder water and air temps. Don't put off sessions for months and months and then jump in mid January and expect it to be like last August!
Try to pick your days....... it will obviously "feel" better on a bright sunny winters day day with milder westerly winds than a grey rainy day with baltic North Easterly winds.
You are not going to be doing 6 hours on the water like the summer months so pick your times around the weather forecasts and tides.
Meet up with others to share the stoke but also to watch out for each other!
We normally average approx 2 hour sessions mid winter but sometimes this will only be an hour or so on the really baltic days.
In the summer you can get away with less expensive less technical wetsuits suits as the water is obviously warmer but also any sunshine will massively help.
Kiting in winter you will need to spend that little bit extra on the best suit you can afford. Believe me they make a huge difference. Wetsuits like the Mystic Legend 5/3mm is so well sealed it's almost like a drysuit! It barely gets wet inside but if it does it dry's in minutes once hung up.
Today's top wetsuits use some amazing soft stretchy neoprenes so much better than years gone by. New front zip wetsuits are a bit of a pain to get in and out of but ultimately (for me at least) are way warmer than back zips.
Obviously we lose a massive amount of heat through our extremities so it is also extremely important to protect these areas. Don't get me wrong, we all hate wearing gloves and boots etc but if it gets to the stage where your discomfort (and indeed safety) will be massively compromised then it's time to wear some gloves/boots etc
If your only lasting 30mins with no boots before your feet turn to stumps then give me a good pair of booties any day. Super thin neoprene gloves like the Mystic Merino Wool gloves at 1.5m are plenty warm enough for most UK sessions. If it gets much colder then something like the Mystic 3mm Pre Curved gloves may also be an option. Both are designed to avoid the dreaded forearm burn!!
There are some pretty good wind stoppers now available too, these really do cut down the wind chill both on the beach while setting up but also even while kiting.
There are also many jackets suitable for pre kite sessions like the Mystic rigging jackets, designed to keep you warm right up to the point of getting on the water but some can also be worn kiting too. We wear these whilst teaching all year round - invaluable addition to your winter kit!
With the correct kit and the right mental approach the winter months can be the best months of the year for the keen kitesurfer.
So to summarise, stay warm, stay safe and get out and embrace what the winter months have to offer!