HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
We haven’t been very fortunate these past weeks when it comes to warm weather and strong wind (from a favourable direction). This doesn’t mean you have to stay at home in front of the fireplace. Let me tell you what I did when I surfed my coldest sessions ever!
It started with a very cold session just after the snowy weeks on January 27th. The forecast showed temperatures going up from zero to 4/5 degrees. So, with a small group including myself and Jacco from Boardkings, we decided to meet at the Zandmotor (Kijkduin).
In the morning the temperature was still around zero degrees Celsius. The snow was still on the streets and dunes when we got our gear out of the cars and rigged our sails.
The session itself was good with enough wind for my 4.7 Ezzy Wave and nice waist high waves to ride. The water was about 5 degrees and didn’t feel cold, just a little bit colder when swimming (obviously).
On February 24th we pushed it even a little bit further at Scheveningen Zuid. This day the wind direction was NE which is much colder then the SW wind we had in the previous session. It started with -2 degrees Celsius and ended around zero. Despite the low temperatures we had another enjoyable session.
Why would I do this?
The answer is simple, I just love to sail! It is my passion, my addiction. I just have to go out on the water as often as I can!
But isn’t it cold?
There are two sides to that question. For me personally it is also an exploration, just to see what is the limit for me. I like to push myself physically, and to find out what is the limit I just have to go out and try. There is also a second side. The air temperature is low and it is cold outside which makes what you wear is crucial. Windsurf wetsuits and waterwear have improved significantly over the past years. Wet- and drysuits have become capable of keeping a body warm at lower temperatures then ever before. There is no need to use thicker wetsuits. 5mm will work great as long as you have a good quality wetsuit. Many people still believe 10 degrees Celsius is the minimum temperature to go out sailing when the new wetsuits have significantly decreased that number. 5 degrees, and even lower, is no longer a problem.
Preparation- What do I do to keep as warm as possible?
To stay as warm as possible I get in my wetsuit at home and take hot tea with me. Turn on the heater in the car as hot as possible but still comfortable. You don’t want to fall asleep behind the wheel Then on arrival I keep my winter-coat on as I rig my sail to trap as much heat as possible in my wetsuit and to reduce wind chill. With sessions under 10 degrees Celsius I will wear a 1mm chill vest underneath my wetsuit for extra insulation and I will wear my Mystic anti-wind coat over my wetsuit. This anti-wind coat is made of raincoat material and takes away the wind-chill on your chest and back. I also wear my 5mm boots and a 3mm cap. There are also many windsurfers who will opt for a wetsuit with an attached cap to (significantly) reduce the risk of water entering the wetsuit via the collar.
Last but not least, right before entering the water I will have some hot tea to get some warmth inside my body. You can also drink another warm beverage. Also make sure to have enough energy in your body before and during the session. Powerbars, nuts, fruit like bananas or even a good old peanut butter sandwich will get the energy levels up. You really need this to last during a session. Especially as you want to have enough energy when you fall in or even loose your equipment.
I found out during these sessions that this was still very do-able and it is really important what you wear. It got warm on my chest, even in this cold air, as long as I didn’t fall for a number of reaches! The wind was very on/off this day, so I did get caught by some waves and ended up in the washing machine a few times. This had a very cooling effect, so when this happened I had to warm up by sailing a few reaches without falling.
Not fixed yet
One thing I didn’t fix yet; cold hands!!! The thing is, you just have feel the boom, so you cannot wear closed gloves with rubber on the palm of your hand. I wear gloves with an open hand palm. This reduces the wind chill and makes you feel the boom. But it still is very cold on these days. What really helped on this day; after a few runs my hand got cold really quickly so I went back to the beach and warmed up my hands so they where painfully tingling. After this my hands where still cold, but ok to sail!! The hands will no longer tingle after that.
There is also another method I have heard of and that is the use of a heated vest like the Rip Curl H-Bomb. These vests will have heated elements located near the kidneys. The kidneys function as the bodies thermostat. When they sense cold they will reduce blood flow to the bodies extremities like the hands and feet to save energy resulting in cold hands. When they get warm they will be tricked into thinking there is no need to reduce the blood flow. A friend has this vest and swears he doesn’t need gloves or boots until it gets really cold. This works! This will be the next thing for us to test.
Be very careful when you go out sailing in conditions like this! Make sure you’re not alone and keep your energy levels up. Take brakes as soon as you feel you need some more energy and be aware from the start that you’re session won’t last for hours. Be happy with a 1,5 hour session. Don’t take any risks. This way you can enjoy a session when many other can’t and you will be save afterwards.
Sailing with cold wind and an air temperature of -2 to zero is still very do-able. This really increases my TOW (time on water) !!! I hope it will do the same for you.
Impressions of these days