The thought of jumping in cold water would send a shiver down anybody’s spine. Not only can is it super uncomfortable to be under-prepared for cold water, but it can also be downright dangerous given the right conditions.
Everyone’s “cold” threshold is different, like I’m sure you’ve seen the guys who do the ice hole swimming, but they only stay in for a couple seconds at most. Or Wim the Ice man who’s literally from another planet.
But for the average person without a wetsuit, water starts getting uncomfortable around 75 degrees, and gets dangerous right around 55 degrees. A general ‘hypothermia curve’ is shown below for water temperature and time spent in the water.
Here’s a few experience-hardened tips to keep yourself warm in any temperature.
There are plenty of models and data out there showing historical or estimated water temperatures for almost any body of water. Tune into these to get a good idea of the temps you might be dealing with.
Also make sure check through different seasons, as summer temps might not be the same as winter temps. Local surf shops or dive shops are also great resources for estimates on what water temps look like throughout the year. Or, ask any of your local kiters for some info, they may have recommendations about other subjects we cover here.
One of the most common and obvious combatants of cold water is the wetsuit. Once you have insight into water temperatures, you’ll be able to size your wetsuit thickness with a chart like this:
Picking the right wetsuit is a balance of being warm enough and not sacrificing too much mobility.
For cold water, the accessories are almost as important as the wetsuit. The most common ones are hoods, gloves, and boots. When you get down into 50 degree water, you’ll want all of these for sure. Here’s a chart with a guide of which accessories are recommended for a water temperature:
Other accessories include neoprene socks to put under your boots, neoprene undershirts to slip beneath your wetsuit, and also battery-powered heated vests you can also wear under your wetsuit.
Lastly, making sure you stay active will help you warm up in cold water. Whether it’s paddling, kiting, jogging, jumping jacks, or whatever else, staying active will keep your body temp high and you feeling warm.
With all of these tips, you should be ready to take on some cold water!