By Steve Melander &
Moulim “MooMoo” Lee
ayak fishing is gaining popularity on all types of
water, throughout the seasons. When thinking
of the winter months in the bays and open ocean of Northern California, it has become the standard
for anglers to dress for immersion due to the cold-water
temperatures; however, that is not the case for kayakers.
Typically, the NorCal bays and ocean areas see
temperature ranges from the 40s to low 60s, while the
freshwater temperatures can drop even lower.
Now that the winter is upon us, special precautions are
advised to make sure that you do not become a statistic.
Most freshwater kayak anglers are wearing cold
weather suits commonly worn by the big boat anglers that
consist of bibs and a parka. This is frequently worn over
layers of clothing that include natural fibers. This is topped
off with a pair of boots to keep feet warm as well as gloves,
These suits will rapidly fill with water and natural fibers
will absorb the fluid, weighing it down and making it difficult
to swim, tread water and ultimately self-rescue.
According to the National Center for Coldwater Safety:
“Most people who are unaccustomed to cold water will experience a maximum cold shock response somewhere between 50-60F (10-15C). For some individuals, this happens at 57F (14C), for others, the peak occurs at 52F (11C) and so on.
This means that an unprotected immersion in this temperature range will cause most people to completely lose control of their breathing – they will be gasping and hyperventilating as hard and fast as they can.
Since cold shock reaches its maximum intensity between 50-60F (10-15C), it can’t get any more intense at lower water temperatures. In other words, breathing control, once completely lost, cannot be lost to a greater degree.”
It’s time to think differently and take the lead from our ocean kayakers who are always prepared for immersion. Two of the most popular ways to dress for cold water immersion are wetsuits and drysuits.
To determine the best option for yourself, consider some pros and cons of each one.