(This January 2011 post was updated and slightly revised in November 2020.)
Cold season kayaking in Northern California is easy, compared to many other parts of the country. Midwestern paddlers have been known to hook their kayaks up to sled dog teams and mush across the frozen tundra. But make no mistake, cold can be a killer anywhere.
Several years ago, I attended a meetup with three Sacramento area kayak groups to discuss safety tips for cold season paddling and watch the following video. Most surprising point? Forget hypothermia – cold shock (hyperventilating) and cold incapacitation (nerve/muscle failure) pose the greatest dangers in the first few minutes after your boat tips over. It may take up to an hour for hypothermia to set in.