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.
The other night, three Sacramento area kayak groups met 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 an hour for hypothermia to set in.
Speaking of comfort, as Northern California weather begins to warm up, we’ll see days when the air feels balmy – though water temperatures will stay in Sierra snowmelt range. In other words, a perfect setup for cold shock and worse. So as the saying goes, “Dress for the water, not the weather.”
More tips on cold season paddling:
How to stay warm before you go out on the water.
Advice from a Northeastern outfitter.
A sea kayaking guide to cold hazards.
And a first-person story about a kayaker's close call with cold water.