Sup is magical ! The soothing effect of water, the oxygenation you get whether practicing intense or slow ride. This feeling of freedom and be one with nature. In summer, all you need is a swimsuit but as soon as temperature goes down, for me under 12 celsius degrees, its more complicated to enjoy this happiness moment.
So I started to search all available accessories on the market since I have been practicing, 5 years ago. We are lucky since nowadays technology has evolved and can give us comfortable solutions. As many women and men, I have a blood circulation problem which affects the ends of my body called Raynaud’s syndrome. My hands and feet turn white then blue which is really painful. I also have what I call an allergy to cold (doctors never gave me a name for it). What happens is the joints of my hands, feet, elbows and knees get swollen. How to stand on your legs if you can’t feel your feet? And what if your knees are aching? How to hold your paddle not feeling the contact of fingers on it? And mainly, how can you keep on practicing your favorite sport during winter?
I decided to invest in everything that could give me a chance to go back on the water and reduce my sadness. I tried many things, spent big amounts of money in high quality suits , gloves, and boots but they were not adapted to my needs.
Then, one day, more than 3 years ago, I discovered the Supskin dry suit, made of a technical material (breathing and waterproof ). For me it was a revolution in my practice of SUP in the cold. Each new ride I’m thankful Wolfgang developed such a product. With freedom of movement, protection and the possibility to wear all the layers of clothing adapted to temperature underneath. Casual leggings, warmer and breathing wool leggings, made by Odlo, a breathing long sleeves top (technical fabric), a fleece lycra or wool lycra like my Odlo leggings. Why do I mention ski underwear specialists, Odlo? After many tests with many layers not to be cold, I noticed that after a session or during a break (when you slow down and sweat less) wearing technical and synthetic textiles, you cool down quickly. With wool, you feel warm longer.
This said, the real problem to deal with is how to protect our precious extremities to enjoy our sport. I exchanged my 6mm neoprene boots with English waterproof socks made of Merinos wool from SealSkinz that I love. Now it’s possible to find other brands on the net but these were the 1st I found 4 years ago that did the job. First I put the socks on and on top, I wear 2 mm neoprene boots 1 size above mine so my feet are not too tight and breathable.
For hands, its complicated to use warming mittens, and neoprene gloves were a relief but only for a while because of the pressure on the handle (Does not reduce crisis frequency). Then again I chose wool gloves (nothing better than natural fabrics), with some anti slip/grip product in the palm. This way I can paddle longer.
Since last year, thanks to my wonderful fiancé (Not only in dreams !) I received a little bonus, the heating Kelly Slater Top with remote control: the Quiksilver Cypher Heat Vest. This fantastic gadget helped me reduce my Raynaud’s syndrome crisis from 5 to 3 during the “Nautic Sup Paris Crossing” compared with passed years. It’s not cheap, but really worth it, since the effects of the syndrome are not even from one person to another.
I love my 2014 F-one race board, it’s perfect for me. I confess it has a little drawback! It’s a little curved so the water accumulates on the deck. This is really not good if you want to keep your feet warm. The association of waterproof socks and neoprene boots is comfortable but in this case you will need thicker boots or choose (and this is my advice) a board with a plain/straight deck. I tested sailing boots but, you lose the connection and the contact with your board.
I also tested the neoprene beanie. Unfortunately it’s not efficient for me because it gives a nice warmth sensation when you start your ride then it gets too warm. The beanie slips on my fine hair so I am always putting it back on and look stupid. In the end, I opted for a Columbia headband (ears protecting).
I have not found a self-heating paddle yet, nor did I test heating soles on water (yes I got a pair too !). I will test them on a straight desk board (no water accumulated) because I fear possible electrocution !. I hope sharing my experience will help you keep practicing our favorite sport whatever the weather.