Seasonal temps for Paris in early December generally run in the 30’s and 40’s. That makes the Paris SUP Open, a World Championship SUP race as well as the largest participatory SUP race on the planet, an interesting one to prepare for. What to pack? What to bring and wear for a cold water SUP race?
Let’s consider some options.
COLD WATER TEMPS MEAN LAYERS & BOOTIES
When dressing for any fall/winter paddle, you’ll want to consider layers. Breathable layers with a wicking layer next to your skin. On top, I would suggest a thin merino wool tank, like a hiking tank or ski layer. That will allow your body to generate heat without it getting ‘trapped’ and give you a wicking layer to draw perspiration away from the body.
Next layer, consider a long sleeve running top, like lululemon athletica’s Swiftly top or an Under Armor’s baselayer. Again, this is a breathable layer that stretches and moves in order to accommodate the increase in circulation to your muscles in the heat of the race.
TOP LAYERS FOR COLD WATER
From here, things tend to get personal. I like to wear a fleece layer with a 3/4 zip neck, preferably with thumb holes to tuck my hands in while waiting to start. Patagonia makes several incredible options. Again, consider running wear or an active fleece layer to further allow heat to build (and escape) by moving through your multiple layers.
On top depends on you. Do you want a wind protection? These can trap heat and might cause you to ‘pop’ if overheated during the course of a 6 mile course. Maybe another ‘run layer’ like a running vest for easy movement of the arms and shoulders but keeps the core warm from wind and damp cold. Another possibility is a tech top. Plenty of climbing , kayaking, paddling companies make a good top layer that repels moisture, adds a layer of warmth and moves well with you for a high speed adventure like a stand up paddle race.
One of my favorite tech items (won it at a race a few years back!) is the Sharkskin Performance Wear long sleeve top for women. It uses their signature ‘Chill Proof’ material (fleece & neoprene combined) to keep your torso and rear kidney area protected as well as a breathable compression fabric in the shoulders and arms to aid in endurance and muscle recovery. No, I’m not selling it. I literally believe in it and use it every fall/winter. It combines everything I need for winter SUP race training. In short, it’s the bomb.
BOTTOM LAYERS: WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT
On the bottom, I recommend another fleece layer. Plenty of brands make a good pair of fleece running tights. You might even try a compression layer underneath. Remember wind & chill is the culprit to avoid, so check your race day conditions and, if it’s windy and blowing damp cold air, consider adding a wind pant of some kind on top of the fleece layer. Patagonia, North Face, Under Armor all create a solid top layer for outdoor adventures. Explore your options. Wear something non-constricting that moves well with you when you’re in fast motion.
HEAD, HANDS & FEET: CRITICAL CHOICES FOR YOUR BODY
Lastly, the extremities. These are important. Do you want to wear gloves and risk losing the feel of your paddle? Are you going to wear a hat beyond your favorite/sponsored brand’s lid? Here are some points to consider:
Gloves: When your carbon shaft gets cold, it will effect the temperature of your hands. And vice versa, when you get moving at a fast pace, your circulation will warm your hands to an extent. How much is too little or too much is up to you. I’ve tried a variety of gloves for winter paddling and race training and I can definitely tell you neoprene is OUT for SUP racing. Neoprene only works when it’s wet, allows wind & cold to cut right through the material and can be super slippery when holding a paddle. Don’t go there.
Fingerless wool gloves are nice IF they have a good grip in the palm and base of fingers. Make sure you get a pair that have half the finger cut off and not the whole thing. Give it a test try before you engage for race day. Make sure you don’t slip.
I’ve also got several pair of sailing gloves that I like a lot for winter SUP training. Again, a strong sticky palm helps to grip the paddle and the technical materials keeps off moisture while insulating hand heat.
What about your lid AKA Hats: Up to you. You can wear your favorite baseball cap representing your board brand, but, in cooler temps, it’s going to serve you better to have some kind of head covering to keep your noggin warm. Think about a fleece head band that won’t trap heat, but will give you some protection from the wind & cold. If you go for a full head cover, use wool over any synthetic product to allow the heat OUT; otherwise, you run the risk of ‘popping’ or over heating when you get your heart rate up and begin cooking.
Boots: You’ll need boots. Neoprene wetsuit booties. What I like to do in colder temps is get a thin Smartwool sock to wear inside my booties to help keep my toes warm and for temps like we see in Paris, I’d settle for a 3mm or 5mm bootie to keep warm. Make sure you can feel your board through the bottom of the boots so you may want to look at brands that have a lesser sole in order to do so. My favorite are the Rip Curl Flashbomb booties. A great layer of warmth, coupled with a performance feel allow me to keep connected to my board and my feet even while the temperatures plummet.
Hope this helps! If YOU have any tips or suggestions, we’d love to hear them. Please add your thoughts, experience & wisdom in the comments below! Aloha.
Written by: Evelyn O’Doherty Online Editor / APP World Tour