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Is it Warm Enough to Kayak Yet?

a cup of coffee

Is it Warm Enough to Kayak Yet?

Ice is finally receding and the river water is flowing freely again – is it time to pick up our paddles?

While it is obviously certainly possible to get our kayaks out of winter storage and pop them out on the water, it may not be a very good idea just yet.

Most of us are recreational kayakers, looking for some family fun or a time of relaxation on the water – and there is nothing wrong with that.

But knowing your limitations is a good idea – it keeps you enjoying your hobby, and most importantly, it keeps you and your loved ones safe.

While the air temperature may feel that much warmer, especially in contrast to the past few months after such a long and frozen winter, it does not follow that the water is at a safe temperature for you to give yourself prolonged exposure to the elements just yet.

Water temperature lags behind air temperature considerably – both in degrees and time. The air warms up faster because it is much less dense – water has a lot more substance to it that needs to absorb the sun’s spring rays before it approaches a safe – let alone pleasant – temperature.

So rivers – and especially lakes, with their depth – can be at dangerous temperatures for human life for quite a few more weeks unless you are very well equipped and experienced.

The biggest risk to our wellbeing is not drowning – it is hypothermia from exposure to low temperatures. If we get too cold our bodies will switch automatically into a life preservation mode and start cutting off blood flow to our extremities – our hands and our feet – as it seeks to keep our vital organs warm and fed with oxygen.

But it can only do this for so long and if we do not get warm again quickly enough our bodies simply cannot keep us alive. Being submerged in cold water, even for a short while, can soon prove fatal.

And the effects of cooler temperatures in water are magnified compared to cooler air temperatures – a 50-degree air temp could be considered positively balmy to a hardened Northeastern Ohio resident coming out of winter, but a 50-degree water temperature is positively dangerous.

While seasoned and equipped kayakers may feel confident with pushing the boundaries of water temperature safety, it is not recommended for casual and hobbyist kayakers.

The National Center for Cold Water Safety recommends treating any water below 70 degrees with caution, and even below 77 degrees is likely to have an impact on easy breathing.

If the temperature falls below 60 degrees, exposure becomes a very high-risk factor and can lead quickly to an inability to breathe, cold shock, and hypothermia.

Check with the National Weather Service to look for water temperatures near where you want to go and do not take unnecessary risks – kayaking is to be enjoyed.

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