VIA LIVE CHAT
VIA LIVE CHAT
Winter is coming, the days are getting shorter, and summer is further in the rearview. Depending on where you live, winter means different things. It is short-lived, wet, and windy in Charleston, South Carolina, averaging lows in the mid-forties and highs in the low sixty degrees.
As a born and bred Michigander, I am embarrassed that I start to shiver once the weather drops below 70 degrees. What can I expect from living in Charleston for four years? My blood was going to thin no matter what. Now, if the water and the wind feel like a cool 70 ish degrees, I am in my Patagonia R1 Lite Surf Shorts. They're high-waisted core temperature retaining cheeky wetsuit swimsuit bottoms and a tech shirt with a Patagonia Houdini jacket. The jacket goes on top because it is a lightweight, wind- and water-resistant shell that insulates my upper body. I like that it is wind and water-resistant because it allows the jacket to breathe while I'm active. I also like that it allows some water to come through because it can help cool me off when I start sweating. The best part is the hood because if I start to get cold and put the hood on, I start to feel a little warmer. For a little more protection, the Ride Engine Inner Space Shell Jacket is wind and waterproof, similar to a cross between the Houdini jacket and a raincoat due to its lightweight and packable nature. A non-hooded option you can put over your harness is the Mystic Wind Barrier Kite Jacket, and it even has a tiny opening for your harness hook to peek out.
Suppose the water and wind temperature combination feels like the temperature is below 60 degrees. In that case, I start to live in my Mystic Jayde 5/4mm Wetsuit. The right wetsuit will feel comfortable on but won't necessarily be easy to put on because they need to be snug to make you warm. Lucky for our customers, that are men, we stock your wetsuits, and neoprene layers, for your convenience. Ladies, I want you to contact us about getting wetsuits or any other kiteboarding gear you need that we are not currently stocking. We are happy to order anything from one of the brands we already represent for you. You may wonder if you need a kite-specific wetsuit to go out on those colder days, and my answer is that you do.
The wind chill factor can be severe, and having the right gear on colder days will let you have fun for longer. I have poor circulation, immobilizing my hands and feet when they get cold. That's why I plan and take preventive measures to limit the times I lose access to my extremities. Near the beginning and throughout the cold seasons, I check to see if my wetsuit taped seams are secure; the suit is snug to my body. I test it to see if it's still protecting me from the wind. I've tried to push my gear past its prime, permanently preventing me. When I gear up to get out there, I think about each step of the way. I want to minimize my body from coming into contact with anything cold. My trick to this, invest in yourself.
I have compiled a list of essential items to ease into winter. For me, a towel poncho is excellent all year. I love that they let you slip on, slip out of your wet gear, and stay warm. The warmest poncho is the Mystic fuzzy explore poncho is lovely because it protects you from the wind and is crazy cozy and soft. There is also The Mystic Velour Ponchos which offers an ultra soft classic poncho with a premium feel and some fun prints. It also comes in black for a more chic look. Or perhaps you want a poncho to have more of a tapered fit, and be less boxy. Mystic Poncho Teddy is so cozy that it'll be hard to stop wearing it after your session. The Mystic Women Poncho is soft and vibrant. It offers wide arm openings and an updated tapered fit to make changing stylish and comfortable. The women's version was engineered to fit the female frame better than the OG Mystic Poncho and has a little more feminine flare.
I'm a big proponent of not having to change in a cramped car, and that is why I love the ponchos and changing mats because they make the struggle of putting on a wetsuit easier. That said, changing your wetsuit in the car is the only sensible option when it is freezing. ION's Waterproofed Seat Towel makes all the difference. They protect your seats and make it easier to sit in your car and get your wet gear off. Not to mention, after a session, when your car is cold, the seat cover acts as a barrier to the seat's temperature and protects them from the salt water. If you want to limit the amount of sand that travels with you home, a small piece of artificial turf will help take the sand off your feet.
The correct winter fit is all relative. There are various ways to protect your feet from getting bitten by hypothermia. The best way is to use booties because they extend your wetsuit protection down to your feet. As a sailor, I have used dinghy boots a lot in my life, and I can honestly say that finding one that fits your feet is so important. Growing up, I wore hand-me-down Gill dinghy boots until they discontinued my favorite style, which lasted throughout my junior sailing career never giving me any discomfort. In college, I used Zhik boots, and they consistently gave me a blister in the same spot. They wore away and fell apart but never wore in. That is not what you want; you want a bootie that will work with you and feel comfortable to use. The best options are Mystic or Patagonia split-toe booties. They prevent the boot from rolling around on you and are way better for surfing, kiting, and winging than any other neoprene boot. The most important thing is that they are tight enough that they won't fall off and comfortable enough to stay on the water for longer. I recommend trying on a few different ones and getting the ones that are the goldilocks pair for your body and the conditions you want to go out in.
The same goes with gloves; it's up to personal preference because some prefer the pre-curved claw style. After all, it is easier to have your hand around the bar. The ION Claw Gloves 3/2 are crucial to staying on the water longer and warmer, maximizing mobility and grip where needed. The gloves are thick, so the pre-curved glove helps make the glove more comfortable. If it's not as cold, the ION Neo Water Gloves 2/1 will give enough warmth and control to make your session fun. The ION Neo Water Gloves 2/1 are normal hand shaped and thinner, so they should be just as easy to use. Wearing the proper thickness of gloves for the temperature is essential to surviving the winter.
Likewise, proper head protection is essential when the weather demands it. All the coverups mentioned above have a hood to help retain your body heat if you don't already consider a neoprene hood to complete your wetsuit set. If you feel like you have a brain freeze, just having a wet head in the breeze and a regular wool hat on days when it is cold will help prevent you from getting sick. The Ride Engine Sailor Neo Beanie is 2.5mm, 80% neoprene and 20% nylon providing your noggin with warm comfort on and off the water. The beanie is windproof, thermal-lined, and neoprene fends off the coldest gusts and keeps the brain freeze at bay.
Another way to keep your temperature up is to use warm water bottles as a hot shower and pour it into your suit before and after you go out to feel warm. It is a cleaner alternative to peeing in your wetsuit for warmth because you won't feel disgusted if the hot water is up by your chest. I also usually bring an insulated bag to keep my hot tea and water bottles. I keep the tea in a thermos instead of cold water to hydrate faster, and it helps makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside when it's cold and dreary out. After your session, having a hot bottle to pour into your suit will help take it off and warm you up again. If you're boating into your launch spot, hot water bottles and wind blockers are critical because it's nice to get warmth in the most remote places. An oversized raincoat is a great option when using a boat because it creates a little bubble of warm insulated air when boating around in a wetsuit. Sometimes all you need is a thin layer to block some wind and heat you up. A cold breeze is no joke, and you must protect yourself from its adverse effects.
Lastly, your skin is an organ worthy of respect and needs to be protected before you go out there for a session. Applying a light layer of Aquaphor or Vaseline to your face protects your face from the wind and cold water. I think it's most important to get it on your cheeks, lips, forehead, and nose (especially underneath the nostrils). It will help keep your skin moisturized in the coldest of weather. Similarly, go easy on your skin when you return from a cold session because a hot shower will cause pain and irritation. It's too big of a temperature shock for your cold body. I recommend easing into the shower with lukewarm water and increasing it as your body thaws.
Being cozy and comfortable is a must for me if you haven't already learned that by now. I hope these tips and tricks can make getting a session in during the winter a breeze. In fact, with the right gear, you should be stoked to get out there on those empty beaches and start sending it regardless of the temperature. Remember to account for the wind chill factor when going out there and plan accordingly, and you'll be fine.