SUP Trainer, Paul Byrne lives in Dublin Ireland and tells us what he likes about paddling in winter.
Winter time in Ireland is my favorite time to paddle. Winter is when we get our best SUP surf conditions. The winter storms in the Atlantic provide us with lots of great sessions all along the West Coast, and even waken the Irish Sea up giving us rare East Coast Sessions.
Winter time is not just for surf though. Our flat water paddling can be very pleasurable also!
Typically, I head inland a little to do my flat water paddling. I head to the lakes and the canals.
We are lucky here in Ireland that we have a great selection of inland lakes. Here in Dublin we also have an extensive network of canals, namely the Royal and the Grand Canal. They are full of history and were used in the past to transport goods around our small island. The last working cargo barge passed through the Grand Canal in 1960.
You can actually paddle the full width of the country on these canals, all 135kms, before you reach the River Shannon which runs out to the ocean.
WHAT’S THE TEMPERATURE?
Sometimes in winter we get very cold snaps, heavy frost greets us each morning with temps in the minuses, and day time temps of only 4 or 5 degrees C. The freshwater locations can have a little ice on the edges but generally it’s not cold enough to cause complete freeze over.
DOES THAT DETER YOU?
Mornings during cold snaps are generally beautiful. Clear blue skies, light winds, and yes…very cold temperatures.
Getting out can be initially hard with the thoughts of the cold but once your out there its massively rewarding.
There is a certain crispness to the air, and you are rewarded with a certain sense and feel of satisfaction, knowing that you have achieved something that puts most people off!
Interaction with other water users is at a different level, almost like you are part of a small hard core extreme group of water users.
Frosty shorelines, iced over equipment, lively tingling in the extremities, and a cold nose might not sound appealing to most but to me it sure lets me know that i am alive and well…!!!
WHAT DO YOU WEAR?
Appropriate equipment is essential for winter time paddling. A suitable board that is going to allow me stay dry and not have balance issues is important.
Sometimes I will wear my dry suit, which allows me nice free movement but also the reassurance in knowing that if I do end up in the water I will remain dry. Although with my surf background I am quite happy popping on my wet suit, a wind breaker and beanie. Again, having enough protection that if I do end up immersed I will not be putting myself at danger.
Good boots are a must, preferably without any zips are essential. Your feet are getting wet and need to be able to keep you warm enough for the duration of your session.
Just last week we had an inexperienced paddler head out on the ocean in inappropriate conditions. He was blown out to sea and ended up spending a lot of time in the water due to choppy sea conditions.
Luckily he had a phone with him and was able to call the coast guard, who picked him up with severe hypothermia. They said that had he been in the water another 30 minutes the outcome would have been very different!
WHEN IS BEST?
Obviously, cold snaps will only last a short while, then we are back to the rain and drizzle and the winds.
The rain has its own appeal, again getting up and out can be a little off putting but once you are out there and using the right equipment, the sense of reward is very satisfying.
Quite often the rain dampens the wind, and the lake, canal, or ocean are ideal for paddling.
Rain dripping from the end of your nose and running down the back of your wet suit has an odd and strange appeal..lol That, and the mesmerizing image of rain drops landing on the smooth water surface.
I recently read a social media post from a friend who has moved to central Australia, which is experiencing very extreme hot weather conditions. She was wishing for some rain from home and a nice frosty morning. They say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence don’t they!
We are taught to be very weary of the wind, and rightly so. It can cause a lot of issues for a paddler as I referred to above.
The up side of windy conditions is the that option of downwinding is high – for experienced paddlers. We have a few nice downwind runs that we do here in Dublin when the wind conditions are right. Being a surfer at heart, I really enjoy the downwinding, linking those bumps and the feeling of that glide brings a big smile to my face!
WHERE DO YOU GO PADDLING?
Here in Dublin we are spoilt for choice in the winter time. I already mentioned the canals and midland lakes above. Dublin Bay is also a fantastic amenity to have on our doorstep. Also the shelter of both Howth and Dun Laoghaire Harbor allow us to paddle in most conditions.
HOW LONG SHOULD THE PADDLE SESSIONS BE IN WINTER?
The duration of your paddles this time of the year is not just based on your level of fitness but also the weather conditions.
Your body will be working hard to keep you warm if you are not properly dressed.
If you are getting wet, the sessions should be kept short. This time of year the weather conditions can vary and change a little more, so good planning and back up plans are essential.
WHY I ENJOY PADDLING IN WINTER.
I am not trying to fool anybody here into thinking that winter time paddling is better than during the summer! I guess it is making the best of the climates that you got.
It’s about not allowing the elements stop you from doing what you love to do, which is go paddle.
Yes, the experience will be different. Nature will be different to what you experience during the summer. The fresh air or rain dripping from your nose will provide you with a different possibly new experience and you will be happy that you made the effort to get out doors and get some fresh air and keep fit.
If you do find yourself passing through Ireland or here on business allow me or another ASI SUP school introduce to the beautiful water ways that give us Irish paddlers so much pleasure.
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat…! (Gaelic for – may the road rise up to greet you..!)
Paul Byrne is the owner of Irish SUP, an ASI SUP school based in Dublin. He is a SUP Surfer and previously SUP competitor. He is also an ASI SUP Instructor trainer and trains others to the SUP instructors in Ireland and around the world.