Cold Water Safety

Paddling Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia

From Xfinity

As of October 8, 2015, the Personal Web Page (feature of XFINITY Internet) service will be discontinued.





National Center for Cold Water Safety

all you need to know in one location



It's cold in the water, we lose a couple on the eastern shore each year.  This is a great video, done by a dedicated researcher.  PLEASE watch it before you go out!





An interesting video from Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht in Canada were they do know a thing or two about cold water. 


Great advice from Woody a must read!!!

Paddling this winter?  Please check out this cold water link from Chuck Sutherland

Off Season Boating, Cold Shock and Hypothermia and his brochure



Coastal Water Temperatures Cold Water Shock Explained

From The News

An interesting video from Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht

 In the Spring even though the air is warm the water is still in the 40s or 50s, proper safety gear is still very necessary

Coldwater Safety


From Atlantic Kayaks


A man who is not afraid of sea will soon be drowned, he said,

For he will be going out on a day he shouldn’t.

But we do be afraid of the sea,

And we do only be drowned now and again.

                                                            John Millington Synge

                                                            “The Aran Islands”

"Thanks to Greg Welker for this quote"



And we've lost another one locally. Click here.

“The sad thing is if the two people involved in this accident had been wearing life jackets, it’s very likely both of them would have walked away,” Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Sgt. Gregory Rhodes said. “With a tragic thing like this happening, we’d like to remind people as they head out on the water this spring to wear their life jackets and observe safe boating practices.”

Three Men Rescued from

Overturned Kayaks Off Cape Henlopen

We lost a fine man, a padding machine, an experienced kayaker, and a friend while he was out paddling the Potomac River Feb 26th 2006.   We've set up a special page to report information about the incident.  See Mitch

NRS has it's own section on Cold Water Protection and Hypothermia and a good discussion on how to layer.

Some Great Advice from Woody

Woody Woodward (who had a great site) posted this 1/7/05 to the Chesapeake Paddlers Association message board in response to a question asked about appropriate gear to wear on a January outing.  

> Woody:

> What is minimum required gear?  I have shortie  wet suit and various
> pieces of dry tops.

An excellent question, and one I seem to be asked often so I hope you
don't mind if I respond in a more generic form.

  I actually have to ask myself the same question about my own gear from
time to time. So here are a few things to consider:

1) Am I willing to swim in the gear I plan to wear? This isn't a
rhetorical question - the answer has to be backed up by action. So if I
ever, ever, ever question what I'm wearing, I'll swim in it - in the
conditions I plan to paddle in. No amount of speculation can substitute
for that.

One thing I hear over and over again in the cold water introductions I
do is how different the experience of being in cold water is than they
ever imagined - even when bagged head to toe in a dry suit!  The second
thing I hear often is the drastic difference they notice in something as
small as a 5 degree temperature change (e.g. 45 degree water is MUCH
different than 50 degree water). For example, if you've swam your gear
at 50 degrees, it isn't a safe assumption to think you will be ok in 45
degree water - the difference is just too vast.

2) People are different. I'm a big fat guy so cold water doesn't affect
me as quickly as a skinny person. This all goes back to item #1 - swim
your gear so you know. What works for one can kill another.

3) What risks do I put the group in by going out with them? I'm a big
believer in the adage that we are all adults and should make our own
decisions, and that works for solo paddling. But in a group environment
if I get into trouble because I under dressed, chances are someone in
the group is going to try and help. So by my decision to paddle without
  proper protection now puts one or more other people in a higher risk
category than if I chose to stay home.

So how do I know if I'm not increasing the group's risk? Yep, you got it
- swim your gear!

4) In the event the worst happens to me, I've left some major social
baggage with the survivors of the group. While it is easy to say from a
distance that 'he knew what he was getting in to', in practice very few
people would not feel some guilt.

As a courtesy to a trip leader, never put the burden on them to decide
for you. No one likes being a bad guy and say no. This is a tough one
because every trip leader will have different acceptable levels of
perceived risk that they are willing to accept. If you are unsure of
what a trip leader is willing to accept, it is certainly ok to ask, but
you should know yourself that what you are asking is safe (swim your
gear!). Some trip leaders will require dry suits after the water gets
below some arbitrary temperature. Being able to say "How about I come
out a few minutes early, wet exit in my gear and swim 100 feet?" goes a
long way to showing that you not only know your gear's capabilities and
your own body's tolerance for cold, but also that you won't be a
significant risk to the group.

So now specifically back to your question: Is a shortie and dry top
enough for water that is (at this moment) 46 degrees? I'll be out at
Leesylvania about an hour early if you want to swim your gear and find out!



Treating the Big Chill

An informative article from Paddling.Net

Please see the from the news page on this subject, because this is not, unfortunately, a hypothetical discussion. 


Hit Counter

Back to Kayaking Main page.   
send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: 07/17/15